Honors Thesis Preparation and Submission

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Honors Thesis Preparation and Submission

To graduate with Honors, you will need to:

1. In the semester in which you plan to graduate you need to apply to graduate with Honors in the Major. 

2. Write an Honors Thesis and have it approved (i.e. signed) by your thesis supervisor and the Biology Honors Advisor.

Consider enrolling in BIOL:4898 - Communicating Research for 1 sh.  This seminar course will help you through the mechanics of writing your honors thesis and presenting your research at the Biology Honors Colloquium. An example course syllabus is attached.

Please follow these guidelines when writing your thesis:

Thesis Sections

Your thesis should have the general format of a scientific paper and should contain the following components in the order indicated below. Each section begins on a new page.

  • Title Page
  • Abstract (400 words or less)
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (optional, but desirable for lengthy theses)
  • List of Figures (optional, but desirable for lengthy theses)
  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Literature Cited

A combined Results and Discussion section is also permissible, but check first with your thesis supervisor to see if he/she approves of this approach.


Please use Times or Times New Roman with a font size of 12.

Formatting of Title Page

Use this template (Word/PDF) to format your Title Page.

Page Margins for Remainder of Thesis

All pages, except for the Title Page and Abstract, should have margins (top, bottom, left, and right) of 1.0".

Page Spacing

All pages, except for the Title Page, Abstract, and the legends to Tables and Figures, should be printed double-spaced.

Formatting of Table of Contents, List of Tables, and List of Figures

Use this example (Word/PDF) to view correct formatting of these documents, as illustrated by pages from David Brauer's thesis.

Tables and Figures

Make sure that you draw the reader's attention to a specific Figure or Table by inserting a "flag" within the main body of text, e.g. "Castanospermine competitively inhibited amygdalin hydrolysis (Figure 1)". Tables and Figures (with relevant legends) should NOT be provided as a collection at the end of the thesis.

Insert figures (along with relevant legends) into the thesis, one Table or Figure to a page, immediately following first mention of that Table/Figure in the text. This means that the main thesis text should be taken to the end of the page (leaving no large empty spaces preceeding figure and table pages) and then the figures and tables that are mentioned for the first time on that page of text should each occupy their own page. 

The easiest way to do this is to draft your thesis with the Figures and Tables in a separate document.  Once your research advisor has approved your thesis, go back through and insert the Figures and Tables into the document.  First, read through the main text and highlight the first mention of each Figure and/or Table.  Wait until you get to the bottom of a page and determine how many new figures and tables were mentioned on that page.  Next insert each figure or table in the order in which they were mentioned in the preceeding text.  Remember that each figure and table should be printed on a separate page.

Page Numbering

The Title Page and Abstract should NOT be numbered. The Acknowledgements (ii), Table of Contents (iii), List of Tables (optional) (iv), and List of Figures (optional) (v) pages should be numbered with Roman numerals (iii, iv, etc). Then, use Arabic numerals for the remainder of the thesis, beginning with the Introduction as page 1. Number the pages centered at the bottom of each page. Check out this link for more information on creating section breaks. Alternatively, you can create two separate Microsoft word document files and then combine into one PDF when finished.

Preparation of Thesis for Submission

1. (Required) Once your faculty mentor has approved your final thesis, obtain their signature on the title page and turn the signed title page in along with an electronic copy of your thesis to the Biology Honors advisor to review for final formatting by Friday of the last week of classes. Set up a time to meet with the Biology Honors advisor to review specific editorial changes that may need to be made before the final submission is due to the Biology Honors Advisor on the Wednesday of finals week.  

2. (Optional) If you wish to publish your thesis online, follow these guidelines. Both the student and the faculty thesis advisor must give permission for this intellectual property to be shared and made public at Iowa Research Online (IRO) by using the required Submission Agreement Form. The deadline to submit the required Submission Agreement Form is always the Wednesday of Final Examination Week at 11:59 p.m.

Submission Deadline

Please submit a printed or electronic version of your approved thesis to the Department of Biology Honors Advisor no later than the last day of classes of the semester in which you intend to graduate (i.e. one full week before Commencement). 


Please feel free to consult the Department of Biology Honors Advisor by emailing lori-adams@uiowa.edu at any time or stopping by 169 BB, if you have any questions or concerns.