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Undergraduate Honors & Senior Thesis

Students excelling in their major coursework and interested in pure math should consider Departmental Honors. Departmental Honors means you will graduate “With Distinction” as opposed to College Honors which is “With Honors”.  The most important component of graduating with Departmental Honors is researching and writing a Senior Thesis.

Requirements for Departmental Honors:

  1. Must complete a B.S. Mathematics Degree.
  2. Must satisfactorily complete at least one three-quarter sequence 402-3-4, 424-5-6, or 441-2-3; or two two-quarter sequences from this list. Exceptions must be approved by the chair of the Departmental Honors Committee.
  3. Must earn a GPA of 3.5 or better in Math coursework completed at the UW.
  4. Must write a senior thesis (earn a numerical grade for MATH 496).
  5. Must have a 3.3 minimum cumulative GPA at UW.

Please note: If you are not interested in the College Honors or Departmental Honors in Mathematics, you may still write a Senior Thesis. The process is the same as above, but it does not need to be approved by the Honors Committee.

Research credit (Math 498) may be available with faculty permission.


Beginning of your final year at the UW: think about a thesis topic and seek out a faculty supervisor.  Read below for more details about selecting a topic.

First week of classes the quarter before you expect to graduate: submit a thesis proposal form to the Dept. Honors Committee.  The form is online here: Math Dept. Honors Thesis Proposal Form

Last day of your final quarter: Once your advisor approves the thesis, email it to and cc your faculty advisor.  You may also wish to upload it to the University Libraries archive.

Nature of the thesis

The senior thesis shall be an expository account of a topic in pure or applied mathematics related to the student’s area of interest. (Original results or proofs are welcome but are definitely not expected.) The thesis must contain some nontrivial mathematical arguments. (E.g., a non-technical essay on “fractals in nature” would not be acceptable.) The thesis should normally be about 20 to 30 pages in length (double spaced, Times New Roman 12pt font, 1” margins). These figures are guidelines, not rigid requirements. The topic should be something that cannot simply be read out of a standard textbook. Writing the thesis should involve:

  • obtaining material from the periodical literature, or
  • consulting several books and synthesizing material from them, or
  • reading an account of a topic in a book that is substantially more advanced than the student’s regular coursework, digesting it, and putting it into readable form.

Choosing a topic

Finding a topic is the students’ responsibility, although consultation with faculty members is encouraged. The topic must be approved by a faculty member of the Mathematics Department who will supervise the work (the “supervisor”) and by the chair of the Departmental Honors Committee. A Senior Thesis Topic Proposal form can be found at the link above, and should be filled out by the student with the supervisor's support (the Dept. will check in with your supervisor). The topic proposal must be submitted to the chair of the Departmental Honors Committee no later than the end of the first week of classes the quarter preceding the quarter in which the student expects to graduate. Exceptions to this deadline may be granted only by the chair of the Departmental Honors Committee. Students contemplating writing a thesis are strongly encouraged to start thinking about a topic in the autumn quarter of their senior year.

Writing the thesis

The student must register for Math 496 (Honors Senior Thesis) during the last quarter of thesis work. The student may receive three credit hours of W-course credit for writing the thesis. Normally, the students will register for a reading course (Math 498) with the supervisor during the preceding quarter (s). The student will receive three hours of credit for each of these courses, but in exceptional cases, with the approval of the supervisor, the number or credit hours may be increased. The supervisor may allow the student to replace Math 498 with a suitable topics course; however, it is still expected that the student will meet periodically with the supervisor.

There is no specific required thesis template for an undergraduate thesis.  Some students may choose to use a modified version of the graduate thesis templates, but this is not required.

Approval of thesis

The student shall submit a draft of the thesis to the supervisor for comments and criticisms, and then shall submit a final version with appropriate revisions. The supervisor shall read the thesis and certify its acceptability with respect to both content and exposition. In order to ensure sufficient time for these things, the student must submit the first draft no later than three weeks before the last day classes of the quarter in which the student expects to graduate, and the final draft no later than the last day of classes. Exceptions to these deadlines may be granted only by the chair of the Departmental Honors Committee.

Once the thesis has been approved by your faculty supervisor, you will need to email the document to (required) as well as submit it to the ResearchWorks archive, part of the University Libraries (optional but strongly recommended).  Submission to the archive will allow your thesis to be included in the dissemination and preservation of scholarly work.  Your thesis will be made publicly available.

Interdisciplinary theses

Theses which are concerned with the application of some part of mathematics to some others field are acceptable, as long as they contain some substantial mathematics. In exceptional cases the student may wish to work most closely with a faculty member in another department in preparing the thesis. However, in such cases the thesis topic and the thesis itself must still be approved by a member of the Mathematics Department.