Undergraduate Honors Program

As part of the CALS Research Honors Program, students in Animal Science have the opportunity to undertake independent research under the guidance of a faculty mentor at Cornell University. Students write a thesis based on the research and after approval by the Honors Committee in Animal Science, graduate with Distinction in Research. Generally, several semesters or more of effort on a research project are needed to be successful in the program.

How does the Honors Program benefit its students?

Students who complete the honors program are recognized for their excellence in research and have several advantages as a result of their participation.

  • Graduate “With Distinction in Research,” which is inscribed on their diplomas
  • Work directly with a Cornell Professor on an independent research project
  • Experience independent learning and the excitement of science and research
  • Explore the potential of a career in research (superb preparation for graduate school programs)
  • Contribute to the discovery of new knowledge
  • Improve problem-solving skills
  • Enhance their educational experiences as well as their resumes

Honors Program Requirements and Schedule for Completion

The program in Animal Science requires that your thesis be prepared in consultation with your research mentor and, when the two of you agree that it is in optimal form, the thesis will be examined by the Committee. The committee may consult with independent faculty in arriving at its final assessment.

After review of the thesis by members of the Committee, candidates will be required to orally defend their work in closed sessions with members of the Committee. This final evaluation is not intended to be intimidating; rather, it provides an opportunity for the members of the Committee to assess your command of the subject matter under investigation and for them to obtain their own opinion of your independence and development as a beginning scientist. In many cases, the Committee will offer minor, but often important, suggestions for changes in content or presentation to improve the final form of the thesis. It is expected that these changes will be made.

Students must participate in Animal Science 4020 Seminar in Animal Science in the spring semester before graduating with distinction in research. In most cases this is in the spring semester of the senior year for students graduating in May. Students planning to graduate in January should enroll in ANSC 4020 in the spring of their junior year. The course provides a forum for students to present seminars on their honors research.


  • Start work on the thesis as early as you can - it will always take longer than anticipated and you will be amazed at how quickly time after Spring Break passes.
  • Discuss with your mentor the planned contents (in outline form) - especially the scope of the literature review, because this should be assembled as early as possible.
  • Draft the thesis and incorporate ideas and suggestions arising from review and discussion with your mentor.
  • A final version, representing your best effort, must be reviewed and approved by your mentor before it is submitted for examination. Be sure that both parties agree to a time-line, so that the preparation is optimal.
  • Submit the editorially polished final version your thesis for examination by the Committee by the third week in April.  Reviews by members of the committee will be returned to you on the day of the thesis defense (see below). One bound, revised, complete copy of the thesis is to be lodged with the Department of Animal Science before Commencement - failure to do so will prevent the Registrar being informed of the Committee’s recommendation. The thesis will be placed permanently in the Departmental thesis collection. Many students choose to bind additional copies for themselves, parents, research advisor, etc. You will be contacted from Roberts Hall regarding their requirements for electronic copies of your abstract, format of the thesis title page, about the option to have your thesis published electronically through the library system and a special graduation weekend event for honors students. Additional instructions will be provided by the chair of the Animal Science Honors Committee.
  • You will be scheduled to meet individually with members of the Honors Committee who reviewed your thesis for a 20 to 30 minute thesis defense, the first week of May.

Honors Thesis Guidelines

You may expect to need multiple revisions during preparation of the thesis, so be sure to save back-ups, not just on your hard drive. There is no strict stipulation on maximal size of the thesis but the text portion (excluding figures, tables, etc.) should not exceed 25 to 30 pages of double-spaced text, using 12 point characters. To help others who will be reading your thesis, please avoid the use of right-justification. Tables and figures should be of high quality. Tables include a title at the top and are numbered I, II, III, etc. Additional details about the table are included as footnotes placed at the bottom of the table. Figures differ from tables in that they have legends that are placed at the bottom and they are numbered 1, 2, 3, etc. Legends should be sufficiently complete to enable a figure to stand alone. See examples of the format of tables and figures in any high quality scientific periodical. All tables and figures should be referenced from the text. To avoid cluttering the text, voluminous raw, or partly processed, data that you wish to be included in the thesis, should be presented as numbered appendices. The final version of the thesis for the Department of Animal Science collection should be bound in some robust manner (spiral plastic is fine). Students may volunteer to publish their theses in the Internet-First University Press if it does not interfere with other plans, such as patenting or publishing in another journal (information will be provided by CALS).

The thesis should include the following sections, each clearly separated by a boldface heading (place items 1-4 on separate pages, begin 5 on a new page, but items 6-10 may run on):

  1. Title Page (following CALS guidelines that will be provided to you)
  2. Abstract - confine to 1 page (CALS will request a 250 word maximum abstract for publication in a booklet they prepare each year)
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. Table of Contents
  5. List of abbreviations used
  6. Introduction - a brief statement (usually 1 to 2 pages) that serves to introduce the reader to the subject of your study, finish this with an explicit statement of your experimental objectives.
  7. Review of the Literature – a detailed review of literature relating to your project that can include greater detail and depth than in the brief introduction. You are advised to present an outline of your plan to your mentor to obtain feedback before composing this section. This will help to define the scope of your review and avoid misplaced effort.
  8. Materials and Methods - include a description of the experimental design, methods employed or developed, statistical methods used, as appropriate - consult with your mentor on the degree to which you detail methodology that is already published. It may be convenient to place fine detail of methods (e.g. recipes, when these are detailed) in an appendix.
  9. Results – the text describes the data and refers to figures and tables.
  10. Discussion - this may include subheadings for “conclusions” or “future directions for this research,” if you so choose. For some theses, combining Results and Discussion may be desirable, and is quite acceptable.
  11. Literature Cited - adopt any one of the standard formats with which you are familiar from your reading of scientific journals and consistently use the chosen format. Include full titles and all authors. Be sure to double-check citations in the text with those in the reference list. Programs are available to help prepare your reference list and it may be a good idea to ask your mentor what is currently being used by the lab.
  12. Appendices (if you wish)