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The Cognitive Science Honors major provides students with the in-depth research experience of writing an Honors Thesis under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. Majors who are considering graduate study are strongly encouraged to participate. Students working on an empirical thesis are strongly encouraged to take a course in statistical analysis and/or experimental design (i.e., PSYCH 303, STATS 250, STATS 412, STATS 470, or equivalent).

Timeline and Submission Deadlines

Junior Year

By end of Winter Semester:

--Find faculty mentor and identify a proposed title of your project

--Register for COGSCI 497 for Fall Term (optional, see “Honors and Course Credit” below)

Senior Year

Nov 1:                        

--Deadline to submit the Honors Thesis Application (below)

By the end of Fall Semester:

--Register for COGSCI 499 for Winter Term (optional, see “Honors and Course Credit” below)

--Contact a second faculty member who you would like to serve as your second reader

April 1:

--Deadline to submit thesis to guarantee consideration for the following awards:

  • Marshall M. Weinberg Award for exceptional Cognitive Science Honors Thesis (see below for details)
  • LSA Honors Awards

May 1:

--Final deadline to submit thesis, mentor report, and reader’s reports to


Faculty Mentors and Thesis Defense

Primary Faculty Mentor

Students work closely with their faculty mentor throughout the duration of their Honors Thesis experience. Students are encouraged to identify a faculty member as early as possible to receive guidance the faculty mentor from the beginning of the process. Students often have a working relationship with their faculty mentor, though this is not mandatory. Students pursuing an honors thesis are expected to coordinate regular meetings with their faculty mentor throughout the honors thesis process, and the thesis may not be submitted without the approval of the faculty mentor. Faculty mentors may belong to affiliated departments and are expected to have some familiarity with the topic.

Second Reader

In addition to their primary faculty mentor, students are encouraged to contact a second faculty member to serve as their second reader during the fall of their senior year. Second readers provide an instrumental role in thoughtfully critiquing the honors project and contributing to its success. Students are expected to incorporate the suggestions and edits of the second reader into subsequent drafts of the thesis, and the second reader must approve the final paper and communicate their approval to the student’s primary mentor. Ideally, this faculty member will be from a department separate from but affiliated with the student’s primary faculty mentor.

Defense of the Honors Thesis

Currently, there is no required defense of the honors thesis topic or finalized project. However, honors students are required to present their work in a public forum (see ‘Presenting Your Research’ below), which is an important component of conducting an independent research project.

Honors and Course Credit

Students writing an Honors Thesis may, but are not required to, register for one or two special independent study courses (COGSCI 497 and COSCI 499, non-repeatable). These do count toward the limit of 6 independent study credits allowed for the Cognitive Science major.

Honors Awards

  • LSA Honors Awards. The LSA Honors Program awards several scholarships and prizes to thesis-writing students. Please see their website for details.

  • Marshall M. Weinberg Award. In recognition of the contributions made by Marshall M. Weinberg to the field of Cognitive Science and the University of Michigan, an annual prize of $1,000 may be awarded to an exemplary submitted Honors Thesis paper (written by a declared Cognitive Science student) in recognition of outstanding research performance in the field of Cognitive Science.

Honors Thesis Resources

The University of Michigan provides multiple resources to students writing an honors thesis.

  • University Programs:

    • The University Library has set up a Cognitive Science Research Guide which includes materials from linguistics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and computer science. Each Cognitive Science track also has its own Library Specialist, whose contact information can be found on the left-hand side of the Research Guide.

    • The Honors Summer Fellowship program offers peer and monetary support for a small cohort of students starting the honors thesis process during the summer before their senior year. Spaces are limited, and applications are typically due at the beginning of the Winter semester of students’ junior year.

    • The LSA Honors Program, in conjunction with the Sweetland Writing Center, offers weekly thesis discussion groups for seniors involved in the process to give and receive feedback on their work, as well as learning ways to become a more effective writer. Sign up here.

  • Funding Support:

    • LSA Honors Grants provide funding to thesis-related research, including research-related travel. 

    • The Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science is able to provide funding for thesis-related research and travel via the funding request process.

  • Other Resources:

Demystifying Honors at U-M

What is Honors in Cognitive Science vs. the LSA Honors Program vs. University Honors vs. Degrees with Distinction?

  • Honors in Cognitive Science. The requirements for receiving honors in Cognitive Science are being a declared Cognitive Science major, having a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4, and submitting an approved thesis via the process outline above. Registration in the COGSCI Independent Study Courses (497 and 499) is optional. Students may pursue Honors in Cognitive Science without previous affiliation with the LSA Honors Program. Upon declaring the honors major (through an advising appointment at the Weinberg Institute) students are affiliated with the Honors Program and have access to all the resources they provide. Students who complete an honors thesis graduate with “honors,” “high honors,” or “highest honors,” which is noted on the diploma and the official transcript. These honors are given the department based on the quality of the work submitted.

  • LSA Honors Program. The LSA Honors Program is a four-year academic program divided into two parts: 1) Lower-division honors requirements and the honors core curriculum are completed by students who are admitted to the Honors Program as freshmen. 2) An honors major is completed by students who pursue an honors thesis (regardless of prior enrollment in the Honors Program).  

  • University Honors. The University Honors designation, noted on students' transcripts, is awarded on a term-by-term basis to students who earned a 3.5 grade point average or higher during a given term (at least 14 credits must have been elected that term, at least 12 of which were elected on a graded basis).

  • Degrees with Distinction. At graduation, degrees with distinction are awarded based on class ranking. Students who have been approved for graduation, have completed at least 45 graded in-residence credits, and rank in the top 3% of their class will receive a degree "with Highest Distinction." Those who rank in the top 10% of their class but not in the top 3% will receive a degree "with High Distinction." Those who rank in the top 25% of their class but not in the top 10% will receive a degree "with Distinction." Distinction levels are noted on the diploma and the official transcript. Degrees with Distinction may be awarded with or without Honors designation.

Presenting Your Research

The Honors Program requires students to publicly present their honors theses. There are many opportunities for Cognitive Science students to do so, including:

In addition, consider publishing your research in the Undergraduate Research Journal.


Honors Thesis Application

Students are encouraged to meet with a member of the department at application time to ensure that their project proposal is rigorous yet attainable.

Honors Thesis Application