Turning points: improving honors student preparation for thesis completion

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This dissertation is an action research study that had as its primary goal to increase retention of honors college students at Arizona State University by implementing an additional advising session

This dissertation is an action research study that had as its primary goal to increase retention of honors college students at Arizona State University by implementing an additional advising session during the fifth semester of their academic career. Introducing additional, strategically-timed support for the honors thesis and demystifying the thesis project was intended to help honors college students make more successful transitions to the final stage of their undergraduate honors careers. This advising session is not only used to demystify the thesis/creative project, but to introduce the student to the logistical elements of the thesis process. Most importantly, this session was designed to encourage students to find a focal interest for the project and to engage them in the process of identifying an appropriate director for this project. To assess the success of the early upper division thesis group advising session, students were asked to identify steps taken to begin the process early. Pre and post-intervention surveys and follow-up interviews were used to determine if the participants had taken steps necessary to complete the thesis. Questions regarding the identification of potential thesis foci, committee member selection, and research question formation were used to measure forward momentum. The early group advising session was successful in assisting 7 of the 9 participants to move one step closer to the completion of their honors thesis completion. However, the degree of movement was less than I expected or predicted. The early group advising session gave voice to our students by soliciting suggestions that might improve the session. Suggested changes included: - Maintain an optimal size group of six to eight students selected by discipline and projected date of graduation - Breakouts for students to discuss thesis topic and committee member selection strategies facilitated by faculty and honors advisors - Upper division students currently completing or who have successfully completed their thesis/creative projects made available to answer questions and provide success strategies - Specialty research librarians invited to demonstrate web based resources - Faculty approved discipline specific thesis/creative projects (models of best practice) available for review during the group intervention