James Madison University

Thesis Committee Membership

Each Honors Thesis must be supervised by a committee of at least three faculty members who are familiar with the issues being investigated by the student, and who agree to serve in this capacity.  It is the student’s responsibility to discuss his/her thesis ideas with potential faculty committee members and to request their participation on the committee.  Each student is encouraged to identify a potential chair for his or her thesis committee as soon as possible.  The chair can help the student begin important planning activities prior to enrollment in Psyc 499A.

The thesis committee will be composed of the thesis chair and at least two other faculty members.  The chair must be a member of the faculty of the Department of Psychology or Department of Graduate Psychology.  Closest supervision of the student’s project will come from the honors thesis chair, so the student should try to identify a chair for his or her thesis first, and then seek that person’s advice regarding other potential committee members.  Usually at least one committee member is chosen from the faculty of the Department of Psychology.  The third member of the thesis committee can be any faculty member at JMU, including faculty from other departments.

  1. Committee members must have the background and interest necessary to counsel, direct, and evaluate the specific student research project undertaken. Participation as a committee member is voluntary on the part of the faculty member.
  2. Under the supervision of the thesis chair, the student primarily designs the thesis.  As the thesis is developed, committee members need only be consulted if their expertise is needed.  During this phase of the project, the student prepares a written thesis proposal that is discussed with, and edited by the thesis chair.
  3. During Psyc 499A, or more typically Psyc 499B, all members of the thesis committee must receive a written thesis proposal and participate in a meeting to discuss the proposal with the student.  Members of the committee can reject the proposal, approve it pending revisions, or approve the proposal as written.
  4. During Psyc 499C the complete written thesis is distributed to all committee members for review.  A meeting is scheduled to discuss the thesis with the student, not less than one week after the thesis is distributed. At this “thesis defense” meeting the thesis committee discusses the project.  Committee members can reject the thesis, approve it pending revisions, or approve it as written.   For the thesis to be considered complete, all committee members must sign documents certifying successful completion.

Authorship for Publication or Presentation of Thesis Findings.  Students are encouraged to present their thesis findings at professional meetings, and to publish their findings in professional journals. Authorship for publication or presentation of thesis work must be determined on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the contributions made to the project by the thesis committee members. Students should share authorship on these presentations and publications with their collaborators. If the thesis was developed using these guidelines, authorship will include the committee chair and may also include the other members of the committee, depending upon their degree of involvement in the project. The Department of Psychology adheres to the Ethical Guidelines of the American Psychological Association with respect to authorship of presentations and publications, reprinted below.

(From: http://www.apa.org/ethics/code2002.html#8_12)

8.12 Publication Credit.

  1. Psychologists take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed or to which they have substantially contributed.
  2. Principal authorship and other publication credits accurately reflect the relative scientific or professional contributions of the individuals involved, regardless of their relative status. Mere possession of an institutional position, such as department chair, does not justify authorship credit. Minor contributions to the research or to the writing for publications are acknowledged appropriately, such as in footnotes or in an introductory statement.
  3. Except under exceptional circumstances, a student is listed as principal author on any multiple-authored article that is substantially based on the student's doctoral dissertation. Faculty advisors discuss publication credit with students as early as feasible and throughout the research and publication process as appropriate.

Changes in Thesis Committee Membership.  If for any reason the members or chair of an Honors Thesis committee must be changed, students must request that change by resubmitting an application form and updated proposal to the Honors Program Office.  The new proposal needs the signatures of the current Committee Chair (honors project advisor), all Faculty Members currently serving on the committee (readers), the Psychology Department Head, and the Dean of CISAT(or Associate Dean) before it is submitted to the Honors Program.  This documentation should include a brief statement regarding the reason for the change, and an indication of whether the proposal or just the committee membership is being revised.  When a thesis committee is reformulated, a note or e-mail from any faculty member who is no longer on that committee should be sent to the Honors Program Office indicating their agreement to no longer serve on the committee.