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Students should read carefully the general guidelines and procedures for degrees with distinction which are formally presented in the Undergraduate Bulletin. If the student plans to submit a thesis, the section below headed ‘Quality of Thesis’ should be discussed with the thesis co-advisors. Recommendations for degrees with distinction are made by the Committee on Academic Distinction and Awards for Students. The following additional information outlines the guidelines considered by the Committee.

In recognition of outstanding academic excellence, the College recommends the bachelors degree With Distinction, With High Distinction and With Highest Distinction. Distinction and High Distinction may be recommended on the basis of a student’s academic record alone although they may be awarded on the basis of the combination of GPA and a thesis. Highest Distinction requires a thesis.

The Committee on Academic Distinction and Awards for Students recommends distinction after it carefully weighs and considers all aspects of a student’s record, which includes: the general quality and breadth of the program, the quality of any transfer credit hours, the number of 300/400 level courses, the number of courses taken P/N, the number of courses retaken to remove “C-”, “D” or “F” grades and (when submitted) the quality of the thesis and comprehensive examination as defined by evaluations provided by the co-advisors. Ordinarily only students who have taken their last 48 hours of graded course work while registered in the College of Arts and Sciences are considered. Consequently, it is possible for a student to have a GPA above the cutoff point and still not receive a recommendation for distinction. NOTE: To determine the level of distinction, the Committee uses the cumulative grade point average based on all credit hours taken at UNL prior to the beginning of the term in which the student receives his or her degree.

Levels of Distinction Offered Without a Thesis

Degrees with High Distinction and degrees with Distinction may be recommended on the basis of a student’s transcript alone. To receive High Distinction without a thesis, a student must have a cum GPA 3.920; to receive Distinction a student must have cum GPA 3.850.

The Role of the Thesis in Awarding Degrees with Distinction

To be eligible for Highest Distinction, a student must submit a thesis and have a cum GPA of 3.920 or above. In addition, the student should receive an Excellent or Very Good recommendation from the co-advisors based upon both the thesis (or comparable creative effort) and the comprehensive thesis examination.

To be eligible for High Distinction, a student must submit a thesis and have a cum GPA between 3.850 - 3.920. In addition, the student should receive at least a Good recommendation from the co-advisors based upon both the thesis (or comparable creative effort) and the comprehensive thesis examination.

Submission of a thesis allows a student to be considered for a degree with Distinction when his/her GPA is between 3.500 - 3.850 (cumulative GPA as of the end of the term prior to graduation). In such cases, a student needs to receive at least a Good recommendation from the co-advisors based upon both the thesis (or comparable creative effort) and the comprehensive thesis examination. No student will be considered for distinction with a cumulative GPA below 3.500.

Procedure for Submitting a Thesis for a Degree with Distinction

Students typically register for an independent study course in their major area of study (usually 399H) in the term prior to the term in which they plan to graduate. Students must file a thesis proposal in the semester prior to graduation with the department in which the student is writing the thesis. This thesis proposal must be approved by two faculty co-advisors who have agreed to guide the student’s work. Each department has developed discipline-specific guidelines for theses. Students should ask major advisors for copies of these guidelines.

The deadline for the co-advisors to submit a student’s materials to the Dean’s office for consideration for distinction is eight weeks prior to the Monday following commencement, except for the August commencement in which case the deadline is four weeks prior to the Friday before commencement. These materials must include a copy of the student’s thesis, the student’s prospectus and the thesis evaluation by the co-advisors. These forms are available in 1223 Oldfather Hall. Students are responsible for contacting the department in which they are writing a thesis for department deadlines.

Quality of Thesis or "Comparable Creative Effort"

The thesis should approach the form and quality of a Master’s thesis, but need not be as long or as broad in scope. It should be substantially more extensive than a term paper. The thesis must be the result of independent, sustained thought and intellectual curiosity. A survey of the literature about a particular topic is not sufficient however novel it may be. Ideally, there should be a clear formulation of a problem or question, a scholarly study which illuminates it, and a conclusion supported by evidence. A bibliography and reference to existing literature in the field should be included where appropriate.

The phrase “comparable creative effort” acknowledges the possibility of having a scholarly endeavor which might not be in the form which would meet the narrow definition of a “thesis.” This is particularly true, for example, for students in the humanities. Since it is difficult to make this description more specific and yet make it applicable to the entire College, the following examples are offered. One student translated certain texts in French literature and accompanied the translation with a scholarly piece on the translation process. Another student prepared an extensive collection of exhibits to demonstrate one phase of the evolution of the process of photography, and accompanied it with a lengthy historical background with literature references. In short, the effort must have a significant scholarly component, but it need not be in the format of a formal thesis.

The Comprehensive Thesis Examination

The comprehensive examination is mandatory for all students who submit a thesis. Students should arrange with the co-advisors to take the comprehensive examination at a mutually agreed time before the college deadline. The exact nature of the exam is determined by the major department. Normally this examination is an oral thesis defense, but it may be a written examination if the department deems it appropriate.

If any deviation from these procedures is anticipated, the student or his supervising faculty member should contact the Arts & Sciences Dean's Office at 1223 Oldfather Hall, 402/472-2891.

Forms and
Procedures PDF


Materials are due in the Dean’s Office (based on tentative graduation dates):

Fall graduation

  • October 27, 2014
  • October 26, 2015
  • October 24, 2016

Spring graduation

  • March 16, 2015
  • March 14, 2016
  • March 13, 2017

Summer graduation

  • July 18, 2014
  • July 17, 2015
  • July 15, 2016
  • July 14, 2017
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