The Role of Self-Efficacy in the Thesis-Writing Experiences of Undergraduate Honors Students




self-efficacy, self-regulation, undergraduate research, thesis, emotion


Writing a thesis is often the culminating experience for undergraduate students enrolled in university honors programs in the United States. Because writing a thesis is one of the most difficult academic tasks that an undergraduate student may undertake, it requires a high level of self-efficacy, or belief in one’s capabilities to achieve certain results. However, the factors that contribute to students’ efficacy expectations when writing a thesis are not fully understood. This qualitative study followed 11 honors students over the course of several months in order to understand their experiences as they completed their theses. Data was gathered through a series of four questionnaires and two interviews. Analysis revealed six themes: previous research experiences, emotions, project timelines, structure, advisors, and support networks. These themes suggest that students’ abilities to manage their emotions and employ self-regulatory strategies play a critical role in their self-assessments of efficacy during work on challenging academic tasks, findings which have implications for a variety of academic programs and campus support services. In addition, this study reveals that faculty mentoring of undergraduate students may require greater attention to cultivating emotional awareness and regulation than does the mentoring of graduate students.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Ann Medaille, University of Nevada, Reno

Ann Medaille is the Director of Research and Instructional Services at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries (US).

Molly Beisler, University of Nevada, Reno

Molly Beisler is the Interim Director of Technical Services in the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries (US).

Rayla Tokarz, University of Nevada, Reno

Rayla E. Tokarz is the Information Literacy Librarian at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries (US).

Rosalind Bucy, University of Nevada, Reno

Rosalind Bucy is a Research and Instruction Librarian at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries (US).


Aghaee, Naghmeh, Henrik Hansson, Matti Tedre, and Ulrika Drougge. (2014). Learners’ Perceptions on the Structure and Usefulness of E-Resources for the Thesis Courses. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 17 (1): 154–71.

Bandura, Albert. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Prentice Hall.

Bandura, Albert. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bandura, Albert. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. W. H. Freeman and Co.

Bhattacharyya, Prajukti, Catherine W.M. Chan, and Meg Waraczynski. (2018). How Novice Researchers See Themselves Grow. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 12 (2).

Bieschke, Kathleen J., Rosean M. Bishop, and Victoria L. Garcia. (1996). The Utility of the Research Self-Efficacy Scale. Journal of Career Assessment, 4 (1): 59–75.

Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University. (1998). Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities.

Burkard, Alan W., Sarah Knox, Terri DeWalt, Shauna Fuller, Clara Hill, and Lewis Z. Schlosser. (2014). Dissertation Experiences of Doctoral Graduates from Professional Psychology Programs. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 27 (1): 19–54.

Engel, Steven. (2016). Honors Thesis Preparation: Evidence of the Benefits of Structured Curricula. Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 17 (2): 115–24.

Faghihi, Foroozandeh. Y. (1998). A Study of Factors Related to Dissertation Progress Among Doctoral Candidates: Focus on Student Research Self-Efficacy as a Result of Their Research Training and Experiences (Publication No. 9834228) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Memphis]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Goldman, Susan. R., Josh Radinsky, Steve Tozer, and Donald Wink. (2010). Learning as Inquiry. In P. Peterson, E. Baker, and B. McGaw (Eds.), International encyclopedia of education (3rd ed., 297–302). Elsevier.

Harding, Katie, and Lora Leligdon. (2017). Engaging in the Undergraduate Researcher Writers’ Process: Creating a Thesis Writers’ Bootcamp. In M. K. Hensley and S. Davis-Kahl (Eds.), Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: Case Studies and Best Practices (93–102). Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Jennings, Louise B., and Heidi Mills. (2010). Inquiry-Based Learning. In Thomas C. Hunt, James C. Carper, Thomas J. Lasley II, and C. Daniel Raisch (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent (Vol. 1, 466–68). Sage Publications.

Johnston, Ashley E. (2015). Preferred Mentoring Characteristics and Doctoral Students’ Research Self-Efficacy (Publication No. 3730350). [Doctoral dissertation, University of Southern Mississippi]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Kilgo, Cindy A., Jessica K. Ezell Sheets, and Ernest T. Pascarella. (2015). The Link Between High-Impact Practices and Student Learning: Some Longitudinal Evidence. Higher Education, 69 (4): 509.

Kilgo, Cindy A., and Ernest T. Pascarella. (2016). Does Independent Research with a Faculty Member Enhance Four-Year Graduation and Graduate/Professional Degree Plans? Convergent Results with Different Analytical Methods. Higher Education, 71 (4): 575–92.

Kruger, Justin, and David Dunning. (1999). Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77 (6): 1121–134.

Kuh, George D. (2008). High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

LaBonte, Dale, Denise Cross, Fyiane Nsilo-Swai, Matt Bejune, Susan McPherson, and Tiger Swan. (2017). The Honors Colloquium at QCC: A Decade of Experience. In Merinda Kaye Hensley and Stephanie Davis-Kahl (Eds.), Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: (269–79). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Medaille, Ann, Molly K. Beisler, Rayla E. Tokarz, and Rosalind Bucy. (2021). Honors Students and Thesis Research: A Study of Information Literacy Practices and Self-Efficacy at the End of Students’ Undergraduate Careers. College and Research Libraries, 82 (1): 92–112.

Miedijensky, Shirley, and Einat Lichtinger. (2016). Seminar for Master’s Thesis Projects: Promoting Students’ Self-Regulation. International Journal of Higher Education, 5 (4): 13–26.

Overall, Nickola C., Kelsey. L. Deane, and Elizabeth R. Peterson. (2011). Promoting Doctoral Students’ Research Self-Efficacy: Combining Academic Guidance with Autonomy Support. Higher Education Research and Development, 30 (6): 791–805.

Pajares, Frank. (2009). Self-Efficacy Theory. In Eric. M. Anderman and Lynley. H. Anderman (Eds.), Psychology of Classroom Learning: An Encyclopedia (Vol. 2, 791–94). Gale Cengage Learning.

Phillips, Julia C., and Richard K Russell. (1994). Research Self-Efficacy, the Research Training Environment, and Research Productivity Among Graduate Students in Counseling Psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 22 (4): 628–41.

Piekart-Primiano, Amanda, Matthew Regan, and Lily Sacharow. (2017). Doing the Honors: Designing a Curriculum for a Year-Long Thesis Project. In Merinda Kaye Hensley and Stephanie Davis-Kahl (Eds.), Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: (69–81). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Samura, Michelle. (2018). Examining Undergraduate Student Outcomes from a Community-Engaged and Inquiry-Oriented Capstone Experience. Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research, 1 (3): 40–47.

Schermer, Timothy, and Simon Gray. (2012). The Senior Capstone: Transformative Experiences in the Liberal Arts (100). The Teagle Foundation.

Shaw, Kylie, Allyson Holbrook, and Sid Bourke. (2013). Student Experience of Final-Year Undergraduate Research Projects: An Exploration of ‘Research Preparedness’. Studies in Higher Education, 38 (5): 711–27.

Talsma, Kate, Benjamin Schüz, and Kimberley Norris. (2019). Miscalibration of Self-Efficacy and Academic Performance: Self-Efficacy ≠ Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Learning and Individual Differences, 69: 182–95.

Wenzel, Thomas J. (1997). What Is Undergraduate Research? Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 17 (4): 163.

Wolf, Lorraine. W. (2018). Undergraduate Research As Engaged Student Learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2018 (154): 75–85.

Wu, Dan, Wanyu Dang, Daqing He, and Renmin Bi. (2017). Undergraduate Information Behaviors in Thesis Writing: A Study Using the Information Search Process Model. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 49 (3): 256–68.




How to Cite

Medaille, Ann, Molly Beisler, Rayla Tokarz, and Rosalind Bucy. 2022. “The Role of Self-Efficacy in the Thesis-Writing Experiences of Undergraduate Honors Students”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 10 (January).