All of the Nicholas School’s degree programs offer a Graduation with Distinction option. The projects typically include a 25-50 page written manuscript and a poster summarizing its findings. To earn the honor, students must also have a 3.0 grade point average overall and a 3.2 grade point average in their major.



Students normally enroll in an Independent Research Study course (ENVIRON/ECS 393 [one semester] or preferably 393 and 394 for [2 semesters]) supervised by the research advisor. Only a second Independent Research Study course can be used to satisfy the major requirements, if allowed by their major advisor. The grade assigned by the faculty advisor for the independent research study course is independent of the committee’s determination of whether to award Graduation with Distinction. 

Thesis & Poster

Participants write a substantial (25-50 page) thesis describing their completed research. The format of the thesis is determined by the advisor. Students must also present a poster of their completed research, usually in mid-April, which is evaluated by a three-member committee. The committee is composed of the research advisor/mentor, a member of the Nicholas School faculty, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies or Director of Undergraduate Programs. 

Guidelines for Poster Preparation


The student is expected to participate in bimonthly workshops about topics relevant to the research process through their senior year. Duke Libraries offer special privileges to students working on honors theses. Learn more


Graduation December 2021 May 2022

Submit application for GWD

September 24 October 1

Submit draft of introduction to Research Supervisor

October 8 January 14
Submit draft of figures/tables to Research Supervisor October 29 February 25
Submit first full draft of thesis to Research Mentor November 5 March 18
Submit an abstract and title to undergrad office November 15 March 25
GWD poster session November 19 March 31 & April 1
Final thesis due December 3 April 20

How to Apply

Interested students with a 3.0 grade point average overall and a 3.2 grade point average in their major should apply at the beginning of their senior year by submitting the Graduation with Distinction Application to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) by the deadlines shown above.

Note that your major GPA is calculated using only core and focus study courses (excluding independent research study courses) and not co-requisites.  More information about calculating GPA can be found on the Office of the University Registrar’s site.

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Contact Us

Undergraduate Program Office
Nicholas School of the Environment
Box 90328 Durham, NC 27708
(919) 613-8060