What Is a Senior Thesis?
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A senior thesis is a large, independent research project that students take on during their senior year of high school or college to fulfill their graduation requirement. It is the culminating work of their studies at a particular institution, and it represents their ability to conduct research and write effectively. For some students, a senior thesis is a requirement for graduating with honors.
Students typically work closely with an advisor and choose a question or topic to explore before carrying out an extensive research plan.
Style Manuals and the Paper's Organization
The structure of your research paper will depend, in part, on the style manual that is required by your instructor. Different disciplines, such as history, science, or education, have different rules to abide by when it comes to research paper construction, organization, and modes of citation. The styles for different types of assignment include:
Modern Language Association (MLA): The disciplines that tend to prefer the MLA style guide include literature, arts, and the humanities, such as linguistics, religion, and philosophy. To follow this style, you will use parenthetical citations to indicate your sources and a works cited page to show the list of books and articles you consulted.
American Psychological Association (APA): The APA style manual tends to be used in psychology, education, and some of the social sciences. This type of report may require the following:
Chicago style: "The Chicago Manual of Style" is used in most college-level history courses as well as professional publications that contain scholarly articles. Chicago style may call for endnotes or footnotes corresponding to a bibliography page at the back or the author-date style of in-text citation, which uses parenthetical citations and a references page at the end.
Turabian style: Turabian is a student version of Chicago style. It requires some of the same formatting techniques as Chicago, but it includes special rules for writing college-level papers, such as book reports. A Turabian research paper may call for endnotes or footnotes and a bibliography.
Science style: Science instructors may require students to use a format that is similar to the structure used in publishing papers in scientific journals. The elements you would include in this sort of paper include:
- List of materials and methods used
- Results of your methods and experiments
American Medical Association (AMA): The AMA style book might be required for students in medical or premedical degree programs in college. Parts of an AMA research paper might include:
- Proper headings and lists
- Tables and figures
- In-text citations
- Reference list
Choose Your Topic Carefully
Starting off with a bad, difficult, or narrow topic likely won't lead to a positive result. Don't choose a question or statement that's so broad that it's overwhelming and could comprise a lifetime of research or a topic that's so narrow you'll struggle to compose 10 pages. Consider a topic that has a lot of recent research so you won't struggle to put your hands on current or adequate sources.
Select a topic that interests you. Putting in long hours on a subject that bores you will be arduous—and ripe for procrastination. If a professor recommends an area of interest, make sure it excites you.
Also, consider expanding a paper you've already written; you'll hit the ground running because you've already done some research and know the topic. Last, consult with your advisor before finalizing your topic. You don't want to put in a lot of hours on a subject that is rejected by your instructor.
Organize Your Time
Plan to spend half of your time researching and the other half writing. Often, students spend too much time researching and then find themselves in a crunch, madly writing in the final hours. Give yourself goals to reach along certain "signposts," such as the number of hours you want to have invested each week or by a certain date or how much you want to have completed in those same timeframes.
Organize Your Research
Compose your works cited or bibliography entries as you work on your paper. This is especially important if your style manual requires you to use access dates for any online sources that you review or requires page numbers be included in the citations. You don't want to end up at the very end of the project and not know what day you looked at a particular website or have to search through a hard-copy book looking for a quote that you included in the paper. Save PDFs of online sites, too, as you wouldn't want to need to look back at something and not be able to get online or find that the article has been removed since you read it.
Choose an Advisor You Trust
This may be your first opportunity to work with direct supervision. Choose an advisor who's familiar with the field, and ideally select someone you like and whose classes you've already taken. That way you'll have a rapport from the start.
Consult Your Instructor
Remember that your instructor is the final authority on the details and requirements of your paper. Read through all instructions, and have a conversation with your instructor at the start of the project to determine his or her preferences and requirements. Have a cheat sheet or checklist of this information; don't expect yourself to remember all year every question you asked or instruction you were given.
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Department of Psychology
Dietrich college of humanities and social sciences.
Senior Thesis Projects
Senior theses are independent research projects that students complete in close collaboration with a faculty mentor. Students who complete a senior thesis project select their own research topic, meaning that they have the opportunity to find answers to the research questions they find most compelling.
Who can complete a senior thesis?
Any student in the department may elect to complete a senior thesis project, provided that they have a Psychology faculty mentor who agrees to supervise their work. Students with GPAs that are 3.0 and above may be invited to apply to complete a Dietrich Senior Honors Thesis in the second semester of their junior year ( Learn more about the Dietrich Honors Thesi s ).
Students who do not meet this GPA requirement can still complete a departmental thesis.
What does a senior thesis project entail?
Senior thesis projects vary depending on the student’s research interests, but they always involve the direct application of the skills that students learn in their Research Methods courses. To complete their project, students typically:
- Conduct a literature search in which they review and synthesize previously published research on their chosen topic
- Generate a hypothesis
- Collect and design experimental stimuli
- Collect data (often including recruiting and testing participants)
- Analyze data
- Write an APA-style research paper describing their hypotheses, methods, and findings
Many students who complete a senior thesis also present their work at Meeting of the Minds , a university-wide research symposium held each May on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus.
How long does a senior thesis take to complete?
Students typically spend one academic year (two separate semesters) planning, conducting, analyzing, and writing up the results of their research projects. Students typically apply in the spring semester of their junior year and begin work on their projects in the fall semester of their senior year.
What kinds of projects do students complete?
Students often work on thesis projects that complement the research that their faculty advisor is currently conducting. Learn more about faculty research .
Below are some of the senior thesis projects of recent graduates.
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Writing a senior thesis: is it worth it.
Before coming to Yale, I thought a thesis was the main argument of a paper. I quickly learned that an undergraduate thesis is about fifty times harder and fifty pages longer than any thesis arguments I wrote in high school. At Yale, every senior has some sort of senior requirement, but thesis projects vary by department. Some departments require students to do a semester-long project, where you write a longer paper (25-35 pages) or expand, through writing, the research you’ve been working on (mostly applies to STEM majors). In some departments you can take two senior seminars and complete a longer project at the end of the semester. And other departments have an option to complete a year-long thesis: you spend your senior year (and in some cases your junior year), intensely researching and writing about a topic you choose or create yourself.
Both my departments––English and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration––offer all three of these options, and each student decides what they think is best for them. As a double major, I had the additional option to write an even longer thesis combining both my majors, but that seemed like way too much work––especially since I would have to take two senior thesis classes at the same time. Instead, I chose a year-long thesis for ER&M that combined my literary interests with various theoretical frameworks and the two senior seminars for English. This spring I’m taking my second seminar. Really, I chose the option to torture myself for a whole year, the end result being a minimum of 50 pages of innovative thinking and writing. I wanted to rise to the challenge, proving to myself I could do it. But there also seemed to be the pressure of “this is what everyone in the major does,” and a “thesis is proof that you actually learned.” Although these sentiments influenced my decision to complete a thesis, I know a long research paper does not validate my education or work as a scholar the last four years. It is not the end all be all.
My senior thesis focuses on Caribbean literature - specifically, two novels written by Caribbean women that really look at what it means to come from an immigrant family, to move, and to find yourself in completely new spaces. These experiences are all too relatable to my own life as a second-generation woman of color with immigrant parents enrolled at Yale. In my writing, I focus on how these women make sense of “home” (a very broad and complicated topic, I know), and what their stories tell us about the diasporic experience in general. The project is very personal to me, and I chose it because I wanted to understand my family’s history and their task in making “home” in the U.S., whatever that means. But because it’s so personal, it’s also been really difficult. I’ve experienced a lot of writer’s block or often felt unmotivated and judgmental towards my work. I’ve realized how difficult it is to devote your time and energy to such a long process––not only is it research heavy, but you have to write and rewrite drafts, constantly adjusting to make sure you’re being as clear as possible. Really, writing a thesis is like writing a portion of a book. And that’s crazy! You’re writing two or three whole chapters of academic work as an undergraduate student.
The process is definitely not for everyone, and I’ve certainly thought “Why did I want to do this again?” But what’s really kept me going is the support from my advisors and friends. The ER&M department faculty does an amazing job of providing us mentorship, revisions, and support throughout the process; my advisor has served as my editor but also the person who reminds me most that this work is important, as I often forget that. It also helps to have many friends and people in the major also writing their theses. I’ve found different spaces to just have a thesis study hall or working time, with other people also struggling through. Recently, I submitted my first full draft (note: it was kind of unfinished but it’s okay because it’s a draft!), and it was crazy to think that I wrote 50+ pages, most of which are just my own original thoughts and analysis on two books that have almost no scholarship written about them. It was a relief for sure. This week I will be taking a full break from it, but it reminded me of why I began this journey. It reminded me of all the people who’ve supported me along the way, and how I really couldn’t have done it without them. And now, I’m really looking forward to how good it will feel to turn in my fully written thesis mid-April. I’ve realized that this project shouldn’t be about making it good for Yale’s standard, but for myself, for my family, and for the people who believe in this work as much as I do.
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The Senior Thesis
From the outset of their time at Princeton, students are encouraged and challenged to develop their scholarly interests and to evolve as independent thinkers.
The culmination of this process is the senior thesis, which provides a unique opportunity for students to pursue original research and scholarship in a field of their choosing. At Princeton, every senior writes a thesis or, in the case of some engineering departments, undertakes a substantial independent project.
Integral to the senior thesis process is the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member who guides the development of the project. Thesis writers and advisers agree that the most valuable outcome of the senior thesis is the chance for students to enhance skills that are the foundation of future success, including creativity, intellectual engagement, mental discipline and the ability to meet new challenges.
Many students develop projects from ideas sparked in the classes they’ve taken; others fashion their topics on the basis of long-standing personal passions. Most thesis writers encounter the intellectual twists and turns of any good research project, where the questions emerge as they proceed, often taking them in unexpected directions.
Planning for the senior thesis starts in earnest in the junior year, when students complete a significant research project known as the junior paper. Students who plan ahead can make good use of the University's considerable resources, such as receiving University funds to do research in the United States or abroad. Other students use summer internships as a launching pad for their thesis. For some science and engineering projects, students stay on campus the summer before their senior year to get a head start on lab work.
Writing a thesis encourages the self-confidence and high ambitions that come from mastering a difficult challenge. It fosters the development of specific skills and habits of mind that augur well for future success. No wonder generations of graduates look back on the senior thesis as the most valuable academic component of their Princeton experience.
Navigating Colombia’s Magdalena River, One Story At A Time
For his senior thesis, Jordan Salama, a Spanish and Portuguese major, produced a nonfiction book of travel writing about the people and places along Colombia’s main river, the Magdalena.
Embracing the Classics to Inform Policymaking for Public Education
For her senior thesis, Emma Treadway, a member of the Class of 2022, considers how the basic tenets of Stoicism — a school of philosophy that dates from 300 BCE — can teach students to engage empathetically with the world and address inequities in the classroom.
Creating A Faster, Cheaper and Greener Chemical Reaction
One way to make drugs more affordable is to make them cheaper to produce. For her senior thesis research, Cassidy Humphreys, a chemistry concentrator with a passion for medicine, took on the challenge of taking a century-old formula at the core of many modern medications — and improving it.
The Humanity of Improvisational Dance
Esin Yunusoglu investigated how humans move together and exist in a space — both on the dance floor and in real life — for the choreography she created as her senior thesis in dance, advised by Professor of Dance Susan Marshall.
From the Blog
The infamous senior thesis, revisiting wwii: my senior thesis, independent work in its full glory, advisers, independent work and beyond.
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The Senior Essay or Senior Thesis
The Senior Essay and the Thesis
Every student who completes the major in Comparative Studies writes a senior essay or a thesis. The essay or the thesis is completed in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar,” a writing workshop offered every Spring in which students share drafts, present their work orally, and receive detailed feedback from their peers. Whichever is chosen, the senior research project serves as a capstone experience for students in the major, and results in a piece of original work that can be shared with the Comparative Studies community. The essay or thesis may also be valuable as a writing sample if students apply to graduate or professional schools, or pursue a wide range of careers that value individual initiative and effective communication.
I. Making a choice
The senior essay option
If you choose to write the senior essay you will complete most of the work of research and writing during the Spring semester of your senior year, while enrolled in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar.” You may either revise and expand a paper you wrote for another course (usually, but not always, a course in Comparative Studies), or begin and complete a research paper on a new topic. Senior essays vary in length, but are typically around 12–15 pages (and sometimes longer if they are expanded versions of earlier essays).
The thesis option
If you who choose to write a thesis you will typically begin working on it during the Autumn semester of senior year (and sometimes during the preceding summer) by enrolling in CS 4999 or 4999H (“Undergraduate Thesis” or “Honors Thesis”). You will then complete the writing while enrolled in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar.” Theses vary considerably in length, but are typically between 25 and 40 pages. The thesis process also includes an oral “exam” (really more like a conversation about the completed work with your advisor and one or more other faculty members). If you choose the thesis option you are eligible to graduate with “Research Distinction” or “Honors Research Distinction.”
To graduate with Research Distinction in Comparative Studies or with Research Distinction (if the thesis is completed in another discipline), you must meet the following requirements:
· Complete a minimum of 60 graded credit hours at Ohio State
· Graduate with minimum GPA of 3.0
· Submit “Application for Graduation with Research Distinction” no later than the semester before graduation and before taking CS 4999
· Complete at least 4 credit hours of CS 4999 (these may be spread over more than one term)
· Complete and successfully defend the thesis during an oral examination
For a more detailed list of instructions, see: https://artsandsciences.osu.edu/academics/current-students/advising-academics/graduation
Honors Research Distinction
If you are in the Honors Program you may graduate with Honors Research Distinction in Comparative Studies or with Honors Research Distinction (if the thesis is completed in another discipline) by meeting the following requirements:
· Be enrolled in the ASC Honors Program and complete an approved Honors Contract
· Graduate with minimum GPA of 3.4
· Submit “Undergraduate Thesis Application” no later than semester before graduation and before taking CS 4999H
· Complete at least 4 credit hours of CS 4999H (may be spread over more than one term)
For a more detailed list of instructions, see: https://aschonors.osu.edu/honors/research-thesis
II. Getting Started
Both the senior essay and the thesis require some advance planning, though the timeline for the thesis is typically longer. If you choose to write the senior essay, you should have selected a paper to revise and expand, or else identified a topic for a new research paper, no later than the semester before you enroll in 4990. You will need to submit your draft or proposal for a first round of peer review early in Spring semester.
If you choose to write the thesis, you should have identified a topic and an advisor by the start of Autumn quarter of your senior year (some students choose a topic in the Spring of junior year and begin work in the summer) so you can enroll in 4999 and begin your research.
Note: If your research involves other human beings (for example, collecting oral histories, conducting interviews, or administering surveys) or animals, please be aware that it may require prior approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). This can be a time-consuming process and involves collaboration with your faculty advisor, so you will need to build extra time into your schedule. For further information, see: https://ugresearch.osu.edu/Pages/humanandanimal.aspx .
Choosing a topic and advisor
Whether you write the senior essay or the thesis, nothing is more important than the choice of a topic. It should be something that engages you, that sparks your curiosity or imagination, and that has stakes that matter to you. But it should also be a topic of manageable scale, one that can adequately be explored in the time available to you. Your faculty advisor can help you to shape your project at the outset, and to make any necessary adjustments along the way.
No formal advisor is required for the senior essay. If you choose to revise and expand an earlier paper, you may want to reconnect with the instructor for whom you wrote the original. They may well be willing to serve as an informal advisor as you undertake your revisions. If choosing a new topic, you may wish to speak with a professor in the department or on our affiliated faculty with expertise in the subject matter. Each of you also has your own faculty advisor with whom you can confer, as well as the professor who will be teaching 4990.
If you write a thesis you must have a formal thesis advisor: he or she will supervise any thesis research courses you take (4999), the writing of the thesis itself, and the oral exam at the end of the process. This might be the same person as your faculty advisor but it need not be. You should choose someone with whom you are comfortable (usually because you have been in a class together before) and who has enough knowledge of the subject matter to guide your work. You may wish to speak informally with more than one professor before making a final decision.
There are several sources of funding for undergraduate research. Arts and Sciences awards two kinds of scholarships on a competitive basis each academic year; each requires a letter of support from an academic advisor, and preference is given to students planning to write a thesis. Undergraduate Research Scholarships range from $500 to $12,000. Applications for a given academic year are due in early February of the preceding year. International Research Grants provide up to $4,000 for research-related travel abroad for students in Arts and Sciences. There are two application cycles per academic year. For more information, see: http://aschonors.osu.edu/opportunities/scholarships/undergrad .
The Division of Arts and Humanities provides Undergraduate Research Small Grants (up to $500) to help fund travel to things like conferences, research collections, and exhibitions and to purchase materials for research or creative activity. The Aida Cannarsa Endowment Fund offers grants of $500 to $3,000 to students in arts and humanities, with priority given to those with demonstrated financial need. Applications for both are reviewed twice a year.
See: https://artsandsciences.osu.edu/academics/current-students/scholarships-grants/research .
There may be additional sources of funding, on and off campus, for particular kinds of projects. You should consult with your advisor and the Office of Undergraduate Research.
Please note that research funding involving human subjects may require prior IRB approval (see above).
III. PRESENTING YOUR WORK
Every Spring, there are opportunities for Comparative Studies students to present the results of their research, whether they choose to write the senior essay or the thesis. The Richard J. and Martha D. Denman Undergraduate Research Forum is a university-wide showcase of undergraduate work that awards prizes by areas of interest (for example, Humanities). There is a competitive abstract submission process in January, and a day devoted to presentations in late March. Though most of the forum involves poster presentations, Humanities majors give brief oral presentations (8-10 minutes) on their work to faculty judges.
In April, the Department of Comparative Studies hosts its own Undergraduate Research Colloquium. Students submit paper abstracts in February—300 words or fewer that describe the project’s central questions, methodologies, theoretical framework, and (tentative) conclusions. Students may choose to give a 10-minute presentation on work in progress or a 20-minute presentation on completed work (by April everyone enrolled in 4990 should be ready to give a presentation). This is a more relaxed atmosphere, with an audience of your peers and friends, as well as faculty and graduate students in the department.
Senior Essay Timeline
Autumn of senior year
· Choose a topic
Spring of senior year
· Enroll in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar”
Spring of junior year
· Identify an advisor
Summer between junior and senior years (optional)
· Enroll in CS 4998 or 4998H, “Undergraduate Research in Comparative Studies” (2 credits)
· Submit “Application for Graduation with Research Distinction” or “Undergraduate Thesis Application”
· Enroll in CS 4999, “Undergraduate Thesis” or 4999H, “Honors Thesis” (2 credits)
· Enroll in Enroll in CS 4999, “Undergraduate Thesis” or 4999H, “Honors Thesis” (2 credits)
· Oral exam
V. OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION
You can find copies of undergraduate theses online at the OSU Knowledge Bank: https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/handle/1811/134 .
Further information on undergraduate research opportunities is available at: http://www.undergraduateresearch.osu.edu/ .
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The Senior Thesis
A Defining Journey
Work one-on-one with a faculty adviser on an original research or creative endeavor that showcases your intellectual growth and serves as the culmination of your undergraduate career.
This is your opportunity to explore fundamental questions, create a work of art, and contribute to a scholarly conversation in your chosen field of study.
And in the process , you'll build skills that will serve you for a lifetime, whether you move into the business world, graduate or professional school, or an elite service program.
The year-long research project can take on a variety of forms—a scholarly paper, narrative nonfiction essay, journalistic article or series of articles, documentary film, or museum exhibition. It is designed to reflect your personal interests and career goals.
What kind of research topics do students pursue? Browse these quick summaries of student projects from recent Arts and Letters graduates.
Check in with your department or faculty mentor for specific advice. You can also find funding and support for your research from a variety of centers and institutes on campus, including the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement .
"Thesis writing was the most rewarding and empowering experience in my four years at Notre Dame. I learned how to engage properly with the research process: Critically evaluating my own position's weaknesses, assessing the strengths of the theories with which I disagree, and continually refining my work."
— Kyle Witzigman '16 Political Science Major Glynn Family Honors Scholar, Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, Fulbright Award to Teach in Vietnam
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2020 Senior Thesis Projects
Senior Thesis in French
Students interested in a Senior Thesis in French must have taken at least one 40000-level seminar before their senior year. Ideally, interested students should consult with a potential supervising professor in the spring of their junior year and agree on a preliminary topic and a research plan. Students should then register in the spring semester of their senior year for the independent study course designated as Senior Thesis in order to complete the thesis under the direction of the supervising professor.
The Senior Thesis is a written capstone project that involves a significant research component with an emphasis on original thought. Regardless of the nature of the project, the Senior Thesis might best be viewed as an extended essay. In formulating, researching, and writing the thesis, students majoring in French will work one-on-one with a thesis director, preferably a faculty member in the French section.
Your thesis will be a written document of approximately 40 pages in length. The thesis may be written in English or French.
Students should begin thinking about their thesis in their third year at Notre Dame. Study abroad in France or in a Francophone country provides an excellent opportunity to start developing a topic, thanks to relatively easy access to archives, museums, libraries, and other research sites. Grants from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, among other entities at Notre Dame, also support travel and research for senior theses. Students are encouraged to contact a potential thesis supervisor before they formulate their research project, whether they are headed for study abroad or a university-supported research trip, in order to take full advantage of the resources available. During the summer before their senior year, students will refine their topic, reading lists, and a research plan. Then, at the outset of the fall semester of the senior year, the student and advisor will determine the amount of consultation required and draw up deadlines for submitting drafts and completing readings. It is important that all parties have a clear sense of procedures and deadlines.
- March 15 (spring semester, junior year): Communicate interest in writing a Senior Thesis
- February 15 (spring semester, senior year): an expanded / revised abstract / proposal with annotated bibliography
- March 20 (or the Monday after Spring break): draft of first 10-15 pages of expanded / reworked thesis
- April 5: complete first draft of the expanded / reworked thesis
- April 20: final draft of the thesis, with bibliography
- April 25: abstract and title page
- May 1 (or first day of exam week): completed thesis delivered, in full proper formatting
Senior Thesis in Italian
Any student who is planning to write a thesis should enroll in the Italian Seminar in the fall semester of their senior year (or the year they are writing the thesis). The Italian Seminar is a prerequisite for enrolling in Thesis Direction Tutorials in the spring. Exceptions may occasionally be made for irresolvable conflicts, or if the student takes a graduate course in the fall instead of the Italian Seminar. To proceed with writing a thesis in the spring semester, students must earn at least a B in the Italian Seminar (or the grad course). Any undergraduate thesis for Italian, whether Honors, a regular Senior Thesis, or College Honors, is written over two semesters.
Any student planning to write a thesis is strongly encouraged to choose an adviser in the spring semester of their junior year, to begin to narrow a topic, and begin reading and research in the summer. The deadline for declaring the intention to write a thesis, for any student enrolled in the Italian Seminar, is September 15. The Italian Seminar will require a two-page research proposal by September 15; a detailed outline with annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources by October 15; a rough draft of the preliminary Seminar paper by November 15; and the final submitted Seminar paper (which serves as the first, basic version for any student writing a thesis) on the first day of exam week of the fall semester. The Italian Seminar paper is normally 15-20 pages (3,750-5,000 words).
In the spring of their junior year, students who plan to write a thesis should apply for funding to support their research in the summer before their senior year. They should consult the CUSE (Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement) website for information, and for useful mini-classes on applying for funding, finding advisers, etc... Some funding sources to explore: Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Sciola Grant for Research in Italy (through ISLA), Ravarino Scholarships in Italian, Nanovic Institute for European Studies, Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Office for Undergraduate Studies, the Center for the Study of Language and Culture; the President's Circle Fund.
Any student doing Honors in Italian, or a College Honors Thesis, will then take ROIT 58000, a 3 credit Honors Thesis Tutorial, in the spring of their senior year, as their required 11th course, to expand / rework / revise / their Italian Seminar paper into a full thesis. Any student writing a regular Senior Thesis, will then take ROIT 48000, a 1 credit Senior Thesis Tutorial, in the spring of their senior year, to expand / revise / rework their Italian Seminar paper into a thesis.
Spring semester thesis writing deadlines:
- February 15: an expanded/revised abstract/proposal with annotated bibliography;
- March 20 (or the Monday after Spring break): draft of first 10-15 pages of expanded/reworked thesis;
- April 5: complete first draft of the expanded/reworked thesis; April 20: final draft of the thesis, with bibliography;
- April 25: abstract and title page;
- May 1 (or first day of exam week): completed thesis delivered, in full proper formatting.
An Honors Thesis (6 credits) is normally 35-50 pages (double-spaced, 12-point font; or 9,000-13,000 words); a regular Senior Thesis (4 credits) is normally 25-30 pages (6,000-7,500 words). All theses require:
- a properly formatted title page;
- an abstract of 250-300 words;
- a research essay in proper academic style, with properly formatted notes, on the model of a scholarly article;
- a bibliography or list of works cited, properly formatted.
Senior Thesis in Spanish
The Senior Seminar (ROSP 53000), conducted in the target language, and during this time you will choose your thesis topic and begin to develop the thesis. In the spring semester, you will register for the independent study course designated as Senior Thesis (1.0 credit hours) in order to complete your thesis under the direction of your supervising professor
The Senior Thesis is a written capstone project that typically involves a significant research component, but the emphasis is still on original thought. Regardless of the nature of the project, the Senior Thesis might best be viewed as an extended essay. In formulating, researching, and writing the Thesis, students majoring in Spanish will work one-on-one with a Thesis director. Your thesis will be a written document of approximately 40 pages in length. The thesis may be written in English or Spanish. Students should begin thinking about a Thesis or Project in their third year at Notre Dame. Those who study in Spain or Latin America in the spring of their junior year may want to write to professors they might want to work with, indicating their potential thesis interests. Ideally, students will begin to research topics and prepare a reading list for the thesis during the summer before their senior year. Typically, the advisor for the project will be a faculty member in Spanish. Both advisor and student will agree on the amount of consultation required and deadlines for submitting drafts and completing readings. It is important that all parties have a clear sense of procedures and deadlines.
Students planning to write a Senior Thesis in Spanish must:
- Communicate their interest in writing a Senior Thesis by October 15th of the student’s senior year
- Complete at least an outline and a bibliography for the project during the fall semester while taking the Senior Seminar; for many students the paper required for completion of the Senior Seminar will form part of the final thesis
- The second semester of the senior year must be devoted to completing the writing or the project work, and a full draft of the thesis or project must be submitted to the advisor by March 15th
- The final, complete version of the thesis or project must be submitted by April 15th. Students should submit one copy to their faculty thesis advisor and one electronic and one hard copy to the Department.
- Environmental Studies Program
- Student Programs
Environmental studies senior thesis (env s 197).
APPLY to ENV S 197 (for 2022-23 year) - Next year's application will be available in Spring quarter.
VIEW the Senior Info Session
Environmental Studies Senior Thesis Handbook - (.pdf)
Through your Environmental Studies major you will take courses ranging from history to chemistry, math, political science, biology, anthropology, and physics. You will be expected to synthesize the information from many different fields in order to creatively help solve the critical environmental problems facing the world. When you graduate and embark upon an environmental career, you will need the ability to research, analyze and evaluate data, and write and speak effectively and convincingly.
These abilities can be refined and enhanced through the Environmental Studies Senior Thesis course (ENV S 197), which is an elective to all Environmental Studies and Hydrologic Sciences majors. ENV S 197 is a six-unit course taken during your senior year after all of your lower-division requirements have been completed. In ENV S 197, you will focus the knowledge you have gained from a wide variety of disciplines on a specific problem or issue. To be eligible to enroll in ENV S 197, you must have a 3.0 overall GPA or your Thesis Proposal approved by the Senior Thesis Coordinator. Although the thesis course is offered for only one quarter, this does not mean that you only have one quarter's worth of work to do; students need to spend at least two quarters, if not more, so most students file of an incomplete at the end of the Fall quarter. Writing your thesis can be a long and tedious task; most likely the hardest course you will take while at UCSB. However, it will also be your most rewarding.
Time and time again, Environmental Studies alumni refer to the Senior Thesis course as the best course they could have ever taken. They cannot stress enough the important lessons learned from their experiences' writing their thesis. The most commonly praised skills obtained through this course are:
- learned how to conduct professional quality research needed in today's high technology job opportunities
- became proficient on the topic they wrote their thesis on
- they walk away from UCSB with a professional level writing sample to which they submit to potential employers.
If you are interested in pursuing a Senior Thesis, contact the Environmental Studies Academic Coordinator.
Environmental Studies Senior Thesis 2021 Presentations
Environmental Studies Senior Thesis Database
Why a Senior Thesis Is So Important:
It's obvious that this thesis will require a lot of work from you. In the work you do and in your activities as a responsible member of our society, you will need the abilities developed through the thesis: researching, analyzing and evaluating data, and writing and speaking about your knowledge and conclusions.
In 1991 Environmental Studies distributed a questionnaire to 500 Environmental Studies graduates (year of graduation: 1969 to 1990) and roughly half (251) responded. Nearly three-fourths of the group were presently working in a field that involves environmental issues. When the senior thesis was required for all ES graduates (1972-1993), we recognized that many students were reluctant to undertake the thesis project, so we asked these graduates if the thesis had been optional, would they have done it? Roughly half reported that they would have avoided it, for one or more of the following reasons: fright, laziness, too much work, not enough time to do the thesis, wanting to graduate on time, and wanting to take other classes.
However, the graduates reported overwhelmingly (over 90%) that if they had not done the thesis, they now feel that they would have missed an important educational experience. What would they have missed? Typically, these graduates reported that through doing the thesis, they learned how to follow a major project through to completion. They learned how to use the library, how to talk to professionals and professors about their subject, and how to gather and analyze data. In learning that they could complete a long document, they reported that they gained confidence, improved their writing skills, improved their ability to make oral presentations, and improved their time-management skills. One graduate, now a lawyer, reported, "I learned that research involves persistence, creativity and thoroughness-which I have often had to utilize in legal research." Several reported another benefit, either the skills they developed or (more typically) the knowledge they gained about a specialized area of content led directly to their first job in environmental work.
For most of these graduates, the senior thesis modeled a process of inquiry and communication that they now use professionally. Of those currently working in environmental fields, 95% said that "thesis-like" activities (e.g., gathering and analyzing data, planning, drafting and editing reports) are either "important" or "extremely important" in their work. Perhaps more surprisingly, a strong majority of those not working in environmental fields reported the same. For example, a city planner reported, "...in my profession I'm involved in research, analysis, synthesis and presentation on a weekly basis...." Another graduate said that the thesis modeled professional processes "to a great extent! In a sense my senior thesis prepared me to write my master's thesis. The master thesis prepared me to write a book-length manuscript. They are stepping stones."
Moreover, these "thesis-like" activities of gathering and analyzing data, planning, drafting and revising reports occupy a major amount of the time Environmental Studies graduates spend at work. One quarter of the graduates working in environmental fields spend over 80% of their time in such activities; two thirds of them devote more than 40% of their time to such work. Among graduates working in non-environmental fields, over half spend more than 20% of their time doing "thesis-like" work.
Capping It Off: 7 Tips for the Senior Thesis
It's not too early to start thinking about this requirement. Here's our advice.
Many schools now have a "capstone" requirement: a longer writing project (sometimes called a "senior thesis") to be done in your final year. For some students this provides a golden opportunity to move to a more professional level of work in their chosen field. But for others, this is a dreaded, seemingly insurmountable obstacle standing between them and that fancy piece of paper with the university seal. In preparation for the fall, when many students will start working on this assignment, we offer you our best tips for staring down—and doing—the senior paper requirement:
1. Choose your adviser carefully. At many schools, the senior project is one of the first times that a faculty member is directly supervising your work. Be sure to pick a professor who is an expert in the specific field you're working on. The more you get into depth on an issue, the more you'll need to be guided by someone who knows a lot about the subject. Also, be sure to select someone you've taken a course or two with. You wouldn't want to find yourself, after the first week, with that sickening feeling that you're stuck for a whole semester—or a whole year—with someone you can't stand (and who probably can't stand you, either).
Extra Pointer. If you have a professor you really want to work with, you might consider changing to a topic in their area of expertise, rather than trying to get them to sponsor a project on some topic far outside their area of specialization.
2. Choose your topic even more carefully . Starting off with a bad topic is never going to have a good end. Consult carefully with your adviser before you put down your quarter.
5-Star Tip. Though, of course, every field and every paper is different, here are some signs of a good topic:
• Previous experience (yours): It's in an area in which you have already done some coursework. A senior thesis is not the time to start work in virgin territory.
• Doability: It's a topic that can be productively explored in the time you have. Don't fixate on a project that would take more than a lifetime to complete or a topic so narrow that you'll struggle to write even 10 pages on it.
• Answers a question (rather than surveying an area): The best thesis projects are ones that address a problem in a field and try to resolve it. Just talking about a topic you like usually nets a descriptive report, not an analytical paper—and reports come in on the lowest rung of the intellectual food chain.
• Intrinsic interest (to you): There's no point putting in long hours working on something that bores you to tears from Day One. (This is especially important to keep in mind if your professor is suggesting a topic to you, rather than you picking your own.)
3. Consider expanding a course paper. Many students think, wrongly, that in order to do a senior thesis they have to come up with a wholly new idea. But, in many cases, the most successful projects are expansions, reworkings, and further explorations of previous course papers. It's not too hard to see why: Often you've done significant work on the issue (and hence know what you're talking about), and in many cases the original topics were picked by professors themselves (hence likely to work).
4. Organize your face time. At the very beginning, work with your adviser to establish an appropriate schedule of visits. Make sure also that you have a meeting of minds about what the work will be at each meeting: Are you supposed to just get together and shoot the breeze? Are you supposed to have read some article each week or have written a draft of something? Are you supposed to have revised a previous piece? Professors differ widely in their expectations: Know up front what yours wants. And be sure to stick to the meeting schedule.
5-Star Tip. Depending on your project, there may be a number of scholars at your university who could give valuable input into your work, either by helping direct your research or your thinking on an issue. Check with your professor about whether it would be worthwhile to consult with additional faculty members, either within the department or in neighboring departments.
5. Divide your time in half . Spend about half your allotted time researching and the other half writing. Most students wind up spending about 90 percent of their time researching, which means that they don't actually start pulling together their ideas until it's already too late. Good senior theses require multiple drafts, with serious revisions being made based on the comments of your adviser. All of that takes time.
6. Don't assume that longer is better. Many, many students make the mistake of thinking that the whole game here is to come up with as many pages as possible. But most professors judge by quality, not quantity. Ask your adviser what the appropriate length of the project should be. Some professors are looking for a 70- to 80-page magnum opus, but others would rather see a strong journal article-sized length of 25 to 40 pages.
7. Play to the bitter end. At many schools, the capstone project is capped by an oral exam: A committee of three or four faculty members holds court and asks you questions for an hour or two about what you've shown. This can be the time during which the grade—or level of honors—is determined. Make sure you know what's going to be expected of you at the oral exam—and take the time to prepare for it (no matter how sick you are about the topic).
Bonus Tip. As your project draws to a close, it's especially important to assess where your work stands in the field and what original contribution it makes. This is something you will need to communicate both in the paper and your thesis defense (if you have one). The whole idea of the senior thesis—or capstone project—is for you to start being a player in the field. You can't really play unless you know your position and who else is playing.
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Senior Thesis and Departmental Honors
A senior thesis is an extended original research project written under the supervision of a faculty adviser during the student’s senior year. Thesis projects are best suited for students who have an interest in exploring a specific question and/or a field of knowledge beyond their previous course work. Students may complete a senior thesis regardless of GPA.
Steps to Complete a Senior Thesis
- Determine a topic of interest.
- Find a faculty sponsor who is willing to supervise the thesis. Students may choose a faculty sponsor from any department affiliated with the International Studies Program, but the faculty sponsor must be a full-time Homewood faculty member and not from another division of Johns Hopkins (e.g., SAIS, Bloomberg School of Public Health, etc.) Please Note: Both a topic of interest and faculty sponsor should be solidified by the end of spring semester junior year. Failure to do so may make attempting a thesis impossible.
- Register for an independent study with the faculty sponsor (or other thesis course required by the faculty sponsor’s home department) in the fall semester.
- In the spring semester, if the faculty sponsor feels that sufficient progress has been made, register for a second independent study with the faculty sponsor and/or other thesis course required by the faculty sponsor’s home department.
- For students planning to graduate in December, the first independent study/thesis course should be taken in the spring semester of junior year and the second independent study/thesis course should be taken during the final semester of enrollment in the fall.
General Thesis Guidelines
- The thesis should be a total of 6 credits , 3 credits in the fall and 3 credits in the spring, and both courses should be for a letter grade
- The courses can be independent studies, a departmental thesis course, capstone seminar, or independent research
- International Studies follows the University standard that grades of C- or better will count for the thesis.
- Although the International Studies Program does not have a page length requirement, most theses in the program are between 50 and 100 pages.
- The most crucial aspect of the thesis is that the topic must be internationally-focused to be considered an international studies thesis. Failing this, the thesis will be ineligible for the Robert Tucker Prize for Best Thesis in International Studies.
- The final draft of the thesis should be submitted to the faculty sponsor by the last day of classes the semester the student intends to graduate. Not adhering to this deadline could make the thesis ineligible for the Robert Tucker Prize.
Students enrolled in one of the double major tracks are encouraged to follow the thesis guidelines for that track, which may differ from International Studies. Global Social Change and Development (sociology) students can find more information on the Department of Sociology web site. World Politics and Global Governance (political science) students should register for AS.190.498 Thesis Colloquium during the fall semester.
Departmental honors will be awarded to students who have a major GPA in the top 20% of the International Studies graduating class, regardless of whether they have written a senior thesis.
The Robert Tucker Prize
The Robert Tucker Prize is presented to the best international studies thesis in a given year and is named after the first director of the International Studies Program – Robert Warren Tucker , Professor Emeritus of American Foreign Policy at the Johns Hopkins University, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Tucker received his B.S. from the United States Naval Academy in 1945 and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949. He was co-editor of The National Interest from 1985 to 1990, and president of the Lehrman Institute from 1982 to 1987. He has published essays in Foreign Affairs, World Policy Journal, The National Interest, Harpers, and The New Republic. His 1977 book The Inequality of Nations is a highly skeptical analysis of the Third World’s efforts to redistribute power and wealth in the international system.
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