What is a senior honors thesis?

A senior thesis in the Science, Technology and Society major is a substantial independent research project completed over the course of a year.  A senior honors thesis is a research essay of 40-60 pages (10,000-15,000 words, plus bibliography), researched and written under supervision of an advisor, during the fall of senior year after completion of STSC 400. A student will receive honors after completion of the written thesis and participation in Senior Symposium at the end of senior year.

The senior thesis is different from the capstone research requirement, required of all majors. The capstone paper is not a senior thesis, nor is a paper completed in an independent study a senior thesis.

Past STSC Senior Thesis Topics

What is the process of writing a senior thesis?

1) Enroll in STSC 400 - Research Seminar (spring of junior year)
    This course fulfills the Capstone requirement.

   During this course you will:

  • Develop a research question in keeping with the goals of the major, talking to relevant faculty and researchers about its viability
  • Read the list of past STSC senior thesis topics (see above)
  • Review secondary and primary literature
  • write a research paper (this fulfills the Capstone requirement)
  • develop a proposal for a thesis

2) Apply to write a senior thesis

  • Submit thesis proposal to faculty committee
  • Receive permission from instructor and program director to proceed
  • Confirm your thesis adviser
  • Submit application (see application form attached below) by May 20th

3) Summer Research

  • Continued research of existing literature and of new material
  • Stay in contact with your advisor
  • Register for STSC 498 (Dr. Greene will do this for you)

4) September

  • Submit 5 page write-up of summer research
  • Submit schedule of meetings with your advisor, signed by the advisor
  • Attend mandatory meeting where you submit these materials

5) October and November

  • Mandatory monthly meetings with STSC Chair & Associate Chair
  • Submit complete rough draft to adviser by Thanksgiving
  • Begin revisions on rough draft

6) December

  • Submit revised thesis to advisor for final grade by the end of fall term (NOTE: the final draft of the thesis must be turned in and graded for the fall term.  There are no incompletes granted for STSC 498.)

7) January

  • January 31 - Submit corrected and bound copy of thesis to Dr. Greene

8) May

  • Present research at Senior Symposium (May 2015) (Attendance Required)

Who should do a senior thesis? Many students seem to think that if they have done well in the major so far, they should do a senior thesis. However, a senior thesis is different than taking an advanced class. It involves a commitment of an entirely magnitude. A successful thesis demands mentorship and advance planning far in excess of anything required by other research projects. Most importantly, it requires an investment and commitment in the topic that can sustain the student through months of research, writing, and frustration as well as satisfaction. Almost every year we see one or more students who begin the thesis but are unable, for various reasons, to complete it. Students intending to write a senior thesis should not study abroad during spring of junior year or fall of senior year. 

After many years of supervising honors theses--successful and, well, not quite so successful--our advice would be something along these lines: you don't choose a thesis, a thesis chooses you. If there is a project or a topic that you have been thinking about already, and can't shake--something that has grabbed hold of you and won't let go--and you have (or will have) a solid advising structure in place, go for it. We will support you 100%.

However, if you think you'd like to graduate with honors, but don't have a clear idea of a topic or project to which you are fully committed, you might want to think twice about pursuing a thesis. Students who want to study abroad during spring of junior year or fall of senior year cannot do a thesis, so choices need to be made.  Topics that come together late, with a late or incomplete support structure, tend to result in theses that are very difficult to complete in a satisfactory manner, even with help from the advisor. The term "honors" can be misleading: some of our most outstanding and accomplished students don't graduate with honors. For various reasons each of these students choose not to write a thesis. On the other hand, some majors who write excellent honors theses don't have the highest GPAs in the major. Writing a thesis is not for everybody, and it isn't necessary for being successful in the major.

4) Questions?

Consult with Dr. Voskuhl or Dr. Greene.