Crucial Sections of Your Senior Thesis
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A Senior Thesis is the capstone of your undergraduate career. That doesn’t mean it’s the last paper you will ever write, but it does mean that you should make every effort to produce your best work for this project. Writing a thesis can be a daunting task, especially if you have never done anything like it before. This section will provide you with some basic guidelines to help ensure your success.
You must invest time at the beginning of your project to manage and organize your information. As you do this, please keep in mind that your thesis is an original work of scholarship and maybe one of the most important things you will ever write. It is important to both yourself and to the University community that you present yourself professionally. As an academic document, your paper must adhere to academic standards, as well as be intelligible to your readers.
Here are the major elements:
Choose a subject that interests you, and find an advisor who has some expertise in your area of interest.
Be bold in your choices. Don’t be afraid to select a topic that may seem “out there” or controversial. Good Theses often develop their own momentum and can lead to significant debate or challenge other prevailing theories or opinions.
Be specific! Don’t think about what you are going to say, but let it come through you naturally. Your mission is to give it meaning, not to think or talk about it.
You may say: “This topic is important because …”
Why it attracted you? Why did you choose this particular topic? Or what motivated you to choose it over other things you could have chosen? You may simply explain how the idea developed or how it came to your attention. You may also introduce any particularly interesting aspects of the work, for example, something that especially excited or intrigued you.
A Good Research Question
It is important to come up with a good research question early on. It helps you determine what information you need to find and how to organize that material. Some key characteristics your question should have are:
Clearly stated – Makes a clear statement about the issue at hand
- Makes a clear statement about the issue at hand Testable – Your research question can be answered in an empirical way – yes, no, or with some definitive number/percentage.
- Your research question can be answered in an empirical way – yes, no, or with some definitive number/percentage. It focuses on the main issue
It is relevant to your paper and complements other aspects of your topic
There are lots of research questions that could underlie a Senior Thesis: development of specific skills, critical thinking, independent study, and broad scholarly inquiry.
In this part of the thesis, you will evaluate the available literature on your topic. You will show what is known about your topic and why it is important. This evaluation should be broad in scope, demonstrating to the reader that you understand not only the basic literature on your topic but also the most recent work (and for that matter, all prior work). In addition, you should be able to show how your research builds on and extends prior work.
Building a Literature Review is not just about finding facts. It requires an in-depth understanding of the history and evolution of the topic. You should also prepare to take a critical stance towards the sources you will find. A Literature Review can be organized chronologically, by topic, or by author. This section is usually the most time-consuming because you must do additional research to find sources that support your thesis (and avoid those that don’t).
Include only those elements of the literature that are relevant to your topic or that provide insight into the reasons for exploring your topic in particular. Other things to consider include: How do the prior works answer each other (e.g. in the case of conflicting findings). How do these prior works differ from your approach or from each other? How does your approach differ from past approaches?
Evidence and Analysis
In this section, you have the opportunity to reveal your analysis of the material you found in your research, as well as your interpretations of that material. As a writer, you are analyzing and processing the information for someone else’s consumption. Your thesis is not about you; it is about the issue or idea that interests you. Therefore, please do not include personal commentary or opinions in your thesis; such comments should be reserved for a third-person essay.
Your supporting evidence should be clearly presented in a logical fashion and organized into well-defined categories.
Ending on a high note. Your conclusion should bring your thesis full circle. It should summarize the most important points or ideas you have presented. It should also reiterate any conclusions you may have drawn from your research, and state how extending your investigation might strengthen, refute, or otherwise modify past findings.