Many schools require you to complete a capstone project, which can be a longer writing assignment (sometimes called a senior thesis), in your final year. Some students see this as a golden opportunity to advance to a higher professional level of their chosen field. Others find this a daunting and seemingly impossible obstacle that prevents them from getting the fancy piece with university seal on it. As many students prepare to start work on this seniorthesistopic.com assignment in the fall, we share our top tips for tackling the senior paper requirement.
- Make sure you carefully choose your adviser. Many schools have a senior project, which is where a faculty member supervises you. You should choose a professor who has expertise in the field you are working on. As you learn more about a topic, the more you will need guidance from someone who has a deep understanding of it. Be sure to choose someone who has taken at least one course with you. After the first week you won’t want to be stuck for a semester or a year with someone you can’t handle (and likely can’t either).
Extra Pointer. Extra Pointer.
- Even more care should be taken when choosing your topic. It is not a good idea to start with a poor topic. Before you submit your quarter, talk to your adviser.
5-Star Tip. Even though every field and every paper are different, there are certain signs that indicate a good topic.
- Prior experience (yours). It is in an area you have previously done some coursework. It is not the right time to begin work in new territory after completing a senior thesis.
- Doability. It’s a topic you can explore in the amount of time that you have. You shouldn’t be enslaved by a project that will take you a lifetime to finish or a narrow topic that will make it difficult to write even 10 pages.
- Answers questions (rather that surveying an area). The best thesis projects are those that tackle a problem in a particular field and attempt to fix it. Talking about something you like is enough to get a descriptive report. Analytic papers are not the best option. Reports fall at the bottom end of the intellectual food chain.
- A personal interest in the subject: You don’t want to work long hours on something that bores and tears you from day one. This is especially true if your professor suggests a topic for you.
- You might consider expanding the scope of a course paper. Many students mistakenly think that they need to invent a new idea to complete their senior thesis. In many cases, it is expansions, revisions, and further explorations that are most successful in projects. It’s easy to see why. Many times, you have done significant research on the topic and know what it is. In many cases, the original topics were chosen by professors. This makes them more likely to succeed.
- Plan your face time. Work with your advisor to create a schedule. You should also have a meeting of minds on what the work will look like at each meeting. Do you want to just hang out and enjoy the moment? Is it expected that you have either read or written a draft each week? Do you have to have reviewed a previous piece? Professors have very different expectations. It is important to know what your professor wants. Also, be consistent with the meeting schedule.
5-Star Tip. You may find that there are a few scholars at your university that could help you with your research or give you advice on a topic. Ask your professor if it is worth collaborating with faculty from other departments or within the department.
- Split your time in half. You should spend about half of your time researching and half on writing. Research is the most common activity for students. Students often spend around 90 percent of their time on research, meaning that they don’t begin to put together their ideas until too late. A senior thesis that is good requires multiple drafts. Your adviser may suggest revisions. All this takes time.
- You don’t have to believe that more is better. Many students make the error of believing that the entire game is about having as many pages as possible. Most professors value quality and not quantity. Ask your advisor to determine the length of the project. Some professors prefer a magnum opus that is 70-80 pages long, while others prefer an article-sized journal article with 25-40 pages.
- Play until the bitter end. The capstone project at many schools is completed with an oral examination. This involves a committee of three to four faculty members sitting in front of you and asking you questions for up to an hour about the work you have done. This could be the time that the grade or level of honors is determined. It is important to know what you will be asked to do at the oral exam.
Bonus Tip It’s important to review where your work is in relation to the field and to determine what your contribution is. This is something that you’ll need to communicate in both your paper and thesis defense, if applicable. The purpose of your senior thesis (or capstone project) is to help you become a player in the field. If you don’t know where you are and who is playing, then you won’t be able to play.