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Senior Thesis


A senior thesis is a large project that one completes before receiving a bachelor's degree. Usually this project will reflect one's area of keenest interest within the academic discipline. For example, if an English literature student has loved William Faulkner more than any other English language writer, he or she will probably consider writing a senior thesis on one of Faulkner's literary works.

Senior theses differ from term papers in several ways. First, a senior thesis is often much longer than a term paper and uses many more research sources. Second, the student invests more in a senior thesis than in an ordinary term paper; a senior thesis requires at least a semester (but preferably two semesters) of diligent work, and as part of that work the student may go to extravagant lengths to find the necessary research. Students who perform thorough research may have to travel, conduct experiments, interview experts in the field, or develop other creative ways of finding information that is not available in books and journals. As part of this extensive research, the student should become very familiar with the section of the library that carries information from the target discipline, and he or she should also learn the library's policies on interlibrary loans, the use of photocopiers and printers, book renewals, and overdue fines. Most students will probably have to spend a great deal of time in the library while they research their topics, and knowing the library's policies ahead of time may save them from having unexpectedly huge bills at the end of the semester.

Third, senior theses differ from term papers in the level of interaction one has with the major professor. Whereas students often write several term papers each semester with little or no one-on-one contact with the instructor, students who are writing senior theses will probably meet with their major professors regularly to discuss idea development, research progress, and difficulties faced in writing. These meetings hold students accountable for making steady progress and offer them direction through any obstacles.


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