Senior Thesis

For the philosophy major who is serious about academics and ready for a significant challenge,, there is an option of writing a senior thesis.  A senior thesis should be a paper of approximately 15 to 20 pages in length that offers a careful and thoughtful investigation of some philosophical problem or some portion of the thought of a historical figure.  The senior thesis is intended to be more in-depth and demanding than a typical paper for a course, and should contain original arguments and insights rather than simple summary or exposition.  It is to be written under the supervision of an advisor typically over the period of one semester. 

Thesis Requirements

To be eligible to write a senior thesis a student must be a philosophy major with a current (at time of application) 3.7/4.0 GPA in all philosophy courses.

Application Process

  • A student interested in writing a senior thesis should begin the process of finding an advisor in the spring semester of the year before he or she plans to graduate so that  the thesis may be completed by the fall semester of the senior year (this way it can serve as a writing sample for those applying to graduate school). Students planning to graduate in December may wish to start a bit earlier.
  • Approach potential advisor by week 10 of spring semester of junior year.  The student should have (1) a proposal for the thesis of 3 to 4 pages in length and (2) a writing sample, which should be a paper from a previous class. When possible, the student should take some part of the summer for research on the topic after it has been approved.
  •  The Department strongly encourages students to write a thesis in an area in which they already have background through coursework and/or previous paper assignments.  If a student has already written a paper in the general area or the thesis, it should be submitted as the writing sample in (2) above.  
  • Potential advisors will give a decision on their willingness to advise the thesis as soon as possible but no later than two weeks from the time the proposal is submitted.
  • If the potential advisor agrees to advise the thesis, the proposal and writing sample will be sent to the Major Advisory Committee (MAC) for final approval.
  • MAC will give a decision on whether the student has been granted approval to write a senior thesis as soon as possible but no later than two weeks after it receives the proposal.

Writing the Thesis

  • A student who has received approval to write a senior thesis should contact his or her advisor as soon as possible to work out the details of how the course will be conducted -e.g. frequency of meetings, due dates for benchmarks, grading policies for Phil 390 (see next bullet).
  • The student should enroll in Philosophy 390 for the fall semester of her/his senior year.  Grades in 390 are related to the thesis work, but not simply correlated with the granting of High Distinction.  An “A” in 390 does not, for instance, guarantee that a student will be granted High Distinction, nor does the failure to be awarded High Distinction mean that a student cannot receive a high grade in 390.  Specifics of grading criteria should be discussed with the student’s advisor at the outset.
  • The Department recommends that the student complete a draft of the thesis by week 7 of the fall semester. 

Approval & Defense

  • If the advisor approves the final version of the thesis, it should be submitted to MAC for approval by week 12 of the fall semester.
  • MAC will give the final decision on whether the thesis is approved as soon as possible but no later than week 14 of the fall semester.
  • If MAC approves the thesis a  defense will be  scheduled at which, at least under ideal circumstances, the student, the advisor, and the members of MAC would be present.