Policies and Practices on Departmental Senior Theses
The senior thesis is a two-semester research project undertaken in the context of individual tutorials in the final two semesters of a studentπs enrollment. While there is no prescribed minimum length, a typical thesis is in the range of 60-70 pages. The process for writing a Senior Thesis is outlined below in chronological order.
Spring of Junior Year
Students intending to write a thesis must submit a proposal, by April 15 of their junior year, to the faculty member who has agreed to act as advisor. See the Senior Thesis Proposal Requirements for details. The student is responsible for choosing and defining the topic; the advisor may assist in this process, but approval of the topic and approach will be made by the departmental faculty as a whole, on the basis of the submitted proposal.
Summer Before Senior Year
Research over the summer is strongly recommended, but not required; the summer might be a good time for broad secondary reading, gathering of data or of bibliography, or a first reading of a text in the original Greek or Latin. Students may wish to look into summer seminars, language programs, or archaeological excavations that will provide skills, ideas, or data for a senior thesis (perhaps with the help of small grants from the Squire Fund). Students thinking about a thesis may wish to look at the past theses in Downey House 115; see a list of recent thesis titles (1994-2007).
Fall of Senior Year
Although the proposal is due in the previous Spring semester, students must register for the thesis tutorial (GRK409, LAT409 or CIIV409, as appropriate) during the drop/add period of the Fall semester. The student should meet regularly with his or her faculty advisor during the academic year. The advisor, in consultation with the student, will establish expectations for the completion of the project in stages. After discussion with the advisor, a student may wish to consult other members of the department whose expertise may be relevant to the thesis topic. Work in progress forms are due to the Honors College in January; this form will be sent to all students on the list of Honors candidates over the winter recess. During registration for spring semester courses, thesis-writers must register for GRK 410, LAT 410, or CCIV 410, as appropriate.
Spring of Senior Year
For the Classical Studies Department, the evaluating committee will consist of the advisor, one additional faculty member within the department, and one faculty member from within or outside the department. The advisor and the student will discuss and choose the other readers in the spring, with the advisor responsible for contacting readers in other departments (unless both advisor and student agree that the student shall make the contact). Promptness is recommended in speaking to possible readers in departments like English and History, which typically have many theses to read within their own departments.
The Honors College provides information about formatting theses for submission, including standards for paper, printing and binding. Students may not use departmental printers or copy machines for theses, but may seek the help or advice of the department for printing Greek or using illustrations. ITS provides a printing service.
Committee members will receive the thesis soon after it is submitted to the Honors College in April. They will forward to the departmental chair written evaluations, including a recommendation for a grade, and a recommendation for Honors or High Honors, or a recommendation that Honors not be awarded. Sufficient time must be allowed for the chair to forward a recommendation about grade and Honors to the Honors College by the deadline. Each reader has the option of forwarding evaluations, or an edited (shortened or expanded) version of the evaluations, directly to the student, but the student should not be told the recommendation for Honors or grade. A thesis must receive a grade of B+ or better to receive departmental Honors, and A or better to receive departmental High Honors. If the readers' recommendations differ, the chair will discuss with them possibilities for compromise or, more rarely, use of an additional reader. A student who does not receive departmental Honors may and ordinarily will still receive credit for the thesis tutorials, if the advisor feels this is appropriate. When all decisions have been made about departmental Honors, the department chair or (with the chair's approval) the advisor shall inform the student about the decision regarding Honors and grade. The advisor shall give the student a course grade for the two terms of work on the thesis; this grade need not be the same as that awarded to the thesis. Often a grade of "X" will be recorded for work on a thesis in the fall, and grades for both 409 and 410 will be determined in the spring.
Students who have been awarded departmental High Honors for the thesis and who have completed all General Education expectations are eligible to be nominated by the department for University Honors. A very small number of Wesleyan students compete for University Honors each year; only a handful receives the prize. This recommendation should accompany the grade and recommendation for High Honors sent to the Honors College on the deadline mentioned above. Selected nominees for University Honors must qualify in an oral examination administered by the Honors Committee, which includes discussion of the thesis but which focuses on other areas of questioning designed to show the students' breadth of knowledge in all areas of the curriculum.