|The purpose of the thesis program in the Department of History and Political Science is to broaden and deepen a student’s thinking about an important question or topic in history or politics. The thesis is the opportunity for each student to demonstrate his or her knowledge in a particular area of learning. It is the culmination of their entire undergraduate education and an expression of what they are capable of intellectually. It is a work students can carry with them as they begin their careers or continue their educations in professional or graduate school.
A thesis in history or political science is, in most cases, a lengthy paper, typically around 50 pages, that attempts to answer a well-developed question regarding a topic of particular interest to the student. After this paper is written, it will be publicly defended in front of a thesis committee, selected by the student, and an audience of other students, friends, family, interested parties, and faculty.
What follows are the basics that every student should know as he or she prepares to write a senior thesis. If you have any questions that are not answered by this handbook, please contact the Chair of the Department.
To complete a thesis successfully, you should follow this timeline:
|Begin thinking about a topic and looking for a faculty thesis advisor. By December 1, a topic should be selected and submitted to the Department Chair (Ashbrook Scholars should submit to the Ashbrook Center).
You should also indicate your first and second choice to serve as your thesis advisor. This should be someone who knows the topic well enough to direct your studies. If you want to receive history or political science credit for your thesis, your thesis advisor must be a faculty member in the Department of History and Political Science.
During Winter Break, the Department will assign thesis advisors based on student preference, faculty expertise and availability.
|Write Prospectus and Begin Research. Write a 5-10 page thesis prospectus and give a finished copy to your thesis advisor and the Chair of the Department by April 1 (although it is recommended that you allow your thesis advisor to see a draft of the prospectus a few days in advance in case he or she wants to recommend changes).
During registration for the fall semester of your senior year, it is recommended that you sign up for the thesis course within the Department (see your thesis advisor for more information). You may also wish to enroll in an additional three-hour Independent Study for the spring of your senior year. If you want academic credit in history or political science for your thesis, you must sign up for one or both courses.
You should begin researching your topic in consultation with your thesis advisor during the second half of the semester.
|Continue Research. Begin intensive thesis reading and research based on a reading list arranged with your thesis advisor.|
|Choose a Committee and Write Rough Draft. You should enroll in a thesis course during which you will complete your research, start writing a rough draft, and – with the help of your thesis advisor – select individuals willing to serve as your thesis committee.
That committee should be made up of your thesis advisor, another faculty member from within the Department (called a “second reader”), and an examiner from outside of the Department (or even the University) who has at least a rudimentary understanding of your topic (called an “outside reader”).
If you are taking the Department’s thesis course in the fall semester, you will receive an “IP” (in progress) grade for the fall semester. After your defense in the spring, your thesis advisor, in consultation with your committee, will determine your thesis grade based on your written work (75% of the final grade) and defense (25% of the final grade).
|Revise and Defend. After working with your thesis advisor during the fall semester and the first month of the spring semester, you should finish the rough draft of your thesis by the second Friday of February. Submit that draft to your thesis advisor, who should read and return it to you by the end of February.
You will then revise your thesis into a final version and give it to your primary advisor and the other members of your thesis committee no later than the last Friday of March. This deadline will be strictly enforced: if you have not submitted your thesis to your advisor by this date, you will not be allowed to schedule a thesis defense.
Once given permission by your primary advisor, you will then arrange with your committee a day, time, and place for a public defense of your thesis (see more on the thesis defense process in the next section). Defenses can take place anywhere on campus (be sure to make arrangements well in advance for any room at the University).
Your defense must take place by the last Friday in April: if you have not defended by then, you will not receive academic credit for your thesis.
|After submitting your thesis at the end of March and receiving permission from your thesis advisor, you need to begin the process of scheduling your thesis defense. You should consult all three members of your thesis committee before scheduling a time for your defense. You are welcome to use any suitable room at the University as the venue for your defense, but you are responsible for making certain that the room is available. You can schedule your defense for any time that works for everyone, day or evening.
The defense is public and open to any interested person, including other students, faculty, family, and friends. When a time, date and venue are established, you should encourage your thesis advisor to announce it on the Faculty listserv.
|The whole defense should last from 1 to 1 ½ hours. Begin the defense with a presentation describing your topic and laying out your argument or the findings of your research. The presentation portion of the defense should last no more than 20-30 minutes.
You should not read your whole thesis word for word, but you may read passages where appropriate. If necessary, but only as a supplement to your presentation, you may also display images or use PowerPoint or video. (Note: if you wish to incorporate technology into your defense, please talk to the Scholar Program Coordinator to get approval. You will be responsible for arranging the technology and will be evaluated on its use as part of the defense.)
After your initial presentation, the three-member committee will begin the question period. Expect tough questions, but remember that the committee’s primary intention is to engage you in a genuine conversation about your topic. When the committee is finished, the floor will be opened to questions from the audience. At an appropriate point, your thesis advisor will bring the defense to an end.
The committee will then discuss your defense privately for a few minutes and return to give you an evaluation of your defense and your paper generally.
|The following are the responsibilities of the thesis committee:
|Each Ashbrook Scholar is required, as a condition of his or her scholarship, to complete a Senior Thesis prior to graduation. Failure to maintain adequate progress on a thesis during your junior and senior years may result in your expulsion from the Ashbrook program.
The majority of Ashbrook senior theses fall in the areas of political science or history, or some combination of these, but there is no restriction in regard to subject matter. In fact, in some cases, your Senior Thesis need not even be a paper. In some subjects, such as music, mathematics, or physical science, a Senior Project may be more appropriate than a thesis. If you fall into this category, seek approval from the Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center during the fall of your junior year.
As Ashbrook Scholars, certain specific requirements and options apply to you:
|December 1 of junior year: Submit topic and first and second choice for thesis advisor to Department Chair (or Ashbrook Center for Ashbrook Scholars)|
|April 1 of junior year: Submit prospectus to thesis advisor and Chair of Department (as well as Director of the Honors Program and/or Director of the Ashbrook Center, depending on thesis type)|
|December 1 of senior year: Select second reader and outside reader|
|Second Friday of February in senior year: Submit thesis draft to thesis advisor|
|Last Friday of March in senior year: Submit finished thesis to all members of your thesis committee|
|Last Friday in April of senior year: Last day to defend your thesis|