Many schools now require a “capstone” requirement. This is a longer writing project (sometimes known as a Senior thesis) to be completed in your final years seniorthesistopic.com . For some, this is an opportunity to progress to a more professional position in their field. This is for some students a scary, seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Preparing for the fall, when many college students will be working on this assignment, here are our top tips:
- Take care when selecting your adviser. In many schools, the senior projects are the first time that a faculty member direct supervises your work. Pick a professor with expertise in the area you’re interested in. A professor who is an expert in the field you are working on will be able to guide you. Make sure you select someone who has already taken a few classes. You don’t want that feeling of being stuck for a semester, or even a year, with someone you aren’t able to stand.
Extra Pointer. Consider changing your topic of interest to the professor you want to work with. Rather than trying to get him to sponsor a project that is not in his area of expertise, if possible.
- Take care when selecting your topic. Bad topics are never good ideas. Talk to your advisor before you write your quarter.
5-Star Tip. While every field is unique and every paper is different from the others, here are some indicators that you have a great topic.
- Previous experience (yours). This means that you have some coursework in the area. This is not the best time to get started in new territory.
- Doability. This is a topic that you can productively explore in the time and space available. Avoid focusing on projects that take more than a year to complete, or topics that are so narrow that it’s difficult to write even 10 page about.
- Answers a question rather than surveying an entire area. The best thesis proposals are those that deal with a problem within a specific field and try to solve it. A report that is descriptive and not analytical, on a topic you are interested in usually results.
- An intrinsic interest (to you): It is not worth putting in hours to learn something that bores me to tears since Day 1. This is especially important if your professor suggests you a topic, rather than you choosing your own.
- It is worth considering expanding a course essay. Many students believe, incorrectly, that in order for them to submit a senior thesis, they have to create a completely new idea. Expansions, reworkings and further explorations are often the most successful projects in many cases. It’s not difficult to see why. You’ve often done extensive research on the subject (and thus know what your talking about). In many cases the original topics are picked by professors, making them likely to work.
- Your face time should be organized. Begin by working with your adviser to set up a schedule. It is important that you meet with your adviser in order to agree on the scope of work for each meeting. Are you expected to have read an article every week or drafted something? Is it your responsibility to revise previous articles? There are many expectations that professors may have. Make sure you know your expectations before you go. You must also adhere to the meeting time.
5-Star Tip. Your project may have a variety of scholars who could provide valuable input. They might help direct your research, or offer their thoughts on a particular issue. Discuss with your professor whether it would be worth consulting other faculty members within your department or from neighboring departments.
- Divide your time into two parts. Your time is divided into two parts: half for research and half for writing. Researching is where most students spend 90 percent of the time. This means they don’t get to start creating their ideas until it’s too late. It is essential to have multiple drafts of senior theses. You will need to make serious revisions based upon the advice from your adviser. All this takes time.
- Don’t think that more is always better. Many students make the mistake, thinking that more pages is better. Professors are more concerned with quality than quantity. Ask your adviser to help you determine the right length for the project. Some professors want a 70-80-page magnum opus. Others prefer a strong journal article of 25-40 pages.
- Play to the bitter end. A lot of schools have an oral exam to cap the capstone project. Three or four faculty members hold court and ask you questions about what you’ve done. This could be when the grade, or the level of honors, is decided. No matter how fluent in the topic, make sure you understand what is expected of you during the oral exam.
Bonus Tip Your project is coming to an end. It’s crucial to reflect on where you stand in the field, and what contribution it made. This will be something you need to communicate in your paper as well as your defense of thesis (if you have one). The senior thesis or capstone project is designed to allow you to become a participant in the field. It is impossible to be a player if you don’t know your position or who is playing.