Thesis Guide - SAS Honors Program

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Thesis Guide
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
FIRST STEPS: WHAT HAPPENS
BEFORE THE THESIS?
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Three pieces need to be in place to do a thesis:
1. The Topic
– The “academic umbrella” under which you will do the
thesis
– An advisor (or two, if you are doing an
Interdisciplinary Honors Thesis)
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Deciding on a Topic
•
•
•
In the first and second year, you should be letting interesting ideas
percolate. In the third year, hopefully things will have begun to focus for you,
and you should aim to be clear on at least the overall shape of the topic by
the spring of the third year.
Remember that research always begins with a question. Identifying your
own research topic may seem daunting, but most undergraduates find that
their research interests emerge through some combination of experiences
in their favorite courses and outside the classroom in their co-curricular
pursuits. Talk with friends who have done or are doing a research project,
too.
In order to formulate a research project that is valid, worth doing, and
feasible within the limits of time and money available to you, you should
consult with one or more faculty advisors. For these discussions, you should
have at least three possible ideas/topics, and some general ideas of how
you might go about researching the topics.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Deciding on a Topic
• An important personal question in all this is: “Can I live
with topic for a whole year?”
• In deciding on a topic (or even beginning to think about
whether or not to even do a thesis), it sometimes helps
to look at the work that others have done. Sample theses
are available at the Aresty Center for Undergraduate
Research in Milledoler Hall, College Avenue Campus; in
the SAS Honors Program Douglass Campus Office in
College Hall, Douglass Campus;
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
2. Under what “academic umbrella” will you do
your thesis?
• There are two possibilities: Departmental Honors, done under
the “umbrella” of your major department, and Interdisciplinary
Honors Thesis (for information, go to
http://sasundergrad.rutgers.edu/academics/additionalacademic-programs/thesis-programs).
• In both cases (though with some exceptions that have to do
with the specifics of a particular department, you will register
for a course for the fall and a course for the spring). Check
with the program for details about this.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
3. Finding an Advisor
• Right from the beginning, as early as the first semester of your first
year and continuing through the second year, make solid efforts to
get to know faculty. Sit at the front of the classroom, go to office
hours, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
• In the third year, as your topic takes shape, you will also begin to
focus on finding an advisor. Think first of faculty whom you like and
respect, and with whom you would like to work. If you haven’t
already talked with someone in this category in your earlier
discussions, now is the time to do it; if you have, go back to that
person for further discussion. Don’t wait too long to have these
discussions; the good faculty get committed quickly, so it is good to
start early to get someone lined up.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Finding an Advisor
• Please note that the advisor must be a regular faculty
member; adjunct/part-time faculty and staff members are
not acceptable
• After the initial discussion about possible topics and
availability, there are some practical issues to consider. Here
are some questions to ask in order to get an idea about how
the faculty member approaches advising a student doing a
thesis: how often would he/she meet with you? What
expectations does he/she have in terms of regular submission
of work? Will the faculty member be on sabbatical during the
coming year?
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
What about a second or independent reader?
• How this is handled depends on the discipline and department, so
check with your thesis advisor about policies, expectations, etc. In
some cases, the second reader needs to be identified early (during
the fall semester) and reported to the department or program; in
other cases, the second reader doesn’t come on board until just
before the oral defense.
• In either case, the second reader must be a member of the Rutgers
faculty who is well versed in the student’s research field. If the
student’s project spans more than one discipline, it is suggested that
a second reader from a discipline other than the supervisor’s be
invited. Ideally, the second reader serves as consultant on the
project at every stage and to render an independent evaluation. In
selecting the second reader, consult with your advisor.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Other Issues to Consider
• Overall academic planning is very important, so, if you haven’t
already done so, be sure to meet with your general academic
advisor, and to discuss how a thesis will fit in with the rest of
your coursework.
• If possible, take Introduction to the Thesis (01:090:391 or
392), and/or do an Independent Study/Research Project on
the possible topic in the junior year (fall or spring).
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
What’s Next
• In most cases, a student completing a senior thesis must first
submit a proposal. Presumably, as you gathered information
about possible academic umbrellas, you also found out about
proposals, deadlines, etc. If you didn’t, do that now.
• Then, with your topic, advisor, and academic umbrella in
place, if a proposal is required, your next step is to develop
and submit the proposal to the relevant academic unit (the
department for departmental honors, SAS Office of
Undergraduate Education for Interdisciplinary Honors Thesis,
Attn.: SAS Honors Program Dean). Be sure to get the
proposal in on time!
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
What’s Next
• Important: If your project needs approval from the IRB
(Human Subjects Review Board), you will need to attach
either your exemption form or your acceptance form before
you proceed with your project. Information is available at:
http://orsp.rutgers.edu/Humans/default.php
• For more comments and information about “first steps,” go to:
http://aresty.rutgers.edu/start.htm
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
WRITING THE PROPOSAL
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
• The specifics of the proposal will depend on the guidelines
and requirements of the program under which you will do the
thesis. The form and length of the proposal, and of the thesis,
can vary considerably from discipline to discipline. You should
follow the usual stylistic guidelines of the field in which you
are conducting the project.
• In general, the proposal should outline specific goals based
on a thorough review of the scholarly and/or scientific work in
your field, with explicit methods and plans for how you will
analyze, code, or otherwise draw systematic and scholarly
conclusions based on your methods.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
• The written proposal should state, as clearly as you can at this
stage, the topic you will study, what your hypothesis is, the methods
you will use, the results that you expect and why these results are
important. Your proposal should state the following, where relevant:
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
what question(s) or hypothesis your project will address;
why this is an important question or hypothesis;
what evidence is required to answer the question or test the hypothesis;
what procedure/s you will use;
how these procedure/s will answer the question or test the hypothesis;
how you will code or analyze the data (if relevant);
what bibliographical sources you will use, including any special
permissions you will need.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
• The proposal should be of course well-organized, free of
spelling and grammatical errors, and clearly written. It is a
good idea to complete several drafts of your proposal, and get
feedback from your faculty supervisor, before submitting it to
the appropriate office.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
RESEARCH FUNDS
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
• Conducting research can often involve some expenses. All
applications for research funds for undergraduates are
handled through the Aresty Center for Undergraduate
Research.
• For information, go to http://aresty.rutgers.edu/funding.htm
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
AND THEN ……
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
• If you haven’t already done so, register for
the appropriate thesis course.
• Start doing your research!
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Here are some basic suggestions.
A. Get to know the Subject Librarian for your topic.
B. Some students doing senior theses are granted extended
library privileges. If you are granted such privileges, make
use of them.
C. Check in regularly with your advisor. “Regularly” may
mean once a week or once a month (you should have
gotten a sense of this in your earlier discussions). One
faculty member wrote: “I require that a student check in
with me every week even if nothing has been done. This
often goads the student into doing something, and even
when it doesn't, at least there is personal contact and
support.”
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
D. Make use of the support that is provided through enrollment in
either a department-based thesis course or the SAS 1-credit
course, Research Workshop, 090:491, 492.
E. Plan your work! Keep in mind the differences between on the one
hand, the work done for a regular course, as mapped out in a
syllabus and reinforced on a weekly basis through class meetings,
and, on the other, work done for one’s own project, the deadline for
completion of which is months away. This means that large-scale
planning is critical. One method suggested is to work backwards
from the final deadline, week by week, so that at any one time, both
student and faculty advisor know where in the process the student
should be (and where the student actually is in relation to that ideal
plan).
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
• With regard to small scale planning, several
students and faculty members stressed the
importance of working on the project every day,
just as one would if the project were a course
that met regularly.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET
STUCK…
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
1. Write drafts in email, with no erasing. The relaxed nature of
email can sometimes get the words coming.
2. Submit a draft to your advisor, no matter how “awful” the
material seems. Ask your advisor to put it in a sealed
envelope and not to look at it unless you fail to give him/her a
revised draft by a specified date.
3. Do an outline of your project, and then replace components
of the outline with paragraphs, working in whatever order you
want. This allows you to work first on material that is less
scary or difficult.
4. Keep at it. One page at a time. One page a day. Persist.
Persist. Persist.
Whatever mantra works………
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
FINISHING UP
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
• Make sure you are aware of, and plan your work
in relation to, all deadlines for your thesis
(submission of title, scheduling of the oral
defense, etc.)
• It is your responsibility to know the relevant
deadlines and to discuss any problems with your
advisor.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
GUIDELINES FOR FINAL
THESIS AND ORAL DEFENSE
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
How long should the thesis be?
• This is something to discuss with your
advisor very early in the year, so you have
some idea of what you are aiming for.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
SAMPLE TITLE PAGE
An Analysis of Adolescents
In partial fulfillment of Bachelor of Arts Degree
in the Department of Sociology
The School of Arts & Sciences Honors Program
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
The School of Arts & Sciences
Written under the Direction of:
Professor’s Name
Department
By:
(Your Name)
(*Signature of Thesis Director)
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Oral Defense
• By early March, you should have decided, with your faculty
advisor(s), the date of your oral defense. Certainly as the
time of your oral defense gets closer, you should talk with
your advisor about what s/he expects.
• Plan to prepare a short (15-20 minute) presentation on your
work. The presentation should include a statement of the
research question(s), a summary of your methodology and
data, a statement about data gathering, a summary of your
results, a statement about implications for possible future
work, and a reflection on the overall work. Overall, consider
what you want your audience to know or understand about
what you did and how you did it.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Oral Defense
• If you are going to do a Power Point
presentation, be sure to get to the assigned
room early to make sure all the equipment is in
place and working. (And, since it sometimes
happens that the equipment won’t work, come to
the defense prepared to do it without the Power
Point presentation!)
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Thesis Guide
Oral Defense
• You can write out what you want to say, but remember that in
the defense you will not be reading a prepared statement;
rather, you will be speaking to the audience. (If you do write
out what you want to say, remember that double-spaced
typed pages take approximately 3 minutes to read. If you
have more than five pages, it is too long.)
• What (not) to wear: Dress code is “business casual.” This
means no blue jeans, no sneakers, no shorts, no t-shirts.
Check with your advisor about any specifics.
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
For more information, go to:
Thesis Programs:
http://sasundergrad.rutgers.edu/academics/additionalacademic-programs/thesis-programs
SAS Honors Program:
http://www.sashonors.rutgers.edu/academics/curriculum
/capstone.html
Questions? Contact Us
School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
35 College Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
p. 848-932-7964
[email protected]
www.sashonors.rutgers.edu
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