Senior Thesis

One of the most important components of the Bates curriculum is the senior thesis, which is offered in all departments and programs and required by most.

The faculty believes that a Bates senior is well-educated and well-prepared to undertake a significant research, service, performance, or studio project in the final year of study in the major. More than 96 percent of each graduating class completes a senior thesis.

The traditional senior thesis involves one or two semesters of original research and writing, culminating in a substantial paper on a research topic of the student’s design. Such an effort requires that the student possess an excellent understanding of the subject area, its theoretical underpinnings, and its research methodology. The student must also be able to think critically and comprehensively about the topic, and must be able to advance a well-formulated argument. Conducting a senior thesis not only draws on a student’s past academic experience, it also requires considerable independent thinking and creativity, self-discipline, and effective time management.

The student is guided in this process by the thesis advisor. Many departments and programs bring thesis students together in seminar courses or colloquia in which they meet regularly to discuss current literature, research methodologies, and their own progress. Several departments and programs require students to deliver formal presentations of their thesis work.

Some departments and programs offer or require thesis work that includes theatrical or musical performance, video production, curriculum development, or studio art work and exhibition. Qualified students may occasionally undertake a joint thesis in which two students collaborate on one project.

In some departments a senior may culminate his or her career at Bates with an alternative project. In psychology, for example, a major may undertake a long-term service-learning project as an alternative to a thesis. Portfolios or comprehensive examinations are available as thesis alternatives in several major fields. Specific information on the work required of seniors in the major fields is detailed in the introductory paragraphs to the department’s and program’s courses and units of instruction in the Catalog.

Read a story about the senior thesis from The Bates Student.