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 their major. At Bates, this capstone experience most often takes the form of 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.
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 College Catalog.
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.
In recent years, an average of 88 percent of seniors complete a thesis, and 12 percent engage in a capstone seminar or similar project. About 15 percent of seniors do both.
Students who have two majors may complete two distinct theses, one for each major. Or, they may complete a single two-semester interdisciplinary thesis to complete the requirements for both fields of the double major.
The Thesis Adviser
The student is guided in this process by the thesis adviser. 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.