AAACS Thesis Guidelines

The senior thesis is the capstone of a student’s college career at Bates. All majors in American Studies are required to write a semester-long thesis. Thesis students register for AMST 457 during the fall semester or AMST 458 in the winter semester. The Committee may invite some students to apply for a two-semester honor’s thesis.

The nature of any thesis is independent, original, and creative scholarly research, analysis, and writing. As an interdisciplinary studies major, you will draw upon scholarship from a diversity of disciplines and methods. The following guidelines are designed to help you navigate this process and we urge you to read them carefully. You are also encouraged to consult early and often with the Program Chair and/or relevant Program faculty for future assistance.

Schedule and Important Dates

For students writing a one-term or honor’s thesis: during the term preceding your thesis work, and after conducting preliminary research, develop a proposal in consultation with an advisor. (Guidelines for the proposal and pre-proposals are described below.)

It is important to note that failure to submit a proposal will affect the thesis grade. The thesis is a process, and a well-thought-out proposal is the first step of that process. (Students writing an honor’s thesis should refer to the dates on the Honors’ Committee web page.)

  1. SECOND FRIDAY IN APRIL: Junior AMST majors will submit pre-proposals by the end of Short-term preceding the senior year.
  2. THIRD FRIDAY OF SEPTEMBER: Submission of one semester (Fall) or two-semester formal thesis proposals are due to the Chair.
  1. END OF FINALS PERIOD IN DECEMBER: Seniors completing a one-semester (Fall) thesis will submit to their thesis adviser the completed written thesis.
  2. SECOND FRIDAY IN JANUARY: Submission of one semester (Winter) formal thesis proposals are due to the Chair.
  3. END OF FINALS PERIOD IN APRIL: Seniors completing a one-semester (Winter) or two-semester thesis will submit to their thesis adviser the completed written thesis. Exception: In compliance with guidelines established by the campus Honors Committee, Honors thesis students have an earlier deadline by which to submit the completed year-long written thesis.
Instructions for Beginning your Thesis

Choose a topic that you can be passionate about. A good topic should be narrow enough for you to research and write about in a limited period of time and broad enough to connect with wider questions and spheres of inquiry.

We recommend that you choose a topic familiar to you. Consider the research you have written in AMST courses and the questions and issues you raised in that work. Review the syllabi of courses you liked and consider the texts, novels, stories, films and other analytic and creative work you encountered.  All of these could help you formulate a topic for your thesis

Choosing an Advisor

Students should meet with a prospective advisor from the AMST faculty (listed on the website and catalog) during the term before you plan to start your thesis. Although faculty do not want to limit your thesis choices, it may make sense to choose an area of study related to your coursework, or a research area or methodology with which a faculty member is familiar. This allows us to better direct your reading and critique your contributions to the literature.

We are aware that there may be times when a student will want or need to choose an advisor who is not a member of the program. In this case, the student should petition the AMST Committee through their program chair, stating clearly the rationale for choosing an external advisor.

The AMST committee reserves the final decision on assigning an advisor.  In addition to student preferences, advisor selection is based on faculty expertise in a student’s topic and equal distribution of theses.

Honors

Students interested in writing and defending an honors thesis should be able to meet three requirements:  first, they must have earned a 3.0 average in all college classes (not simply the major); second, they must demonstrate writing ability and the capacity for sustained research and inquiry. To this end, they should submit a paper to the AMST committee from a recent writing-intensive course; third, they should have the recommendation and sponsorship of a member of the AMST faculty.

Students seeking honors candidacy should confer with their advisor as they put together their thesis proposals, described below.  They should submit their thesis proposal, along

with their writing sample, by the May first deadline.

After reviewing the proposal and the writing sample, and conferring with the potential advisor, the AMST Committee will make a decision in May regarding honors. A candidate may be rejected, may be asked to revise and resubmit a proposal, or may be accepted provisionally. At the end of the fall term, the Committee will review the work of an accepted candidate (usually a first chapter) before it makes a final decision about moving forward.

The Pre-Proposal

The Pre-Proposal is to be completed toward the end of the semester preceding thesis work. This endeavor is to encourage you to begin thinking about a topic and perusing significant literature. You do not need to have your thesis plans fully developed or finalized by the time you submit your pre-proposal. The pre-proposal should consist of the following:

  1. A general topic and preliminary research question for your thesis-tell us why this is of interest to you? What led you to this topic?
  1. What is your capacity? what strengths and knowledge do you bring to this work? What areas of growth do you see for yourself?
  2. An annotated bibliography covering five readings relevant to your topic/preliminary question (three of the sources of your bibliography should be peer-reviewed.
  1. Your preferences for thesis advisor.

The pre-proposals are due by the Second Friday in April.

The Proposal

The thesis proposal should include:

  1. A clear statement of the problem proposed for study and the specific research question(s) to be addressed.
  2. Discussion of relevant scholarly literature. The proposal should demonstrate clearly that germane scholarship has been reviewed (by the inclusion of significant disagreements or outstanding questions in the literature, and/or how your questions fit into the existing literature).
  3. A detailed discussion of the methodology, which both explains the suitability of your methods to your research problem and articulates your understanding of the complexities of the methods to be employed.
  1. Description of the materials to be used in the research (e.g., texts, documents, empirical data, interviews and interview subjects, etc.), as well as the locations and/or availability of these materials. Include a rough timetable for research (and budget, if applying for research funds).

The proposal must reflect your grasp of the core themes of the American Studies program articulated in the description of the program on the website: AMST website.

Theses and methodology.

Given that our majors take some of their courses in “traditional” disciplines, what exactly do we expect of you in the way of an interdisciplinary thesis? We expect that our students will use their training in American Studies to enlarge or transform the perspective that a traditional discipline might bring to bear on a problem. We certainly expect students to use a method or methods that best conform to their topic.  Interdisciplinary methodology requires awareness of how approaches and methods used in traditional disciplines may be linked advantageously to conduct scholarly inquiry. Indispensable steps in designing an interdisciplinary methodology involve delineating the approach and methods drawn from each discipline; explaining how they related, complement and/or expand the other(s); and, discussing how their combination fosters inquiry into a particular topic. This interdisciplinary design, then, offers the researcher a strategy and tools that are appropriate to the topic and to the central question or idea which is being studied. The methodology section should be as detailed as possible; it may help to draw on notes and reference material from INDS 250 (“Methods and Modes of Inquiry”). The evaluation of the thesis is both on process and final product.

 

Note: all students planning research involving human subjects or participants must submit their work to the Bates College Institutional Review Board unless their research plan meets the criteria for exemption outlined on the Bates IRB website.

Theses may take multiple forms.

For students with appropriate expertise, from previous coursework or other experiences, the Program Committee welcomes research theses based on community-engaged research or public scholarship methodologies, as well as other formats such as the publication of a graphic novel, zine, magazine, or an online blog/website; the performance of a play, dance, performance art, public intervention(s), musical, music performance, album, spoken word performance; participatory projects like a set of workshops, socially engaged art, a public demonstration (such as a gathering or protest), a curated events (such as film screenings, a symposium, or an art show); or a cinematic project like a video (non fiction, fiction or both) or a TV/online episodic program. The formats above must submit an artist statement that includes why this particular medium is preferred.

 

A senior thesis in American Studies should:

be well written, with arguments constructed in thoughtful, compelling, and critically

informed ways.

  1. demonstrate the ability to understand and interpret evidence.
  2. demonstrate investigative skills such as the ability to find, comprehend, and critically evaluate sources and to discriminate between valid and invalid claims.
  3. demonstrate facility with and awareness of diverse methods and methodological choices.
  1. be the product of independent work in close collaboration with and responsiveness to the faculty advisor.
  1. be an opportunity to explore and develop individual voice and insights.
  2. Adhere to deadlines and meeting with the advisors in a timely manner as you will be evaluated on the process not only the end result.
THESIS DEADLINES/CALENDAR
  1. SECOND FRIDAY IN APRIL: Junior AMST majors will submit pre-proposals by the end of Short-term preceding the senior year.
  2. THIRD FRIDAY OF SEPTEMBER: Submission of one semester (Fall) or two-semester formal thesis proposals are due to the Chair.
  1. END OF FINALS PERIOD IN DECEMBER: Seniors completing a one-semester (Fall) thesis will submit to their thesis adviser the completed written thesis.
  2. SECOND FRIDAY IN JANUARY: Submission of one semester (Winter) formal thesis proposals are due to the Chair.
  3. END OF FINALS PERIOD IN APRIL: Seniors completing a one-semester (Winter) or two-semester thesis will submit to their thesis adviser the completed written thesis. Exception: In compliance with guidelines established by the campus Honors Committee, Honors thesis students have an earlier deadline by which to submit the completed year-long written thesis.