The Senior Thesis in Asian Studies is an integral part of our program goals and objectives, an essential component of what we hope our majors will gain from their time in Asian Studies at Bates. Specifically, students will gain facility with multidisciplinary research methods and put those skills into practice by completing a substantial senior research project exploring some aspect of Asian cultures or societies.
The Senior Thesis in the Program in Asian Studies is an opportunity to create (and possibly present or publish) a work of original research, the sort of research that people in academia write and publish regularly. Students typically research, write, and revise a significant research project during one semester of their senior year (two semesters for an Honors Thesis). In that time, they complete an essay of about the length and quality that might be ready for submission to a journal of undergraduate academic research or undergraduate essay competition. Such articles typically run 20-30 double-spaced pages (3,000-5,000+ words) and involve substantial rewriting and revision before they are ready for the press. Such length requirements can be somewhat arbitrary. We encourage students to write “as long as you need and as short as you can” while making a substantive original contribution. Click here to get a sense of the process your instructors have to go through as they work to publish their research at a professional level. One semester (even one school year for writers of an Honors Thesis) is not enough to fully complete such an intensive and laborious process, but students should work toward these goals and complete a project that can be presented at an undergraduate conference and possibly published at the undergraduate level. Choosing a research question that is original and also of a manageable scope is an important first step in making sure everyone is satisfied with the final work.
ASIA 320, the Asian Studies seminar course, will help seniors stay on track with this project if they are taking their Senior Thesis course during the same semester they are taking ASIA 320, or it will allow students to prepare an early draft of a future thesis project. ASIA 320 will also introduce students to a wide variety of theoretical approaches and research methodologies in academia. Students will learn that professors in different academic fields do their research and write up their discoveries in different ways. Your Chinese and Japanese teachers in Roger Williams are trained primarily in literary and cultural analysis. We recommend you take on literary and cultural analysis for your thesis project, but some students may be interested in writing as an historian might or an economist or some other kind of scholar. In that case, you might approach a mentor from one of those departments to give you some advice on your project, or take one or more courses in that other field to learn how to think and write in the discipline.
Theses for the Chinese or Japanese majors should focus on a specific topic within the relevant culture and must involve a meaningful use of texts and/or secondary sources written in the target language. Qualified students may elect, with Asian Studies Program Committee approval, to write their thesis in the target language.
Though the standard senior thesis project is the high-level academic research article described here, students may choose–in close consultation with their thesis adviser and with the approval of the Asian Studies Program Committee–to complete an alternative capstone project related to their individual interests and future career plans. For example, a future teacher might develop a curricular unit, lesson plans, and carry out a teaching demonstration, based on research in education and the context they wish to teach in. A student interested in translation and creative writing might translate a previously untranslated literary text from Chinese or Japanese complete with critical introduction and annotations.
All thesis writers are strongly encouraged to present their research at the Mt. David Summit (individual advisers may require participation) or some other undergraduate academic conference and to submit their work for publication in a journal that publishes undergraduate research. Students whose research involves human participants should seek approval from the Institutional Review Board.
Students pursuing two majors may elect to write one two-semester interdisciplinary thesis in fulfillment of the thesis requirement of both majors, provided the second major department or program supports this practice. Such a thesis must fulfill all the goals for theses defined above by the Asian Studies Program and for the other department or program. Students need the prior consent of the Asian Studies Program and the other department or program before commencing work on an interdisciplinary thesis and must register for the thesis in both Asian Studies and the second department or program (ordinarily one in the fall semester, the other in the winter semester).
All majors must submit a one-paragraph preliminary thesis plan to the Asian Studies Program Committee in response to a request from the chair of the Program in Asian Studies by the end of Short Term in their junior year. The Asian Studies Program Committee will review the plans and designate a thesis advisor for each student, and rising seniors will take part in a thesis preparation workshop in the spring of their Junior year. Thesis writers should begin consultation with their thesis advisors during the months before the semester in which they begin the thesis, and are expected to submit a 2-page proposal by the end of the term or semester before they write the thesis, that is, the end of the Short Term for the fall writers and before winter break for winter writers. A full proposal, to be reviewed by the Asian Studies Program Committee, is due to the Chair of Asian Studies by the end of the second week of classes in the thesis-writing semester. The thesis in its final form is due by a date set in consultation with the thesis adviser, no later than the last day of finals. Thesis writers are strongly encouraged to submit their final work to SCARAB, and a hard copy may be kept in the Asian Studies Lounge in Roger Williams Hall.
The full proposal that you prepare in consultation with your adviser and submit to the Asian Studies Program Committee by the end of the second week of classes in the thesis-writing semester should include the following components:
- The names of your primary thesis adviser and other co-readers or potential mentor consultants.
- A statement introducing the topic you will write about. Include enough information to make your topic clear to someone who is not a specialist in your particular area of inquiry. What have scholars already done on this topic? What contributions do you plan to make?
- A statement of the big questions that drive your research as well as your working thesis. A thesis is the particular hypothesis or research question that you are bringing to your chosen topic. Defining a thesis requires some time and involves a process of reflection, revision, and refining. The Committee asks you to state the thesis you are pursuing in its present state with the understanding that you may modify it as you continue to work on the thesis project.
- An explanation of your methodology and research plan. This should let the Committee know how you intend to answer the questions posed in your thesis. You should explain how you are collecting and interpreting information (e.g., reading primary texts, consulting historical archives or data bases, analyzing data sets, doing field work, conducting interviews, etc.). The kinds of research you do will depend on your particular disciplinary focus. This section should make clear to the Committee your specific disciplinary approach and the methodology (or methodologies) you intend to use. Consider choosing a methodology/methodologies you have already studied in your coursework.
- A “Working Bibliography” of 1-2 pages of relevant materials you have found and plan to look at more closely, partially annotated
- A brief review of the relevant literature, at least 2-3 key sources (scholarly articles, books, etc.), that you have already read in part or completely.
Based on overall GPA, GPA in their major, and the recommendation of Asian Studies faculty, students may be invited to pursue nomination of their thesis project to be part of the Bates Honors Program. Students themselves may also request such consideration in consultation with their adviser during the winter semester of their junior year. Any student who wishes to pursue nomination for honors must enroll in a 457 thesis course for the fall of their senior year and submit a fully developed written honors proposal to the Chair of the Program in Asian Studies by the end of the second week of classes in the fall semester for review by the Program Committee.
Students writing an Honors Thesis are expected to meet all of the expectations of students writing one-semester theses and, in consultation with the thesis adviser, add an extra level of rigor that necessitates two semesters of work. The scope of the research question might be somewhat broader and the final essay somewhat longer than a standard thesis, or the chosen topic might be more complicated or nuanced and require more time to be analyzed adequately. Honors projects will be subject to more rigorous standards of evaluation, including a formal oral examination with an invited external committee member who is an expert in the field, and, at the discretion of their thesis adviser, they may be required to present their work at the Mt. David Summit (or another undergraduate academic conference) and to submit their final essay to an undergraduate journal for publication consideration.
After initial approval is granted by the Committee in September, honors candidates are required to give an oral presentation of their thesis work-in-progress before the Asian Studies Program Committee and also turn in a substantive written chapter of the thesis during the week following Thanksgiving break. At that point, continuation in the Honors Program is contingent on this second-stage approval by the Program Committee.
The student must demonstrate a high level of self-motivation, independence and continuous engagement in the project over the entire two semesters. In the oral exam the student must be able to answer questions posed by the examination committee and engage with members of the committee in a scholarly discussion of all facets of the project. The final oral examination panel members, who may consult with the advisor, have final authority for judging whether the student has satisfactorily met the criteria for receipt of Honors.
- Spring of Junior Year: In its April meeting, the Asian Studies Committee invites students to pursue Honors based on the student’s preliminary thesis plan, overall GPA and GPA in the major (both of which should normally be 3.5 or higher), and the strong recommendation of Asian Studies faculty who are familiar with the student’s academic accomplishments in previous work at Bates and feel the student is capable of producing an excellent thesis. The student’s thesis advisor is assigned at this time. Students should consult with their advisor and indicate their interest in Honors on the 2-page preliminary thesis plan that all majors submit to the Asian Studies Committee by the end of Short Term in their junior year.
- Summer before Senior Year: Students invited to pursue Honors are expected to further develop their thesis topic prior to the start of the fall term of the senior year. They should consult with their thesis advisor during this time period.
- Fall of Senior Year: Students invited to pursue honors must enroll in ASIA 457, CHI 457 or JPN 457 in the fall of their senior year. Along with all senior majors writing theses in the fall, the Honors invitee must submit a thesis proposal to the Asian Studies Committee by the start of fall semester classes. Based on its evaluation of this proposal, the Committee invites the student to submit a more comprehensive proposal and give an oral presentation to the Committee and to submit a substantive chapter draft of the thesis during the week after Thanksgiving break. The Program will judge the quality of the presentation, the quality of the project to date, and determine whether the student is making satisfactory progress toward completion of an Honors thesis. The Program, in consultation with the adviser, will make a decision whether to allow the student to continue on the Honors track. Students who are asked at this point to discontinue their Honors thesis will complete a standard-track senior thesis during the winter semester.
- Winter Semester of the Senior Year: Honors nominations are submitted by the chair to the Bates Honors Committee at the end of the first week of the winter semester. Students nominated for Honors must enroll in either ASIA 458, CHI 458 or JPN 458 in the winter semester of their senior year.
- If, at any time after formal nomination to Honors and prior to the submission of the written thesis, the thesis adviser feels that the student is not meeting the expectations of the Asian Studies Program for a satisfactory Honors thesis, she or he has the authority to withdraw the student from the Honors program. Likewise, a student formally nominated for Honors can withdraw from the program at any time prior to the thesis submission deadline or oral exam date.