Thesis Information

Each major who plans to pursue a one- or a two- semester thesis submits a proposal by NOON on the  first day of Short Term in 2023. Some details:

    • The proposal is a LaTeX document, a template, to be filled out carefully by the student. Among other things, it asks for a two to three page outline of the proposed area of study and a concise list of references. For help with LaTeX, visit the What is LaTeX page
    • As a hypothetical example, here is a sample completed senior thesis proposal as Bernhard Riemann would have submitted it.
    • By noon on the due date, the completed proposal is to be uploaded as a single PDF to the Google Senior Capstone Project Google Form. The PDF file should have a useful, descriptive name. Riemann would’ve named his “BernhardRiemannThesisProposal.pdf”, for example.
    • It is strongly advised that juniors discuss thesis topics and ideas with faculty members before writing a proposal.
    • The Department meets to consider proposals and to assign thesis advisors to successful proposals. The Department Chair will notify students of the results of the meeting by the middle of the short-term.
    • In order to maintain a quality experience, no full-time faculty member in the department normally supervises more than two thesis students during a given semester.
    • In the Mathematics Lounge (Hathorn 209), the Department keeps copies of all senior theses written over the past several years. Prospective thesis writers should have a serious look at these works.

Two-semester thesis

    • In the fall semester, the student registers for Math 457.
    • Two-semester thesis students not in the Honors Program give the Department Chair a final copy of the thesis (to be placed on permanent display in the Mathematics Lounge) by the last day of classes of the winter semester.

Honors Thesis

    • While all capstone experiences expect students to demonstrate mathematical reading skills and ability to communicate mathematics, a thesis earning Honors in Mathematics is distinguished by an exceptional level of achievement in these areas.
    • Based on the thesis work presented at the end of the first semester, the Department decides which students to nominate for the Honors Program. A GPA of 3.5 is also a necessary condition.
    • Students entering the Honors Program follow the procedures and deadlines of that Program. See the Bates College Honors Program page.

One-semester thesis

    • The student registers for Math 457 or 458 according as the thesis is a fall or winter semester project.
    • By the last day of the final examination period of the semester of thesis work, the thesis student gives the Department Chair a final copy of the thesis (to be placed on permanent display in the Mathematics Lounge).

Double thesis with another major

    • A double thesis is a single year-long project that satisfies the thesis requirements of both Mathematics and another department, and as such, requires a significant amount of mathematics. A student writing a double thesis signs up for math thesis for one semester and the other department thesis for the other semester.
    • The Department requires the student to present a talk or poster in the “Math semester.”
    • The Registrar lists a double thesis with a member of the Mathematics Department as one of the advisors.
    • Course credit for a double thesis counts toward the Mathematics Major only if the student completes Mathematics 457 or Mathematics 458.
    • A student who applies thesis course credit to another major may not apply that same credit to the Mathematics Major.
    • The Department will not approve a proposal for a one-semester double thesis.


Students completing a thesis give some form of presentation to the Department at the end of each semester of working on thesis. Typically:

    • one-semester thesis students present a poster or a talk;
    • two-semester non-honors thesis students present a talk in Fall Semester and a poster or a talk in Winter Semester;
    • Honors thesis students present a talk in Fall Semester and give their Honors defense during a College-designated Honors defense time period;
    • when there is a choice of a poster or a talk, this decision is to be made with the thesis advisor.


All student presentations are evaluated by two mathematics faculty who are not advising the thesis. The evaluators prepare written comments shortly after the presentation, typically within one to two days. These comments go initially to the thesis advisor, who then shares them with the student in whatever way the advisor deems most appropriate. The exception to this evaluation is the Honors defense, which has its own system for outside evaluation.

In the case of a poster presentation, faculty evaluators may ask to speak with the student presenter additionally after the poster session, and may ask to see additional materials. In the case of a talk, faculty evaluators may ask questions during and after the talk, and may ask to view additional materials. The question-and-answer session for the talk, however, remains open to the public: there is not a separate, private question-and-answer session between faculty and the student presenter only.

After either form of presentation, the evaluators and advisor may have a short, private conference in which evaluators ask the advisor additional questions regarding thesis progress. For eligible students who have previously declared an intent to pursue Honors, the advisor and evaluators make a recommendation to the Department after the Fall Semester presentation, supporting or discouraging an Honors nomination.