Welcome to the Senior Thesis Process!

The senior thesis is designed to be a capstone of your education in Politics at Bates. It is an opportunity to use the skills you have acquired in your classes and apply them to an analysis of a topic of specific interest to you. The thesis can be the most rewarding academic experience you have at Bates. It can also be the most frustrating. You may not be able to avoid the frustrations, but the rewards are correlated directly with the amount of work you put into it.

You will need to find a topic or issue that interests you, devise a question and a research strategy, and engage in original research that will allow you to add to the existing literature on this topic. You will not be asked to answer your question fully. Both time and resources probably make that difficult. But you are to engage in a serious enquiry that will at least help clarify some of the issues raised by your question and point to other issues for further research. The key is that you should advance the state of knowledge on this topic in some respect. Past honors theses can be found in the Muskie Archives, and both honors and regular theses in the Politics Department lounge; these can be helpful in seeing how past graduates have formulated and investigated their questions.

There is no set page limit to the senior thesis. A few very good ones have been thirty pages long, but those are very rare. Conversely, there have been very poor theses over one hundred pages long. In general, a one-semester thesis is about 40-45 pages, including all notes and bibliography or 10,000 words. Keep in mind that the issue is quality not quantity.

Thesis is due to your advisor by 4PM the Friday of the last week of classes

This is YOUR thesis. You are responsible for coming up with an interesting topic (for you), finding the relevant literature, devising a question and doing the necessary research. The role of the faculty adviser is to guide you in the process, to inform you about finding the relevant literature, to discuss whether the question is doable in the time allotted, and to help you devise an appropriate approach to answer the question. The thesis adviser is better able to help if your topic coincides with his or her own areas of research. If your topic is outside these areas of expertise, their help will be more limited and your own responsibility somewhat greater.