A senior thesis is an extended research project culminating in a high quality paper. We do not require a senior thesis; if you are considering going on to do graduate work in political science, however, the senior thesis is an option that you might wish to consider, to gain experience in the type of critical research and analysis that graduate work requires.
If you are considering writing a senior thesis, you should consult with your political science advisor at an early date.
In preparation for the senior thesis (POSC 4999), the student is required to take three credit hours of POSC 4995 (“Independent Study”). Normally, the student should take POSC 4995 in the semester preceding that in which the POSC 4999 will be taken, and under the supervision of the same instructor. In fulfillment of the requirements for POSC 4995, you must complete an amount of work roughly equal to that which would be required in an ordinary upper-division course carrying three credit hours.
In a POSC 4995 course, there is no classroom work; instead, you will be required to do reading, field research and/or data analysis, typically followed by one or more examinations and/or the writing of one or more papers. Of course, you may take POSC 4995 for its own sake, without following up with a senior thesis.
Prior to formal enrollment in POSC 4999, the chairman of the department, in consultation with the student and the thesis supervisor, will select a second instructor—usually but not necessarily a member of the Department of Political Science—to serve as a second reader for the thesis.
The second reader should be a faculty member who finds your thesis plan acceptable, and with whom you are willing to work. A senior thesis will ordinarily include forty to fifty pages of writing done exclusively for POSC 4999. The expected length may be reduced if the thesis involves extensive field work or statistical analysis. At the conclusion of POSC 4999, both instructors will collaborate in the assignment of the thesis grade.
If you decide to undertake a senior thesis too late to do so in the fashion described above, you may petition the department for permission to take POSC 4995 and POSC 4999 in the same semester. In this case, both readers must be chosen in time for registration or, at the latest, late registration. If you are enrolled in POSC 4995 and then decide to expand that work into a senior thesis, then your POSC 4995 course will qualify as the prerequisite for POSC 4999, provided its content conforms to the specifications mentioned above.
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