FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HONORS and WRITING A SENIOR THESIS IN EDUCATION STUDIES
1. What do I have to do to write a senior thesis?
In your junior year, you must secure a Thesis Adviser, develop a research question and research plan that you will investigate during your senior year, and apply to write a thesis by the first Friday in May (see the website for the application form). You will enroll in EDUC 1990 and EDUC 1991 for independent study credit (which must be above and beyond the 10 course minimum requirement for education studies concentration) and meet regularly with your Thesis Adviser who will supervise your research and writing. Senior theses are due on the second Friday in April.
2. Will I get honors if I write a senior thesis?
Maybe. Most senior theses do receive honors but writing a senior thesis does not guarantee it. The thesis must meet or exceed the standards set forth in the Department Rubric for Honors and you must meet the minimum grade point average (more A’s than B’s in education studies courses). Your thesis will be evaluated by your Thesis Adviser and an additional faculty reader and who will provide you with written feedback. Even if you do not receive honors, you can still receive course credit for EDUC 1990 and EDUC 1991.
3. Who can be a Thesis Adviser?
Any full-time teaching member of the Education Department faculty can be a Thesis Adviser if they are on campus for the year. Faculty on sabbatical can not serve as a Thesis Adviser. Part-time or non-teaching faculty may serve as a Co-Thesis Adviser but may not be the sole director for a senior thesis.
4. How often should I meet with my Thesis Adviser?
Regularly—once every other week or even once a week. At the beginning of the year, you should set up a schedule that establishes a regular meeting time. It may not always be necessary to meet in person—emails and telephone are often helpful—but it is always good to have a time set aside when you KNOW you can talk to your Thesis Adviser.
5. Should I consult with faculty who are not my Thesis Adviser?
Absolutely. Faculty inside and outside the Education Department who have expertise on your topic should be sought out and consulted, preferably early in the project, and their advice and help should be acknowledged in the preface of the thesis’ final draft.
6. Are there any other steps in the process?
You are required to write a progress report for the Department Honors Adviser, signed by your Thesis Adviser by the end of fall semester that outlines your progress. You may also be required to meet with the Honors Adviser to discuss that progress at this time. Furthermore, in May you will be invited to present your thesis to the Education Department faculty and students.
7. When is the final version due?
An electronic copy of the thesis is due by noon on the second Friday of April. For 2013-2014, this is Friday, April 11, 2014. An identical, bound hard copy version is due to the Honors Adviser within one week. Working backward from this date should help you and your Thesis Adviser to set up a schedule for research and writing across two semesters.
8. Do I have to write a research paper? Can I do an unorthodox format like a play or website?
An Honors thesis must ask an original research question, answer it with appropriate evidence, and place that work within relevant scholarly literature. An unorthodox format is unlikely to be able to do these things and satisfy the requirements of the Department Rubric for Honors and will consequently not be approved. A senior thesis cannot be a normative question, creative project, or policy advocacy, and it must do more than summarize what scholars already know; it must conduct original research. If you are interested in doing a different kind of project or an unorthodox format, you should consider doing a capstone project instead.
9. What is a capstone project? Can I get honors for it?
You cannot get honors for a capstone project. A capstone is an independent, student-initiated project or experience outside of the classroom that you connect in a meaningful way to your learning in the concentration. It is ordinarily much less of a time investment than a senior thesis; you may develop the project in a one semester independent study or do a capstone outside of course credit. You can approach capstones one of two different ways: you can purposely design and execute a capstone project during your senior year or you can take a significant experience you have already had and make it a capstone. An activity is transformed from an extracurricular activity to a capstone when it does two things: (1) places the particular experience in a larger context and set of knowledge, especially learning in the concentration; (2) communicates that learning, either through a written product or oral presentation. In practice, this might mean producing a written product like a policy recommendation or an essay reflecting on your experience informed by educational theories, current policy discussions, or a literature review or making a presentation, designing a website, or creating a curriculum guide. See the Education Department website for more examples and information about capstones.
10. Who do I contact if I have questions about honors or about writing a senior thesis?
You should contact the Honors Adviser for Education Studies, Professor Tracy Steffes (Tracy_Steffes@Brown.edu
11. Do you have any other advice for writing a thesis?
1. Start thinking about a Senior Thesis early. It takes time to design a good research project. Choose classes your junior year that help you prepare for a senior thesis by introducing you to topics, methodologies, and/or faculty with which you might like to work. Start thinking in terms of research questions instead of topics by mid-year.
2. Spend time and energy creating a good research design at the beginning. This means that you should refine your question, identify and begin reading relevant scholarship on the topic, identify your data source and make sure you can access and use it (and look at it—make sure it has the info you think it does), and think carefully about your methodology—how you will answer your question and the strengths and weaknesses of that approach. This should be done before the start of senior year—preferably during junior year but at least by the end of the summer right before senior year.
3. Establish a clear work plan and timetable that gives adequate time for revisions in partnership with your Thesis Adviser. Make sure that your writing schedule allows the Thesis Adviser enough time to read the penultimate draft and get final suggestions to you. (In other words, get it to your adviser AT LEAST two weeks before the final draft is due and closer to a month if possible).
4. Start writing early! Don’t wait until spring semester to start writing. Writing can help clarify your thinking and reveal holes in your evidence and arguments. Writing is also hard work and to do it well requires some time and a lot of feedback and revision. Even if you are still collecting data, try to start writing in the fall. Write the literature review or methodology section. If you are writing an education history thesis, aim to write a draft of the first chapter before winter break.
5. If there is even a slight possibility that you will need IRB clearance for your research, get started on obtaining it IMMEDIATELY. Your Thesis Adviser will help you to determine whether IRB approval is necessary and should guide you through the process if it is.
6. Winter break is a crucial time to make progress on your thesis. Don’t waste it!