How To Write an Undergraduate Thesis

Whether you're looking to build your resume, prepare yourself for rigorous graduate studies, or simply delve more deeply into a topic of interest, consider making an undergraduate thesis part of your academic plan.

  1. Select a topic. If you're having trouble deciding on an idea, think about the following questions: What areas interest you? What have been your favorite courses? If time and money weren't an issue, and you could research any topic, what would it be?
  2. Be specific. A thesis topic should be focused. If you're a biology student interested in avian behavior, a thesis on the migration patterns of birds would be much too encyclopedic in scope. For this example, you could narrow it down to a specific bird in a certain location or situation and arrive at a thesis on the migration patterns of the Yellow-billed Loon in years of drought. History students may want to focus on a short period of time in a famous leader's life, and education students might find a worthy thesis in the effectiveness of one teaching technique for a single grade level.
  3. Find an advisor. Most schools will require you to find a professor to supervise your work. Even if it's not required, the suggestions and mentoring you can receive from an advisor are invaluable. Ideally, your advisor should be someone with similar research interests, but even professors who focus on completely different topics can share universal insights on research methodologies and writing the final product.
  4. Enroll in a thesis course. You're doing a lot of work; why not earn credit for it? Depending on your school and degree program, you may need to enroll in a senior thesis or independent study course. These courses are typically available for anywhere from one to six credits. If a research experience isn't required for graduation, a thesis can be a great way to fulfill elective requirements in your major.
  5. Create a plan of attack. How will you conduct your research, and what resources will you need? Will you require laboratory equipment or human test subjects? Can your research be completed in your university library, or do you require access to special archives and collections? How much time will this work involve? Use the answers to these questions to create an action plan for completing your thesis.
  6. Make time for your research. Don't lose sight of your thesis goals when you're faced with the stresses of everyday life. It can be much too easy to procrastinate and save the work for another day. There's nothing wrong with prioritizing your schedule so that you work on your thesis the day after a huge mid-term instead of the day before, but you should use this flexibility sparingly.
  7. Keep careful records. Your final thesis will only be as good as the information you gather. Whether you're taking notes on a piece of literature or collecting data in the lab, be precise in your methods.
  8. Polish your work. You want your thesis to represent your best efforts. Even a few careless typos can detract from your work. If you're not comfortable with your writing skills, visit your university's writing center, or find an English major willing to proofread your thesis.
  9. Research publication and presentation possibilities. Once you've created a thesis, you don't want to keep it to yourself. Look to professional conferences and journals for opportunities to share your work. In addition to the valuable experience of preparing your work for publication or presentation, it's a credit that will look great on a resume.

Follow these suggestions, and soon you will be able to display your completed thesis proudly.


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