Philosophy and Goals of Senior Thesis
The experience gained in doing original research – working independently, learning to ask good questions, experiencing the process of experimentation, and imparting your findings to others – is something that cannot be taught in the classroom, but is, ultimately what science is all about.
For these reasons, we consider the thesis experience, whether it involves library, field, or laboratory work, as a very important aspect of your education.
The weekly senior seminar should give you guidance towards a successful research experience. In addition, the seminar will enhance your knowledge of research trends that are current in science today.
First Semester Goals (what is expected in a two-semester thesis)
- Become familiar with your thesis topic in order to have a clearer grasp of where you r work will fit in relationship to previous work done in the field. This will involve literature searches.
- Develop a feasible project design.
- Learn to make maximum use of the diverse library facilities available at Claremont.
- Compile an essentially complete list of references related to your project.
- Learn how to and give an oral presentation on your project design and future plans.2
- Begin experimental work, develop most of the methods needed to do the thesis research, and obtain some preliminary results.
- Write a first draft of the introductory sections of your thesis – introduction, historical background, experimental methods, results, preliminary discussion, future experiments, etc.
Second Semester Goals
- Carry out the remainder of your experimental program (or library research).
- Analyze the results carefully and early(!) so that additional work may be done if needed. A proper statistical analysis of your data will be required in order to convince anyone of its significance.
- Prepare your final written thesis incorporating the introductory sections from the first semester with the results of the second semester work. A rough draft will be turned in to your thesis director several weeks before the final draft is due.
- Present your results in a poster session to an audience of professors and fellow students from all scientific disciplines.
Originality of Project
All scientific advances are built upon what has gone before. Your work should enter new areas. This does not require new findings. It may involve simply a new way of looking at things – a new synthesis of ideas.
Asking a Good Questions
Science can be defined as “an exploration of the material universe that seeks natural, orderly relationships among observed phenomena.” Science is not simply a description of the universe. It is an attempt to understand it. Describing a new species of fish or a new chemical is not science (though it may well be a necessary first step); comprehending its place in nature, its relationships to previous knowledge, is. A major portion of the scientific endeavor is the asking of good questions, ones that increase our understanding of the universe.
Design of Project
Design includes elegance of your technique and thoroughness of planning; choosing a project and designing it so that it can be accomplished in the time allotted.
An important aspect of science is the passing of knowledge to others. Communication skills are of utmost importance here. You will be graded on both oral and written presentations of your results.
It is your responsibility to keep your readers informed about what you are doing and to show them an outline of your plan of attack. There is nothing worse than having your thesis director ask in the last week of April, “Why didn’t you do this experiment?” or “Why isn’t there a discussion of this in your thesis?” If the criticism makes sense, it is far too late at that point to do anything about it other than blame yourself for not talking to others about your work sooner. It is to your advantage to keep in touch with your readers and pay attention to suggestions they might offer.