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Senior Thesis

During your senior year, you may write a thesis on a philosophical topic under the direction of a member of the department by registering for PHIL 4395: Senior Thesis.

1. Enrollment

If you wish to register for Senior Thesis, you must submit a proposal to the department chair no later than April 1 of your junior year to enroll for the Fall semester of your senior year, or November 1 of your senior year to enroll for the Spring semester of your senior year. You may register for PHIL 4395 only if the department votes to accept your proposal.

2. Contents of the Proposal

You should write a proposal with the assistance of a faculty member who has expertise in the area. You should select a topic and begin working on the proposal early in the semester before the one in which you wish to write your thesis. Your thesis proposal should include the following:

  • A thesis statement: What position do you plan to defend?
  • An argumentative strategy: How do you plan to defend your position?
  • An annotated bibliography: This should be a list of materials germane to your
    topic.

Your proposal does not commit you to a particular conclusion or argumentative strategy; its point is rather to demonstrate to the department that you have a basic understanding of the issues and literature relevant to your topic. Upon acceptance of your proposal, the department will assign you a thesis supervisor; this is the person with who  you will work most closely on your thesis. Your supervisor may or may not be the same faculty member who assisted you with the proposal. The instructor of PHIL 4395 will monitor deadlines and provide feedback on drafts of all students writing a thesis. You are also encouraged to discuss your thesis work with other faculty members, particularly those with expertise in the area in which you are working.

3. Outline

Your thesis should include all the following elements:

Introduction: State the thesis you will defend, and outline the argument you will give Literature Review: Survey the relevant literature on your topic, explaining the main positions on the issue and situating your own position with respect to them. Clarify key terminology. Argument: Develop the argument for your thesis. Critical discussion: State potential criticisms of your thesis and arguments, and show why these criticisms fail. Conclusion: Review the argument you have given for your thesis.

4. Defense

You will be required to give an oral defense of your thesis before the faculty of the philosophy department during reading days. The defense will begin with your giving a 5-10 minute summary of the thesis. Then there will be 35-40 minutes of discussion, during which the faculty will ask questions of clarification, raise objections, and so on.

5. Timetable

  1. Your proposal must be received by the department chair no later than April 1 of your junior year to enroll for the Fall semester of your senior year, or November 1 of your senior year to enroll for the Spring semester of your senior year.
  2. Your supervisor will provide you with a timetable of what you should submit during the semester. This may involve short papers on particular readings, partial drafts of your thesis, and so on.
  3. Week 11: complete rough draft of thesis due.
  4. Week 13: final version of thesis due.
  5. Reading days: oral defense.

The department as a whole will determine 50% of your final grade in the course on the basis of the final version of your thesis together with your oral defense. Submitting the complete draft late will result in a 1/3-letter grade reduction per day in this grade, up to a full letter grade. Submitting the complete draft late will result in an additional 1/3-letter grade reduction per day in this grade, up to a full letter grade.

The other 50% of your final grade will be determined by your supervisor on the basis of your work leading up to the final draft.