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writing an undergraduate thesis

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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
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  • Senior Thesis Writing Guides

The senior thesis is typically the most challenging writing project undertaken by undergraduate students. The writing guides below aim to introduce students both to the specific methods and conventions of writing original research in their area of concentration and to effective writing process.

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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:

  • An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
  • An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
  • An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain the analysis of the college admission process
  • Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

  • Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

  • Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college

Life @ U of T

Life @ U of T

My Experience Writing an Undergraduate Thesis

This year, I’ve been working on a really exciting project… my undergraduate thesis! It's my fourth year of university, and I decided to write an undergraduate thesis in Political Science under the supervision of a professor. This week, I wanted to write about why I decided to take a thesis, how I enrolled, and how it’s been going so far! 

What is an undergraduate thesis?

An undergraduate thesis is usually a 40-60 page paper written under the supervision of a professor, allowing you to explore a topic of your interest in-depth. I primarily decided to write an undergraduate thesis to prepare me for graduate school - it's allowed me to get started on work I might continue in graduate school, hone my research skills, and test out whether academic research is for me.

How do I write an undergraduate thesis?

To write my undergraduate thesis, I had two options (this may vary depending on what department you're in!). First, I could join the Senior Thesis Seminar offered by department. These seminars group students together who are interested in doing a thesis and teach them research skills and background information. Students then simultaneously complete a thesis under the supervision of a professor. Senior Thesis Seminars often require applications to register in, so if you’re interested in this option, make sure you look into this in your third year of study!

Because I already had a close working relationship with a professor, I opted to instead do the second option, an Independent Study. An Independent Study allows you to work one-on-one with a professor and design whatever course you’re interested in. For either option, you’ll need to know what topic you're interested in writing your thesis on and ask a professor to work with you, so make sure you've figured this out. 

How's it going?

So far, I’m about half-way through my thesis and I’m having lots of fun. It’s a great way to get super involved in a topic I care about, and it's preparing me for graduate research much more than any course I’ve taken in my undergraduate degree. I’ve also been enjoying working one-on-one with a professor and learning a lot from them about the field of study I’m interested in, what being an academic researcher is like, and what my position in the field is. 

I will say that an undergraduate thesis is a considerable amount of work! It definitely requires more work than all my other classes, and because I’m working so closely with a professor, there’s no way I can slack on it or procrastinate.

Still, if you’re interested in a topic and want to pursue it after your undergraduate studies, I think writing an undergraduate thesis is an incredible opportunity. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!

1 comment on “ My Experience Writing an Undergraduate Thesis ”

Is an undergrad thesis mandatory in order to graduate or to get into a Masters program? Also, I’ve heard most Profs only help those with really high grades for their thesis?

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What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program.

Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you’ve ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating to know where to begin.

Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

You can also download our full dissertation template in the format of your choice below. The template includes a ready-made table of contents with notes on what to include in each chapter, easily adaptable to your department’s requirements.

Download Word template Download Google Docs template

  • In the US, a dissertation generally refers to the collection of research you conducted to obtain a PhD.
  • In other countries (such as the UK), a dissertation often refers to the research you conduct to obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Table of contents

Dissertation committee and prospectus process, how to write and structure a dissertation, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your dissertation, free checklist and lecture slides.

When you’ve finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to “ABD” (All But Dissertation) status. This means you’ve completed everything except your dissertation.

Prior to starting to write, you must form your committee and write your prospectus or proposal . Your committee comprises your adviser and a few other faculty members. They can be from your own department, or, if your work is more interdisciplinary, from other departments. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD.

Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant . After passing your prospectus defense, you’re ready to start your research and writing.

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The structure of your dissertation depends on a variety of factors, such as your discipline, topic, and approach. Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an overall argument to support a central thesis , with chapters organized around different themes or case studies.

However, hard science and social science dissertations typically include a review of existing works, a methodology section, an analysis of your original research, and a presentation of your results , presented in different chapters.

Dissertation examples

We’ve compiled a list of dissertation examples to help you get started.

  • Example dissertation #1: Heat, Wildfire and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity (a dissertation by C. A. Antonopoulos about the impact of extreme heat and wildfire on residential buildings and occupant exposure risks).
  • Example dissertation #2: Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households (a dissertation by M. Addo about income volatility and declining economic security among middle-income households).
  • Example dissertation #3: The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees (a dissertation by N. S. Mills about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on the relationship between mirror visual feedback and the pain level in amputees with phantom limb pain).

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you. In some cases, your acknowledgements are part of a preface.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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writing an undergraduate thesis

The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150 to 300 words long. Though this may seem very short, it’s one of the most important parts of your dissertation, because it introduces your work to your audience.

Your abstract should:

  • State your main topic and the aims of your research
  • Describe your methods
  • Summarize your main results
  • State your conclusions

Read more about abstracts

The table of contents lists all of your chapters, along with corresponding subheadings and page numbers. This gives your reader an overview of your structure and helps them easily navigate your document.

Remember to include all main parts of your dissertation in your table of contents, even the appendices. It’s easy to generate a table automatically in Word if you used heading styles. Generally speaking, you only include level 2 and level 3 headings, not every subheading you included in your finished work.

Read more about tables of contents

While not usually mandatory, it’s nice to include a list of figures and tables to help guide your reader if you have used a lot of these in your dissertation. It’s easy to generate one of these in Word using the Insert Caption feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

Similarly, if you have used a lot of abbreviations (especially industry-specific ones) in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

In addition to the list of abbreviations, if you find yourself using a lot of highly specialized terms that you worry will not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary. Here, alphabetize the terms and include a brief description or definition.

Read more about glossaries

The introduction serves to set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving the background information needed to contextualize your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of your research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your research questions and objectives
  • Outline the flow of the rest of your work

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant. By the end, the reader should understand the what, why, and how of your research.

Read more about introductions

A formative part of your research is your literature review . This helps you gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic.

Literature reviews encompass:

  • Finding relevant sources (e.g., books and journal articles)
  • Assessing the credibility of your sources
  • Critically analyzing and evaluating each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps) to strengthen your overall point

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing sources. Your literature review should have a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear justification for your own research. It may aim to:

  • Address a gap in the literature or build on existing knowledge
  • Take a new theoretical or methodological approach to your topic
  • Propose a solution to an unresolved problem or advance one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework. Here, you define and analyze the key theories, concepts, and models that frame your research.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to critically assess its credibility. Your methodology section should accurately report what you did, as well as convince your reader that this was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • The overall research approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative ) and research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment )
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Any tools and materials you used (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses , or themes, but avoid including any subjective or speculative interpretation here.

Your results section should:

  • Concisely state each relevant result together with relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Briefly state how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported
  • Report all results that are relevant to your research questions , including any that did not meet your expectations.

Additional data (including raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix. You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results. Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is your opportunity to explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research question. Here, interpret your results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. Refer back to relevant source material to show how your results fit within existing research in your field.

Some guiding questions include:

  • What do your results mean?
  • Why do your results matter?
  • What limitations do the results have?

If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your dissertation’s conclusion should concisely answer your main research question, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed to the field.

In some disciplines, the conclusion is just a short section preceding the discussion section, but in other contexts, it is the final chapter of your work. Here, you wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you found, with recommendations for future research and concluding remarks.

It’s important to leave the reader with a clear impression of why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known? Why is your research necessary for the future of your field?

Read more about conclusions

It is crucial to include a reference list or list of works cited with the full details of all the sources that you used, in order to avoid plagiarism. Be sure to choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your dissertation. Each style has strict and specific formatting requirements.

Common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA , but which style you use is often set by your department or your field.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

Your dissertation should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents such as interview transcripts or survey questions can be added as appendices, rather than adding them to the main body.

Read more about appendices

Making sure that all of your sections are in the right place is only the first step to a well-written dissertation. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading, as grammar mistakes and sloppy spelling errors can really negatively impact your work.

Dissertations can take up to five years to write, so you will definitely want to make sure that everything is perfect before submitting. You may want to consider using a professional dissertation editing service or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect prior to submitting.

After your written dissertation is approved, your committee will schedule a defense. Similarly to defending your prospectus, dissertation defenses are oral presentations of your work. You’ll present your dissertation, and your committee will ask you questions. Many departments allow family members, friends, and other people who are interested to join as well.

After your defense, your committee will meet, and then inform you whether you have passed. Keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality; most committees will have resolved any serious issues with your work with you far prior to your defense, giving you ample time to fix any problems.

As you write your dissertation, you can use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

Checklist: Dissertation

My title page includes all information required by my university.

I have included acknowledgements thanking those who helped me.

My abstract provides a concise summary of the dissertation, giving the reader a clear idea of my key results or arguments.

I have created a table of contents to help the reader navigate my dissertation. It includes all chapter titles, but excludes the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract.

My introduction leads into my topic in an engaging way and shows the relevance of my research.

My introduction clearly defines the focus of my research, stating my research questions and research objectives .

My introduction includes an overview of the dissertation’s structure (reading guide).

I have conducted a literature review in which I (1) critically engage with sources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, (2) discuss patterns, themes, and debates in the literature, and (3) address a gap or show how my research contributes to existing research.

I have clearly outlined the theoretical framework of my research, explaining the theories and models that support my approach.

I have thoroughly described my methodology , explaining how I collected data and analyzed data.

I have concisely and objectively reported all relevant results .

I have (1) evaluated and interpreted the meaning of the results and (2) acknowledged any important limitations of the results in my discussion .

I have clearly stated the answer to my main research question in the conclusion .

I have clearly explained the implications of my conclusion, emphasizing what new insight my research has contributed.

I have provided relevant recommendations for further research or practice.

If relevant, I have included appendices with supplemental information.

I have included an in-text citation every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source.

I have listed every source in a reference list at the end of my dissertation.

I have consistently followed the rules of my chosen citation style .

I have followed all formatting guidelines provided by my university.


The end is in sight—your dissertation is nearly ready to submit! Make sure it's perfectly polished with the help of a Scribbr editor.

If you’re an educator, feel free to download and adapt these slides to teach your students about structuring a dissertation.

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Harvard History of Art & Architecture

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Undergraduate Program - Writing a Thesis

  • Created by Marcus Mayo , last modified on Jul 05, 2023

Pursuing a Thesis

Senior Concentrators wishing to graduate with honors in the Department must produce a senior thesis and carry academic standing of Group II or better, with a minimum GPA of 3.00 in concentration grades. In deciding whether one wishes to fulfill the honors requirements, students should consider their academic interests, commitment to independent research, and other deadlines and obligations during the thesis year. Many students find the task of producing a substantial piece of critical scholarship interesting and rewarding, but others find the senior thesis can become a frustrating and unwieldy burden. Some students prefer the freedom to take elective courses or savor extra-curricular pursuits during their last year at the College unhampered by the encroaching demands of thesis preparation. In general, it may be remarked that students are unlikely to do well in the honors program who are not already proven practiced writers committed to the process of scholarship; the senior thesis is not the place to acquire basic skills in writing, design, and/or research. In considering the Department's honors requirements, it should be remembered that students with honors grades overall may graduate with University Honors (Cum Laude) even if they do not receive Honors in History of Art and Architecture.

Department Timeline of Thesis Preparation 

A schedule of departmental dates and deadlines relative to the thesis will be available by the beginning of each Fall Term. The thesis writer and faculty thesis adviser should agree on a working schedule which will adequately conform to these deadlines.

Concentrators undertaking a thesis are required to enroll in HAA 99A (fall) and B (spring) for course credit. Students in the architecture track pursuing a design thesis should enroll in HAA 92r (fall) and 99B (spring). Joint concentrators will enroll in the 99 course of their primary concentration.

Overseen by the Senior Thesis Adviser, HAA 99A –“The Senior Thesis Seminar” – will meet several times during the fall semester for two-hour sessions devoted to facilitating the preparation and writing of a thesis. These sessions will cover such topics as compiling a bibliography, using archives, the use of key technology and software, and constructing and presenting an effective argument. All concentrators pursuing a written thesis project are required to enroll in this seminar. Joint concentrators enrolled in another department’s thesis seminar, and HAA design thesis students enrolled in HAA 92r, are welcome and encouraged to attend some or all sessions of 99A in addition to their primary thesis preparation course.

Late in the fall semester, each concentrator pursuing a thesis will deliver a twenty-minute presentation on the thesis topic, illustrated with digitally projected images, at the Senior Thesis Presentations. All departmental faculty and students will be invited to these presentations. By the end of winter break, each student will submit a complete first draft of the thesis, complete with illustrations.

Overview of Key Dates for Thesis Preparation

These dates apply to all HAA students wishing to pursue an honors thesis. For further criteria specific to students preparing a design thesis in the Architecture Track, see Academic Requirements: Design Thesis in the Architecture Track

Please consult the Senior Thesis Seminar Canvas site, or reach out to the Undergraduate Program Coordinator, for specific dates.

Spring Semester, Junior Year

  • February: Initial Meeting. Junior concentrators are invited to meet with the Senior Thesis Adviser for an introduction to the senior thesis writing process.
  • Early April: Short Proposals Due. Students submit a basic proposal outlining preliminary ideas, along with a list of potential faculty advisers. Faculty advisers are assigned to thesis projects in late April or early May.
  • Late April: Applications due for Pulitzer and Abramson Travel Grants. See Undergraduate Prizes, Grants and Opportunities for details on grants and applications. Information on how to apply will be provided by the Undergraduate Program Coordinator. Grant recipients will be notified by email.

Fall Semester, Senior Year

  • During the semester, students enroll in HAA 99A or 92r and follow course deadlines (Please consult the HAA 99A and 92r Canvas sites for additional details).
  • Students meet regularly with their faculty advisers.
  • Early December: Senior Thesis Presentations. All students pursuing a thesis will give a twenty-minute presentation to department students and faculty followed by discussion.

Spring Semester, Senior Year

  • Late January: First Draft . Before the spring semester begins, students submit a full draft of the thesis, with illustrations, to the faculty adviser for comments.
  • Late February/Early March: Second Draft. Students are encouraged to submit the near-final draft to their faculty adviser for a final review before formal submission to the Department.
  • Week before Spring Break: Final Submission Deadline. Late submissions will not be accepted. On the afternoon of submission, all students are invited to attend the Thesis Reception.
  • Late March: Gallery-Style public reception and presentation of Design Thesis projects. All architecture track students that have prepared a design thesis will present their work informally at this event. All HAA thesis writers, as well as faculty and graduate students, are encouraged to attend.
  • April: Thesis Review and Honors Recommendation . Senior Honors Theses are read and critiqued by Members of the Faculty in HAA (and the GSD and the Harvard Art Museums, where relevant) at the request of the Senior Thesis Adviser. Department Faculty meet to vote on final honors recommendations, after which thesis writers will receive an email from the Senior Thesis Adviser notifying them of their thesis grade and recommendation for honors. Students should speak with their Allston Burr Senior Tutor for the anticipated final honors decision of the College.
  • Mid-April: Senior Thesis Poster. All senior thesis writers are expected to prepare a digital file for a 24 x 36” poster summarizing the thesis to be exhibited in the HAA Department for the following academic year. A suggested template will be provided and a workshop will be held in late March for assistance with poster preparation. The printing and associated costs are taken care of by the Department. Examples of previous posters can be found here (AY21-22) and here (AY22-23) .

Senior Thesis Adviser 

The process of taking honors and producing the thesis in the Department is overseen for all concentrators by the Senior Thesis Adviser, Professor Carrie Lambert-Beatty. The Senior Thesis Adviser leads the Fall Term thesis-writing seminar (HAA 99A) and directs the meetings for departmental approval once theses have been submitted. 

Faculty Thesis Adviser 

When submitting their initial proposal in the spring of the junior year, students should include a list of three possible faculty advisers. The Department will then match students with advisers according to student preference and faculty availability. Faculty thesis advisers should generally be full faculty members of the History of Art and Architecture Department, although Harvard museum curators with relevant expertise may also serve as advisers at the discretion of the Senior Thesis Adviser. Students in the architecture track pursuing a design thesis must also secure a second adviser from the faculty of the Graduate School of Design. Joint concentrators will generally select one faculty adviser from each department.

The adviser ought to serve as a critic of synthesized ideas and writings/designs, rather than as a director of the project. The adviser should be chosen with consideration more to compatibility in overseeing the process of the work than to being an expert in the field. If you have trouble identifying an appropriate adviser, please consult with the Senior Thesis Adviser or Undergraduate Program Coordinator before the spring deadline for the Thesis Proposal.

Graduate students in the Department of History of Art and Architecture do not advise Senior Theses.

Program Director, Harvard Undergraduate Architecture Studies Track

Megan Panzano, Program Director of the Harvard Undergraduate Architecture Studies Track, oversees the execution of the two studio courses “HAA 96A – Architecture Studio I: Transformations” and “HAA 96B – Architecture Studio II: Connections”, as well as the senior design-thesis seminar “HAA 92R – Design Speculations.” She is available to consult for general advice on the design-thesis process and in finding a suitable advisor from the GSD. She coordinates the assignment of readers to senior design-thesis projects in consultation with the Senior Thesis Adviser and Undergraduate Program Coordinator.

Undergraduate Program Coordinator

The Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Marcus Mayo, is available to consult at any point regarding general questions about the senior thesis writing process. In conjunction with the Senior Thesis Adviser, they will coordinate the initial meeting of concentrators interested in writing a thesis in the spring term of their junior year. The Undergraduate Program Coordinator collects and distributes thesis proposals, summer funding proposals, advisor assignments, as well as completed theses, grades and reader comments. They hold examples of the written requirements (thesis proposal and prospectus) and of the Pulitzer and Abramson Grant applications which students might wish to consult as paradigms.

Academic Requirements – Written Thesis

The writing and evaluation of the thesis is a year-long process, during which the writer enrolls in a senior thesis preparation seminar (HAA 99A) and meets at scheduled intervals with their faculty adviser to formulate, develop, and ultimately refine their thesis work.

The Department encourages seniors to think broadly and explore a problem of interest. The thesis topic does not necessarily have to be within the writer's declared major field, except when required for a joint concentration, in which case, the topic must address an issue shared by both concentrations. The thesis should demonstrate an ability to pose a meaningful question, present a well-reasoned and structured argument, and marshal appropriate evidence. The student should apply a clear methodology and be aware of the assumptions behind the argument, the possible deficiencies of the sources and data used, and the implications of the conclusions. The various parts of the thesis should cohere in an integrated argument; the thesis should not be a series of loosely connected short essays. A primary expectation of the thesis is that it is a work of independent scholarship, directed and crafted by the student, with the thesis adviser serving in a capacity of "indirect overseeing of the project."

There is no set pattern for an acceptable thesis. The writer should demonstrate familiarity with scholarly methods in the use of sources, but this should not be the sole criterion for evaluation. Of equal if not greater importance is the development of the central argument and the significance of the interpretation. A thesis may be research on a little-studied problem or a perceptive reassessment of a familiar question. A well-pondered and well-presented interpretive essay may be as good a thesis as a miniature doctoral dissertation.

Skill in exposition is a primary objective, and pristine editing is expected. The Department encourages writers to keep to a short page count, so as to craft a clear, concise paper, and further edit it to an exemplary presentation. In general, a History of Art and Architecture thesis will have a text ranging from 20,000 to 25,000 words. Students are encouraged to explore the resources available to thesis writers at the Harvard College Writing Center .

The writer must indicate the source of material drawn from others' work, whether quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. Students who, for whatever reason, submit work either not their own or without clear attribution to its sources will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including requirement to withdraw from the College.

Academic Requirements: Design Thesis in the Architecture Track

The HAA Architecture Track asks students to select an Area of Emphasis for fulfillment of their degree -- either Design Studies or History and Theory. Students wishing to pursue an honors thesis in the History and Theory Area of Emphasis will usually complete a written senior thesis paper and presentation on the same model as the thesis for general concentrators (see Academic Requirements: Written Thesis ).

Students in the Design Studies Area of Emphasis who wish to pursue a thesis project may choose either a traditional thesis or a design thesis project. Design theses are creative thesis projects featuring a combination of written analysis and visual and physical design materials, as described below.

Course Requirements for Honors Consideration with a Design Thesis

Senior year – fall term.

  • HAA 92r Design Speculations Seminar – required
  • Course prerequisite: Completion of either HAA 96A (“Transformations”) or HAA 96B (“Connections”) studios.
  • This course requires that students secure a pair of faculty advisers – one from Harvard History of Art and Architecture (HAA) Faculty and one from the Harvard GSD to support their research work within the course; course faculty advisers then serve as the faculty thesis advisers for the design thesis.
  • Megan Panzano, GSD Architecture Studies Director, and Jennifer Roberts, HAA DUS, can both help make faculty adviser connections for students pursuing this path.
  • (optional) HAA 99A Senior Thesis Tutorial – attendance in this seminar is encouraged but not required in parallel with HAA 92r.
  • Presentation of design work to HAA and select GSD Faculty as part of HAA Thesis Colloquium in December) – required

Senior Year – Spring Term

  • Throughout the semester: Advising meetings with individual faculty advisers to guide production and iterative refinement of design work (architectural analytical drawings and/or physical models), and edits to digital presentation made in fall term HAA Thesis Thesis Presentations.
  • March 08, 2024, 12:00 pm EST: Submission of final senior thesis design project including digital images and written text as a single PDF file (see “ Submission Requirements for Honors Consideration ”).
  • March 29, 2024: Participation in a gallery-style final presentation with faculty and peers after submission of thesis . The design presentations for the gallery-style event should include an updated digital presentation comprised of the project title, author’s name, the most current versions of all elements listed below in the Final Project Requirements (with the exception of the Written Manifesto which should be consolidated to a single slide containing 3-4 sentences of a thesis statement capturing the topic of study, a position on this topic, your claim about design agency to address this topic, and specifically, what design elements you’ve explored in your thesis in this address).  Students may elect to also print or plot selected original design drawings they produced (analytical or projective) from their digital presentation to pin up in the space.  Likewise, students are encouraged to bring any sketch and/or final models they have created to display as well.
  • April 8, 2024 : Preparation of a digital file for a 24 x 36” poster summarizing the thesis to be exhibited in the HAA department for the academic year to follow. A suggested template will be provided and a workshop will be held on March 26 (2024) for assistance with poster preparation. Examples of previous posters can be found here (AY21-22) and here (AY22-23) .

Submission Requirements for the Design Thesis Project (due March 08, 2024, 12:00 pm EST)

A single multi-page PDF file labeled with student’s full last name and first initial should be submitted. It should contain the following elements and should incorporate thesis research and design work from both fall and spring terms.

  • Assemble a visual bibliography of references for your research project. The references included should be sorted into categories of your own authoring in relation to the research. Each reference should be appropriately cited using the Chicago Manual of Style, and each reference should also include an affiliated image. The bibliography should include a brief (approx. 200-word) annotation, describing the rationale behind the sorted categories.
  • A written design manifesto of a minimum of 2,000 words that concisely articulates the issues, problems, and questions embedded in and engaged by your research project. The manifesto should address:
  • Discourse : the role and significance of architecture relative to the project topic of interest, and;
  • Context : the relationship of the project topic to broader surroundings which include but are not limited to the discipline of architecture, cultural contexts, technical developments, and/or typologies.
  • The final statement should reflect deeply upon the character of the design process for the project, and discuss how the design process reinforced, inflected, or complicated the initial research questions. For most students, this final statement will be an elaboration upon the presentation text prepared for the fall senior thesis colloquium. The final text should capture and discuss the design elements that were further explored in the spring term as means to address initial research questions (i.e. include written descriptions of the drawings and/or physical models produced in relation to the thesis topic).  
  • A visual drawing or info-graphic that describes the process of design research undertaken for your topic. This should include the initial criteria developed for evaluating the project, the steps taken in examining the topic, the points in the process where it became necessary to stop and assess outputs and findings, and final adjustments to the methodology as the project neared completion.
  • High resolution drawings, animations, and/or diagrams and photographs of physical models  (if applicable)  that were produced through research. These should be assembled in single-page layouts of slides to follow preceding elements listed here.

Grading of the Senior Thesis

Theses are read and critiqued by faculty members applying a higher standard than expected for work written in courses or tutorials. Faculty do make use of the full range of grades, and students should consider that any honors grade is a distinction of merit. If you have any questions, please contact the Senior Thesis Adviser, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, or the Undergraduate Program Coordinator.

SUMMA CUM LAUDE: A summa thesis is a work of "highest honor." It is a contribution to knowledge, though it need not be an important contribution. It reveals a promise of high intellectual attainments both in selection of problems and facts for consideration and in the manner in which conclusions are drawn from these facts. A summa thesis includes, potentially at least, the makings of a publishable article. The writer's use of sources and data is judicious. The thesis is well written and proofread. The arguments are concise and logically organized, and the allocation of space appropriate. A summa is not equivalent to just any A, but the sort given by instructors who reserve them for exceptional merit. A summa minus is a near miss at a summa and is also equivalent to an A of unusual quality.

MAGNA CUM LAUDE: A magna level thesis is a work worthy of "great honor." It clearly demonstrates the capacity for a high level of achievement, is carried through carefully, and represents substantial industry. A magna plus thesis achieves a similar level of quality to a summa in some respects, though it falls short in others; it is equivalent to the usual type of A. A magna thesis is equivalent to an A-. For a magna minus, the results achieved may not be quite a successful due to an unhappy choice of topic or approach; it is also equivalent to an A-.

CUM LAUDE: As is appropriate for a grade "with honors," a cum level thesis shows serious thought and effort in its general approach, if not in every detail. A cum plus is equivalent to a B+, a cum to a B, and a cum minus to a B-. The cum thesis does not merely represent the satisfactory completion of a task. It is, however, to be differentiated from the magna in the difficulty of the subject handled, the substantial nature of the project, and the success with which the subject is digested. Recall that, as students putting extraordinary effort into a thesis most frequently receive a magna, theses of a solid but not exceptional quality deserve a grade in the cum range. When expressed in numerical equivalents, the interval between a magna minus and a cum minus is double that between the other intervals on the grading scale.

NO DISTINCTION: Not all theses automatically deserve honors. Nevertheless, a grade of no distinction (C, D, or E) should be reserved only for those circumstances when the thesis is hastily constructed, a mere summary of existing material, or is poorly thought through. The high standards which are applied in critique of theses must clearly be violated for a thesis to merit a grade of no distinction.

Thesis Readers 

Each thesis will have two readers chosen by the Department, ideally, but not exclusively, one from within the student's area of interest, and the thesis adviser. All readers will be asked to submit written comments and grades, which will be factored equally to produce the final grade of the thesis. Individual grades are not released. When grades and comments are distributed, the readers no longer remain anonymous. There exists a procedure by which a writer may request, via the Senior Thesis Adviser, to speak with a reader provided that they are willing to discuss the work in further detail or expound on the written critique.

For joint concentrators, the department will defer the reading process to their primary concentration. Students should reach out to their adviser in their primary concentration for further information.

Grade Report and Honors Recommendation 

At the end of each term, Fall and Spring, the student's progress in the Senior Tutorial (HAA 99) will be graded SAT or UNSAT. At the end of the Department's Honors Review process, the Senior Thesis Adviser calculates a recommendation for Honors based on the factored grades of the thesis and the student's grades in concentration coursework. This recommendation is presented to the Faculty at their meeting in April for review. A faculty vote is taken and this decision is passed as an honors recommendation to the Registrar of the College. For joint concentrators, the faculty will make recommendations to a student’s primary concentration but will defer the final grading process to them. The decision of Final Honors to be granted on the degree is made by the Registrar based on departmental recommendation and the student’s College-GPA. Students should consult with their Allston Burr Senior Tutor to determine what final honors might be anticipated at Commencement.

The needs of the Department for fair deliberation dictate that there may be no report of decisions regarding the thesis until after the Faculty has considered and voted upon each recommendation for honors. After honors recommendations have been voted by the Faculty, students will be notified of the Department's recommendation to the College and will receive an ungraded copy of each evaluation of their thesis. The comments in these evaluations should provide the student with a clear explanation of the strengths and weaknesses of the thesis, bearing in mind the difficulties of the field and the type of thesis submitted, and evaluating what was accomplished in terms of what was undertaken, given the student's limitation of time and experience.

Discontinuance of a Thesis 

The process of writing the thesis is a serious commitment of time and energy for both the writer and the adviser. In some cases, however, it might be agreed that the thesis should be discontinued at mid-year. The Senior Tutorial year may be divided with credit through a procedure in which the student must submit a written paper presenting the project and research to that point.

Examples of Past Theses 

Senior Honors Theses which are written by students who graduate Summa or Magna are deposited in the University Archives in Pusey Library . Copies of theses which are awarded the Hoopes Prize are held in Lamont Library . Students are urged to consult past theses as much can be gained in exploring precedent or seeking inspiration.

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Journalism and communication menu, journalism and communication, five tips for tackling the undergraduate thesis.

Meg Rodgers

By Becky Hoag and Meg Rodgers

Theses aren’t just for graduate students. Many UO School of Journalism and Communication undergrads write theses for the SOJC Honors Program , for Clark’s Honors College or just to gain research experience. Any of them can tell you that thesis-writing takes a lot of work and can be quite daunting.

Wondering how you would even get started on it?

SOJC media studies alum Meg Rodgers ’18 totally understands how you feel. But she made it happen! She spent her senior year writing an undergrad thesis for the Honors College about TV anti-heroines that was selected for the 2018 UO Undergraduate Research Symposium .

Here are a few lessons she learned along the way:

1. Make use of your thesis advisor.

If you don’t have one assigned to you, find one and make that connection as soon as you can.

“They are the experts in their field, and you are learning how to become an expert,” Rodgers said.

She said her advisor, Assistant Professor Erin Hanna, helped her break down her project into doable steps and approach the research process in a smart manner.

2. Dive into the research.

Collect as much knowledge as you can. Even if some of the sources don’t end up in your final reference list, they will all help develop your overall understanding of the topic.

Rodgers found that about one-third of her process was research, one-third was writing and one-third was editing. It might be surprising and a bit nerve-wracking not to write anything down for the first part of the thesis process, but that’s normal. If you start writing too soon, you might find yourself making more assumptions about what you will find, rather than writing about what you actually found.

3. Start citing sources early.

You’ll thank yourself later. Programs like Mendeley or Zotero can help with this. Make sure you know what citation style to use.

4. Break down your thesis into workable sections.

Looking at the whole thing at once can be overwhelming. What are the individual points you want to cover in your paper? Make a list and start checking them off one at a time.

5. Mentally prepare yourself for lots of editing.

Try not to take it personally when your paper gets torn apart. It just means that it’s getting better. Trust the process and be grateful for feedback.

You can do it! And all the work’s definitely worth it. Rodgers found the thesis-writing process helped her learn about her strengths and weaknesses as a researcher and what work environments are best for her. Sometimes the more challenging endeavors can be the most rewarding too.

Becky Hoag is a senior double-majoring in journalism and environmental science (with a marine focus). This is her second year writing for the SOJC Communication Office. This past summer, she worked as an intern at the  KQED science  desk in San Francisco, producing content for the new program about climate change, “ This Moment on Earth .” She is also a science writer for The Daily Emerald and the student-run environmental magazine Envision Magazine , and a web designer/researcher for marine conservation outreach organization Ocean Everblue . She wants to become an environmental/scientific journalist. You can view her work at  beckyhoag.com .

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Where do i start: how to prepare for your senior thesis.

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All majors here at Yale require the completion of a senior requirement in order to graduate. For some seniors, that may mean completing a project or taking a written or oral exam. For others, like myself, that means writing a semester or year-long thesis about a topic relating to your major of study. According to the Handbook for Directors of Undergraduate Studies in Yale College, “the senior requirement measures whether the student can demonstrate some form of mastering or substantial competence in some significant aspect of the subject of the major.” In other words, this requirement exists to show the knowledge and expertise you have developed through your time here at Yale. So, where do you begin?

A productive desk layout with a notebook, pen and laptop

One of the first things to complete on your “Senior Thesis To-Do List” is finding an advisor. Having an advisor who you are not only comfortable with but who also has experience in the topic you’re interested in is incredibly important. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your advisor and ideally, you want someone who will both push you in exploring your interests and be able to guide you on how best to approach a long thesis paper.

A person working on their laptop

Once you have found an advisor, you should start narrowing down your thesis idea. Do not worry if you don’t have a specific thesis topic right off the bat. I surely didn’t and I’m glad I was able to have the opportunity to talk about topics at length with my advisor before we made a final decision. Begin BIG and then slowly start finding ways to make your thesis specific. My advisor and I had several meetings where we discussed the big topics I was interested in - gender, health, political science - and the various routes my paper could go in depending on the specific question I came up with. You want to find a topic that you are generally interested or passionate about, so take your time and explore.

Two full to the brim bookshelves

After deciding on the specific thesis topic that you’ll be tackling in your paper, it’s time to begin your research and prep for the writing process. Writing a senior essay is a very daunting task. For my major - political science - the senior paper needs to be 25 pages minimum. This paper has the potential of being the longest paper you’ll write during your entire Yale undergraduate career and so, preparation is necessary.

A great resource offered by Yale to undergrads writing their thesis (or any other type of paper)  are library consultations, which you can schedule through the Yale Library Homepage. I recently had a consultation with a librarian in the social studies library and it was such a great experience. We spent about an hour and half talking about my thesis, sections I was possibly thinking about including in my essay and then explored the various databases I could use to find sources.

Tackling the senior thesis is all about patience and time management. It is going to be a long process, whether you’re writing it in one semester or taking the whole academic year. If you don’t pace yourself, it can soon feel overwhelming. So, ease yourself into the research process and take advantage of the resources your advisor and Yale can offer you.

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  • Undergraduate Thesis Writing Guidelines

Undergraduate Thesis Writing Guidelines

What is an Undergraduate Thesis?

How does undergraduate thesis differ from postgraduate thesis, how to choose a good undergraduate thesis topic, start early, ask questions, discuss your topic with your advisor.

An undergraduate thesis (also called Bachelor's dissertation) is a large academic writing piece that requires massive research on the chosen topic. It’s usually assigned during the final year of your degree program (undergraduate is for Bachelor’s degree). The topic choice depends on the interests of a student and the specialty one chooses.

Writing an undergraduate thesis paper is a true challenge for every student. Even if you’re the best in class, this doesn’t mean the volume of work, research, and writing won’t be strenuous for you. If any further assistance is needed, a our top-class thesis writing service  will be of great help!

An undergraduate thesis paper (also - a dissertation) is an important piece, like a term paper with double or triple the length, of about dissertation length . It’s focused on a narrow aspect of a subject and provides an opportunity to do extensive research and provide valuable results to the academic field. Some thesis papers or their parts are even published in scientific journals.

A university supervisor, a specialist in the area, works with the student on every chapter of a thesis paper to develop the right style, adjust the length, and meet every requirement.

There’s a rough classification of thesis papers: an undergraduate thesis and a postgraduate thesis. The first one you write in the last year of the Bachelor’s program . It’s usually around 10,000 to 15,000 words. Postgraduate (Master’s, PhD programs) papers are significantly larger than any term paper you have to write during the first years of study. You can check our detailed guid to find out how long does a thesis have to be . 

Another difference is the level of uniqueness of a paper. In any academic paper, you have to make the research independent and cite every source properly. However, you don’t have to present ideas and theories that haven’t been discovered before. While it’s still an individual thesis paper, the level of responsibility is lower.

All you have to do is to conduct extensive research, create an outline with all required parts, meet every requirement by the faculty, and write the paper. A thesis paper is a very difficult project to complete, no matter if it’s under or postgraduate. But high-quality sources, a great supervisor, and professional guidelines will help you refine it and submit before the deadline.

For a thesis, you’ll need to provide:

  • Critical thinking;
  • A great volume of research;
  • Distinct methodology;
  • Refined discussion section ;
  • Overall quality;
  • Formal style.

When you complete a thesis paper, it means the most difficult part of your college years is over. Even submitting the first draft means you’ve completed the standard mission of every student. 

This is a chance for you to write something important and individual, choosing whatever you are interested in and your faculty approves. Approach the choice of a topic with caution because you will have to focus on it for a long time.

If the topic is difficult to choose, there are special thesis topics  with over 100 options. Combine all the skills you’ve developed during studies and see which topic resonates. A thesis paper is your opportunity to be a real scholar.

We want to propose some recommendations on choosing a great research topic that will not be standard yet will meet every requirement set by your university.

While this is not the easiest advice to give, it’s a necessary and helpful one. If you’re already late for the early start, just think about saving time in order to meet the deadline. You can propose a topic even during the freshman year.

Also, start on writing a research proposal  as early as possible. When you choose the subject, you’ll have to make a submission to the faculty for them to approve it. This should be done later than the freshman year, of course. During the first years, read about thesis papers, learn what skills you will need to develop for yours.

If you’re writing a  thesis conclusion a couple of days or a week before the first presentation, you have started early. Now there’s enough time to do the final proofreading and get some rest from all the work you’ve done.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. The overall knowledge isn’t enough for a draft submission. Think about the outline, discussion, classification of academic papers, formal style of writing. All the questions that emerge should be written down and answered in order to get a clear understanding of what to focus on. 

Teachers, peers, online sources will provide the most helpful information necessary for your curiosity satisfaction. 

When you get an advisor, they will be the main source of information for a while. Talk to them about everything, even the details like how to cite sources. Discuss the areas of your interest, which one will be the most suitable, how to format and connect different parts, etc.

Don’t cover yourself with notes and questions all the time. Give the information some time to settle down. Otherwise, you may get an overload and burn out before the beginning of the main work. When there’s free time, look at the parts required for a thesis paper, what you would include there, how you would write an introduction and an abstract to catch the readers’ attention.

Making your dissertation high-quality will improve chances for an honours degree . Start early, do extensive research, make sure the subject is something you’re really interested in. Every student has something to love about one's specialty, no matter the university. Choose your area of interest, make sure you have enough time to write, get a supervisor, and you will do it!

And remember, one of the best things you can do to get help is asking a professional for assistance with one chapter or the whole thesis paper. See the full list of our services and choose whatever will bring you closer to the deadline.

If you want to deliver a senior thesis and start a professional career quickly, then you need not only to research a topic well but also to find all the necessary information for the final work and know how to properly format and structure a thesis. Thus, having a clear plan and understanding what s...

Are you about to write a bachelor thesis? Congratulations - you are on the home straight and need to take the very last but important step to earn a bachelor’s degree. You have successfully handled all academic assignments; however, it doesn’t make bachelor thesis writing any easier. Writing a thesi...

Before graduating from school, some students wonder if everyone must do a college thesis. You might hear various things, but the truth is a thesis is not always required from graduate students to complete their school programs. Of course, it depends on many things, including the type of study. Some ...

Thesis Writing

Thesis Format

Caleb S.

Thesis Format - Detailed Guideline and Template

Published on: Apr 23, 2019

Last updated on: Oct 17, 2023

Thesis Format

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Writing a thesis can be a daunting task as it requires chapters of research work. However, learning from those who have tackled this task can make the process smoother. Moreover, students must also follow strict formatting requirements in  thesis writing .

It is always better to consult the supervisor to determine the proper thesis structure format and writing style. Any deviations from the formatting guidelines may lead to the rejection of the thesis proposal.

If you are working on your thesis and need guidance about how to format a thesis. Refer to this guide to get a better idea of a good thesis format.

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Thesis Format Definition

A thesis format is a set of rules you should follow to plan, structure, and organize your main ideas. It is essential to give a logical direction to the thesis paper.

Moreover, the structure is the first thing that the supervisors notice while going through your essays, papers, or thesis. Therefore, students must follow a proper format. However, it is a stressful task for those people who are unfamiliar with the right template.

Every institution follows its formatting guidelines for thesis and dissertation. It is beneficial for a student to know them before getting started with the paper. Moreover, they can also consult with the teacher to get a better understanding of the concept.

Remember, a poorly formatted thesis can affect your grades. Therefore, pay close attention to this section while writing your project.

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What is the Proper Thesis Format?

A thesis format usually consists of four major sections.

Section 1 - Preliminary Pages

  • Title page (required)
  • Dedication (optional)
  • Acknowledgment (optional)
  • Abstract (required)
  • Table of contents (required)
  • List of tables (required)
  • List of figures (required)
  • List of abbreviations (optional)

Section 2 - Text

  • Introduction (referred to as Chapter 1)
  • Body of Thesis

Section 3 - References/ Bibliography (required)

Section 4 - Appendices (optional)

The sections of the thesis paper format are discussed below in detail.

Preliminary Pages

Preliminary pages are the write-ups that come before the main chapters of your thesis. They are counted in sequence. Moreover, such pages are used to arrange and divide the various sections logically.

The following are the main parts of the preliminary pages.

The title page serves as a basic introduction to your thesis research. It is a meaningful description of your work. Furthermore, a thesis title page format must include the following elements:

  • The topic of the thesis
  • Student name
  • Supervisor name
  • Institution
  • Date of submission

However, never put a page number on this page.

Check out our compiled list of  thesis topics  to get amazing ideas for your work.

Dedication is one of the preliminary pages of your thesis. It includes the dedication of your research work to your loved ones or the people that hold it in high regard. It is an optional page but should be numbered with Roman numerals if included.

On the acknowledgment page, the writer appreciates and acknowledges the people who contributed directly or indirectly to the research. These may include the supervisor, advisors, and the parents who supported you to produce successful wor

The abstract is a description of your work. It should briefly state the research methodology, research problem, conclusion, and results. Moreover, an abstract is of 100-150 words that roughly makes 5-10 sentences.

The table of contents contains a list of headings and subheadings of the thesis with the page numbers. This section must be numbered with Roman numerals at the center bottom of each page.

Also, make sure to write the text with double spacing and follow the supervisor’s format.

Tables usually list the tabulated numerical data. Thus, a list of tables is a type of reference tool that includes table titles and numbers. It enables the readers to quickly navigate through the data on a thesis page. Moreover, it is similar to creating a table of contents and also includes page numbers.

Some common types of figures include images, charts, maps, drawings, and graphs. Thus, the list of figures in a thesis must consist of the figure titles and numbers. Furthermore, this section also follows the same format of thesis used in the table of contents.

Remember to use double spacing and Roman numerals for page numbers.

A list of abbreviations includes unfamiliar terms, symbols, acronyms, and their meaning. These can be in different fields and languages like Latin and English abbreviations.

The text contains well-defined parts and chapters discussing the analysis of your thesis. Also, it should start with page 1 in Arabic numerals.

The main chapters included in the text are given below.

It is referred to as the first chapter of a thesis project. A good  thesis introduction  must state the following aspects.

  • The purpose of the study
  • The problem being studied
  • The background of the research (context and importance)
  • Previous work by other scholars
  • A methodological approach to carry the research
  • Criteria for the success of the research

The important parts of the main body are as follows.

  • Theoretical Framework -  It discusses the research problem within the framework of a theory. Moreover, it will further develop a theoretical basis for your methodology design.
  • Methodological Procedures -  List and describe the key methodology and designs used to conduct the thesis work. Similarly, this section can also use visuals to illustrate the testing procedures.
  • Findings -  The findings usually present the results with the help of tables and graphs. Furthermore, you can also characterize the result patterns by estimating their accuracy.
  • Discussion -  This section will discuss the results and their significance in detail. You can also compare the results with the relevant theories.

The following are the major elements of a thesis conclusion.

  • Summarize the Research -  Provide a brief summary of the research approach and the findings. Also, review and relate the results to the problem statement.
  • Assess Your Study -  This section will assess your work’s success according to the success criteria mentioned in the introduction. Similarly, it will also discuss how well the results matched your expectations.
  • State Your Contributions -  It will state the contribution of your research to the knowledge in your field. Explain how the study helps solve the problem statement and address the gap in the existing literature.
  • Recommendation -  Here, discuss how the results have confirmed or challenged an existing theory and recommend future research directions.

References/ Bibliography

This section contains an alphabetical list of all the sources used in the research. Follow the bibliography, footnote, and thesis reference format guidelines specified by the institution.

However, if your referencing section is longer than two pages, classify and divide it into subsections. It should be done according to the type of sources (books, journals, etc.) or time period.

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A writer must provide calculations, procedures, and data in separate and detailed appendices. Moreover, give each appendix a letter (A, B, C), a title, and an introduction paragraph.

Refer to the below-given document to understand the format template of a thesis paper.

Thesis Format Template

Thesis Format Sample

Here are some thesis format examples to get a better understanding.

MLA Thesis Format

APA Thesis Format

Baby Thesis Format

Undergraduate Thesis Format

Masters Thesis Format

PhD Thesis Format

Thesis Format for Computer Science

Thesis Paper Formatting Tips

Here are some expert tips to format your  thesis proposal  or final thesis draft.

  • Use the A4 page size for a thesis paper.
  • Times New Roman 12pt and Arial 11pt are the commonly used font style and size.
  • There should be 1.5 line spacing for the text and single spacing for the quotations.
  • The right/left margin should be set to 1.25 inches, and the top/bottom margin must be set to 1 inch.
  • All pages must be numbered in Roman numerals except the title page. It must be placed in the bottom center of each page.
  • Use a citation style recommended by your instructor. It may include APA, MLA, and Chicago referencing.
  • Italics are used for writing books and journal titles.
  • Bold text should be used within the text for headings and subheadings.
  • Use short and simple words for the readers to understand easily.
  • Capitalize the first letter of the important words in headings and titles.
  • Do not change the all-cap style used for acronyms, e.g., AIDS.

Formatting and writing a thesis is a challenging task for most people, as it requires a lot of time. It can be stressful for students who work within a limited time frame. As a result, they end up submitting a low-quality thesis.

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How to Write an Undergraduate Thesis

Every student who is going to finish his undergraduate degree should prepare a good thesis paper that will summarize the process of his education. Though undergraduate students already possess knowledge about academic writing, their experience and qualification are still poor and require improvement. When you have questions and concerns about the right organization of an undergraduate thesis, follow our writing tips below.

Step One: Choose a Good Topic for Research

The initial duty of every student is to choose a good topic that will be useful for analysis. One should remember that this topic should be closely connected with his major field of study and his major discipline. It is wise to generate a relevant and thought provoking topic that will be useful for your personal-development. Furthermore, this problem should be enough narrow to simplify the process of writing, because you will find a broad topic difficult for successful and effective analysis.

Step Two: Discuss Your Paper with Advisor

It is important to discuss your thesis with your academic advisor in order to clarify the process of writing and to understand what you need to research and how you will do it. Ask your advisor about the format of your thesis and get to know about its structure, sections and the type of information required for writing. Try to learn about all these aspects as soon as possible in order to avoid unexpected problems and urgent revisions.

Step Three: Research Your Subject

It is impossible to succeed in writing of your undergraduate thesis if you do not collect enough facts about the problem. You should look through articles in the Internet, textbooks and periodicals to find facts and arguments that will support your point of view about the main problem. You are able to read a lot and collect as many facts as possible in order to research your topic from all sides. After that, you will need to filter this information and choose the most worthy arguments and materials that will suit to your thesis for undergraduate degree.

Step Four: Complete All Main Sections

When you write your thesis, you should know about the rules of writing and about all chapters that should be included into your assignment. First, one should prepare an effective and persuasive introduction with a good thesis statement in order to attract reader’s attention. Then, it is time to complete an effective abstract that will summarize your thesis. After that, you should design the body of your thesis and insert all essential ideas into this text. Finally, one should conclude his thesis wisely, prepare a good references section and mention all sources that have been used for research.

writing an undergraduate thesis

How to Write a Good:

  • Research Paper
  • Dissertation
  • Book Report
  • Book Review
  • Personal Statement
  • Research Proposal
  • PowerPoint Presentation
  • Reaction Paper
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Grant Proposal
  • Capstone Project
  • Movie Review
  • Creative Writing
  • Critical Thinking
  • Article Critique
  • Literature Review
  • Research Summary
  • English Composition
  • Short Story
  • Poem Analysis
  • Reflection Paper
  • Disciplines

Thesis Levels

  • Master's thesis
  • Thesis proposal
  • Undergraduate Thesis

Cognitive Science

Writing a senior honors thesis.

Undergraduates are encouraged to take advantage of all the exciting and groundbreaking research taking place in the Cognitive Science program at UC Davis.

Graduating with Honors requires a qualifying GPA, set by the  College of Letters and Sciences . Cognitive Science majors that meet this GPA requirement and wish to write an honors thesis can follow these steps:

1) Identify a Faculty Sponsor who is willing to mentor an Honors Thesis. 

Ideally this individual will be a member of the faculty whose home department is providing substantial coursework for the Cognitive Science Major. This currently includes: Psychology, Philosophy, Linguistics, Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior (NPB), Communications and Computer Science.  In most cases, the student will have worked closely with the faculty mentor for at least a year prior to beginning the thesis.

2) Form a Committee. 

The Honors Thesis Evaluation Committee will be a two-person committee. This committee will evaluate and grade the honor thesis (i.e. highest honors, high honors, honors). The evaluation committee will be made up of the faculty mentor and one additional faculty member from a Cognitive Science affiliated department.  

3) Propose a project. 

The student should meet with the faculty mentor and develop a written proposal that clearly:  

  • Reflects significant original research.
  • Articulates the research to be conducted.
  • Motivates the project, citing relevant theoretical background.
  • Addresses how this project embraces/derives from a cross-disciplinary perspective.

4) Submit the Undergraduate Thesis Application .

The Undergraduate Thesis Application should be filled out with the chosen Faculty Sponsor and the Cognitive Science  Faculty Advisor . Submit completed and signed form to [email protected] .

5) Complete two quarters of independent study coursework (CGS 194HA & HB, 3 units/quarter, graded) with the faculty mentor while working on the project and thesis.

The written proposal must be approved by the student’s Honors Evaluation Committee by the end of the first quarter of the students 194HA coursework. Note, this coursework must be taken with a grading option (i.e. not P/No Pass).

6) The final thesis will document the student’s efforts and products (research findings, website, computer program, etc.).

The written project should re-articulate the goals outlined in (3). It should be submitted to the Honor’s Evaluation Committee prior to the last day of instruction. Students will be awarded High Honors for a satisfactory thesis and Highest Honors for an ambitious and extremely well executed thesis.


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  1. What Is a Thesis?

    Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.

  2. How to Write a Thesis Statement

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  6. Thesis Generator

    A good thesis statement acknowledges that there is always another side to the argument. So, include an opposing viewpoint (a counterargument) to your opinion. Basically, write down what a person who disagrees with your position might say about your topic. television can be educational. GENERATE YOUR THESIS.

  7. Getting Started

    The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

  8. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    Revised on July 18, 2023. When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic.

  9. Creating a Thesis Statement, Thesis Statement Tips

    Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement. 1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing: An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.; An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.; An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies ...

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    Begin by introducing your dissertation topic and giving any necessary background information. It's important to contextualize your research and generate interest. Aim to show why your topic is timely or important. You may want to mention a relevant news item, academic debate, or practical problem. Example topic

  11. Writing a Senior Thesis: Is it Worth it?

    Before coming to Yale, I thought a thesis was the main argument of a paper. I quickly learned that an undergraduate thesis is about fifty times harder and fifty pages longer than any thesis arguments I wrote in high school. At Yale, every senior has some sort of senior requirement, but thesis projects vary by department. Some departments require students to do a semester-long

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    Just like anything else, though, writing is a skill you will learn to develop with practice. Below are the Writing Center's top undergraduate writing tips to help you get started. ... a body, and a conclusion. An introduction provides background on the topic and includes your thesis statement. In essence, the introduction prepares the reader ...

  13. My Experience Writing an Undergraduate Thesis

    To write my undergraduate thesis, I had two options (this may vary depending on what department you're in!). First, I could join the Senior Thesis Seminar offered by department. These seminars group students together who are interested in doing a thesis and teach them research skills and background information.

  14. PDF Handbook to Writing an Undergraduate Honors Thesis

    Writing an Honors undergraduate thesis may be the first step in one's lifelong journey towards professional success. It is an experience that can be profoundly rewarding and can propel one's career towards greater opportunities. Coming from your junior year, the first question a Freeman Scholar asks is "Where and how do I ...


    12. Leave time for the chair to read your completed thesis or dissertation . at least twice. before giving it to your committee members. Don't expect to submit the completed thesis or dissertation for the first time to the chair and defend in the same or following week. Also, it is customary to give the thesis or dissertation to committee members

  16. What Is a Dissertation?

    Results Discussion Conclusion Reference list Appendices Proofreading and editing Defending your dissertation Free checklist and lecture slides Dissertation committee and prospectus process When you've finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to "ABD" (All But Dissertation) status.

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    Writing a thesis is the closest you can come as an undergraduate to understanding what advanced graduate study will look like . It provides you with the ... thesis writing workshops (Ling 99a and Ling 99b) The research skills you'll learn in . these courses will be valuable to you while you work on your thesis, and, ideally, they'll ...

  18. Undergraduate Program

    The Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Marcus Mayo, is available to consult at any point regarding general questions about the senior thesis writing process. In conjunction with the Senior Thesis Adviser, they will coordinate the initial meeting of concentrators interested in writing a thesis in the spring term of their junior year.

  19. Five tips for tackling the undergraduate thesis

    If you start writing too soon, you might find yourself making more assumptions about what you will find, rather than writing about what you actually found. 3. Start citing sources early. You'll thank yourself later. Programs like Mendeley or Zotero can help with this. Make sure you know what citation style to use. 4.

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    Writing a senior essay is a very daunting task. For my major - political science - the senior paper needs to be 25 pages minimum. This paper has the potential of being the longest paper you'll write during your entire Yale undergraduate career and so, preparation is necessary. A great resource offered by Yale to undergrads writing their ...

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    An undergraduate thesis (also called Bachelor's dissertation) is a large academic writing piece that requires massive research on the chosen topic. It's usually assigned during the final year of your degree program (undergraduate is for Bachelor's degree). The topic choice depends on the interests of a student and the specialty one chooses.

  23. A Complete Thesis Format Guide for Students

    8 min read Published on: Apr 23, 2019 Last updated on: Oct 17, 2023 On This Page Thesis Format Definition What is the Proper Thesis Format? Thesis Format Sample Thesis Paper Formatting Tips Writing a thesis can be a daunting task as it requires chapters of research work.

  24. How to Write an Undergraduate Thesis

    How to Write an Undergraduate Thesis Every student who is going to finish his undergraduate degree should prepare a good thesis paper that will summarize the process of his education. Though undergraduate students already possess knowledge about academic writing, their experience and qualification are still poor and require improvement.

  25. Writing a Senior Honors Thesis

    The Undergraduate Thesis Application should be filled out with the chosen Faculty Sponsor and the Cognitive Science Faculty Advisor. Submit completed and signed form to [email protected]. 5) Complete two quarters of independent study coursework (CGS 194HA & HB, 3 units/quarter, graded) with the faculty mentor while working on the ...