The Senior Thesis
This section provides basic guidelines and information on the senior honors thesis. However, in an interdisciplinary program such as African and African American Studies, concentrators should bear in mind that many students (especially joint concentrators) will want to use the guidelines of the major discipline in which their thesis falls. If students have any questions, they should ask their advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
The senior thesis is intended to be an essay that explores in depth a topic of interest to the student. Acceptable topics include exploring aspects of African or African American history, literature, culture, music, economics, politics, or sociology and any analysis in which an African or African American subject matter is a significant item of comparison. Possible topics should be discussed early with thesis advisors (or the Director of Undergraduate Studies). It is a good idea to prepare the prospectus well before deadlines.
A thesis, by definition, is a proposition, an assertion, supported by arguments, not a mere collection of data. This does not mean that students must start their research with a definite theme or statement. It means that when students have finished their research, they should systematically try to arrange their material in such a way that the reader will be aware of their purpose and direction.
Therefore, students should define in the thesis introduction the problems with which they are going to deal and explain in what way and in what order they plan to discuss those issues. Every part of the body of the thesis should be part of an argument. Just as the reader should never be in doubt about what the writer is trying to prove, so the thesis writer should never be in doubt about how a particular fact or point fits into the development of the thesis. Finally, in the thesis conclusion, students should restate the main points they have made in the course of the thesis and briefly summarize the developments leading to these main points or lessons.
Students should address themselves to a well-informed reader. Facts or ideas likely to be familiar to such a reader need not be fully written out. In addition, try to avoid repetitions and irrelevancies, both in your arguments and in your selection of facts.
Social Engagement Thesis
Students also have the option to write a social engagement thesis. The Social Engagement thesis encourages students to think “outside the box” and incorporate academic work with social entrepreneurship. For more information about the Social Engagement Thesis, please visit the Social Engagement Thesis page.