The Senior Essay or Senior Thesis

The Senior Essay and the Thesis

Every student who completes the major in Comparative Studies writes a senior essay or a thesis.  The essay or the thesis is completed in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar,” a writing workshop offered every Spring in which students share drafts, present their work orally, and receive detailed feedback from their peers.  Whichever is chosen, the senior research project serves as a capstone experience for students in the major, and results in a piece of original work that can be shared with the Comparative Studies community.  The essay or thesis may also be valuable as a writing sample if students apply to graduate or professional schools, or pursue a wide range of careers that value individual initiative and effective communication.

I. Making a choice

The senior essay option

If you choose to write the senior essay you will complete most of the work of research and writing during the Spring semester of your senior year, while enrolled in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar.”  You may either revise and expand a paper you wrote for another course (usually, but not always, a course in Comparative Studies), or begin and complete a research paper on a new topic.  Senior essays vary in length, but are typically around 12–15 pages (and sometimes longer if they are expanded versions of earlier essays).

The thesis option

If you who choose to write a thesis you will typically begin working on it during the Autumn semester of senior year (and sometimes during the preceding summer) by enrolling in CS 4999 or 4999H (“Undergraduate Thesis” or “Honors Thesis”).  You will then complete the writing while enrolled in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar.”  Theses vary considerably in length, but are typically between 25 and 40 pages.  The thesis process also includes an oral “exam” (really more like a conversation about the completed work with your advisor and one or more other faculty members).  If you choose the thesis option you are eligible to graduate with “Research Distinction” or “Honors Research Distinction.”

Research Distinction

To graduate with Research Distinction in Comparative Studies or with Research Distinction (if the thesis is completed in another discipline), you must meet the following requirements:

·         Complete a minimum of 60 graded credit hours at Ohio State

·         Graduate with minimum GPA of 3.0

·         Submit “Application for Graduation with Research Distinction” no later than the semester before graduation and before taking CS 4999

·         Complete at least 4 credit hours of CS 4999 (these may be spread over more than one term)

·         Complete and successfully defend the thesis during an oral examination

For a more detailed list of instructions, see: https://artsandsciences.osu.edu/academics/current-students/advising-academics/graduation

Honors Research Distinction

If you are in the Honors Program you may graduate with Honors Research Distinction in Comparative Studies or with Honors Research Distinction (if the thesis is completed in another discipline) by meeting the following requirements:

·         Be enrolled in the ASC Honors Program and complete an approved Honors Contract

·         Complete a minimum of 60 graded credit hours at Ohio State

·         Graduate with minimum GPA of 3.4

·         Submit “Undergraduate Thesis Application” no later than semester before graduation and before taking CS 4999H

·         Complete at least 4 credit hours of CS 4999H (may be spread over more than one term)

·         Complete and successfully defend the thesis during an oral examination

For a more detailed list of instructions, see: https://aschonors.osu.edu/honors/research-thesis

II. Getting Started

Planning ahead

Both the senior essay and the thesis require some advance planning, though the timeline for the thesis is typically longer.  If you choose to write the senior essay, you should have selected a paper to revise and expand, or else identified a topic for a new research paper, no later than the semester before you enroll in 4990.  You will need to submit your draft or proposal for a first round of peer review early in Spring semester. 

If you choose to write the thesis, you should have identified a topic and an advisor by the start of Autumn quarter of your senior year (some students choose a topic in the Spring of junior year and begin work in the summer) so you can enroll in 4999 and begin your research. 

Note: If your research involves other human beings (for example, collecting oral histories, conducting interviews, or administering surveys) or animals, please be aware that it may require prior approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB).   This can be a time-consuming process and involves collaboration with your faculty advisor, so you will need to build extra time into your schedule. For further information, see: https://ugresearch.osu.edu/Pages/humanandanimal.aspx.

Choosing a topic and advisor

Whether you write the senior essay or the thesis, nothing is more important than the choice of a topic.  It should be something that engages you, that sparks your curiosity or imagination, and that has stakes that matter to you.   But it should also be a topic of manageable scale, one that can adequately be explored in the time available to you.  Your faculty advisor can help you to shape your project at the outset, and to make any necessary adjustments along the way.

No formal advisor is required for the senior essay.  If you choose to revise and expand an earlier paper, you may want to reconnect with the instructor for whom you wrote the original.  They may well be willing to serve as an informal advisor as you undertake your revisions.  If choosing a new topic, you may wish to speak with a professor in the department or on our affiliated faculty with expertise in the subject matter.  Each of you also has your own faculty advisor with whom you can confer, as well as the professor who will be teaching 4990.

If you write a thesis you must have a formal thesis advisor: he or she will supervise any thesis research courses you take (4999), the writing of the thesis itself, and the oral exam at the end of the process.  This might be the same person as your faculty advisor but it need not be.  You should choose someone with whom you are comfortable (usually because you have been in a class together before) and who has enough knowledge of the subject matter to guide your work.  You may wish to speak informally with more than one professor before making a final decision.

Seeking funding

There are several sources of funding for undergraduate research.  Arts and Sciences awards two kinds of scholarships on a competitive basis each academic year; each requires a letter of support from an academic advisor, and preference is given to students planning to write a thesis. Undergraduate Research Scholarships range from $500 to $12,000.  Applications for a given academic year are due in early February of the preceding year.  International Research Grants provide up to $4,000 for research-related travel abroad for students in Arts and Sciences.  There are two application cycles per academic year.  For more information, see: http://aschonors.osu.edu/opportunities/scholarships/undergrad.

The Division of Arts and Humanities provides Undergraduate Research Small Grants (up to $500) to help fund travel to things like conferences, research collections, and exhibitions and to purchase materials for research or creative activity.  The Aida Cannarsa Endowment Fund offers grants of $500 to $3,000 to students in arts and humanities, with priority given to those with demonstrated financial need.  Applications for both are reviewed twice a year.

See: https://artsandsciences.osu.edu/academics/current-students/scholarships-grants/research.

There may be additional sources of funding, on and off campus, for particular kinds of projects.  You should consult with your advisor and the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Please note that research funding involving human subjects may require prior IRB approval (see above).

III. PRESENTING YOUR WORK

Every Spring, there are opportunities for Comparative Studies students to present the results of their research, whether they choose to write the senior essay or the thesis.  The Richard J. and Martha D. Denman Undergraduate Research Forum is a university-wide showcase of undergraduate work that awards prizes by areas of interest (for example, Humanities).  There is a competitive abstract submission process in January, and a day devoted to presentations in late March.  Though most of the forum involves poster presentations, Humanities majors give brief oral presentations (8-10 minutes) on their work to faculty judges.

In April, the Department of Comparative Studies hosts its own Undergraduate Research Colloquium.  Students submit paper abstracts in February—300 words or fewer that describe the project’s central questions, methodologies, theoretical framework, and (tentative) conclusions.  Students may choose to give a 10-minute presentation on work in progress or a 20-minute presentation on completed work (by April everyone enrolled in 4990 should be ready to give a presentation).  This is a more relaxed atmosphere, with an audience of your peers and friends, as well as faculty and graduate students in the department.

IV. TIMELINES

Senior Essay Timeline

Autumn of senior year

·         Choose a topic

Spring of senior year

·         Enroll in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar”

Thesis Timeline

Spring of junior year

·         Identify an advisor

·         Choose a topic

Summer between junior and senior years (optional)

·         Enroll in CS 4998 or 4998H, “Undergraduate Research in Comparative Studies” (2 credits)

Autumn of senior year

·         Submit “Application for Graduation with Research Distinction” or “Undergraduate Thesis Application”

·         Enroll in CS 4999, “Undergraduate Thesis” or 4999H, “Honors Thesis” (2 credits)

Spring of senior year

·         Enroll in CS 4990, “Senior Seminar”

·         Enroll in Enroll in CS 4999, “Undergraduate Thesis” or 4999H, “Honors Thesis” (2 credits)

·         Oral exam

 

V. OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION

You can find copies of undergraduate theses online at the OSU Knowledge Bank: https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/handle/1811/134.

Further information on undergraduate research opportunities is available at: http://www.undergraduateresearch.osu.edu/.

 

 

 

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