students in anthropology class

Senior Thesis Guidelines


The senior thesis is designed to provide students an additional sustained and focused opportunity to do an intense piece of research and writing in any area of anthropology under the mentorship of one or two members of the department with the endorsement of all the anthropology faculty.

A senior thesis must be based on an original analysis of primary data identified or collected by the student. Likewise, the thesis should build explicitly and substantively upon on the student’s previous work related to anthropology. This may include:

  • course work,
  • off-campus study experiences,
  • internships,
  • mentored research,
  • independent study, or
  • other personal experiences that are relevant to the topic of the thesis.

The thesis should include a thorough review of relevant previous literature and develop an original argument on the topic. In addition to the final written paper, students are required to do a public presentation of their thesis on campus and strongly encouraged to present their work in other academic contexts beyond the College.

Please Note: While all senior theses count as MAPs, not all MAPs count as senior theses. Senior theses must follow the application procedure outlined below which includes but goes beyond the MAP application.

Non-senior thesis MAPs may not substitute for a senior seminar in meeting the requirements of the major.

Application Procedure

Enrollment in a senior thesis MAP is not automatic. Students must secure a thesis adviser from the department faculty and apply for permission to the entire faculty of the department to complete a senior thesis. The application consists of a written proposal (discussed below) that explains the thesis topic and the student’s ability to successfully complete it. Anthropology faculty will assess a student’s preparation for and ability to complete a successful thesis by the end of the semester. The department will evaluate thesis applications after the mid-semester break and will notify candidates of the departmental decision before the end of pre-registration. At that time, a second faculty reader may or may not be assigned, depending upon relevancy and expertise.

Thesis Proposal Components

Students seeking to write a senior thesis must submit a proposal that addresses the following components and is no more than 1,200 words including a Works Cited page. Please submit materials using the senior thesis form.

The components of the uploaded proposal must include the following:

  1. Statement of the research question to be investigated and statement of significance.
  2. Literature review — brief overview of different ways this topic has been treated in recent scholarship.

    We envision a discussion that contextualizes where the student’s topic fits within a larger area of anthropological research. This may include disciplinary conversations that address theories, topics, histories, world areas, and/methodologies. The student, working with his/her adviser and other members of the department, should identify and briefly discuss some of the important approaches that have been taken to the topic and cite them appropriately in text.

  3. Explanation of methods to be used and, if the thesis entails work with living persons, an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application upon approval of the thesis proposal.
  4. A Works Cited page that includes all references in the body of the proposal.

Evaluation Criteria

The merit of the senior thesis proposal will be evaluated based upon the following criteria:

  1. Sufficient preparation for undertaking the project with explicit rationale linking it to the thesis proposal
  2. Suitability for a semester-long project
  3. Source of data is appropriate for inquiry and likelihood of collecting data in the proposed timeframe
  4. Clear statement of methods being used
  5. Success in contextualizing research questions within anthropological literature
  6. Degree of work that has already been conducted

Senior Thesis Application Deadlines

There are several deadlines involved in the proposal to write a senior thesis.

These include:

  1. The senior thesis proposal is due the semester before the student proposes to undertake the thesis.
  2. Contact a potential thesis adviser in the beginning weeks of the semester that the proposal is due and consult with them formally by the fourth week of the semester at the latest. Under normal circumstances, the thesis adviser will be a regular, as opposed to term, faculty member. Final approval of the first (and second, if applicable) advisor(s) for the thesis will be made by the department.
  3. Submit preliminary proposal to adviser by a date determined in consultation with adviser.
  4. Submit final thesis proposal electronically to the department via the link above by Friday of mid-semester week. This means the thesis proposal must be submitted before fall break or before spring break depending upon the semester in which the thesis is to be undertaken.
  5. Receive notification from department by the beginning of preregistration.
  6. If approved by the department, submit the required MAP application by the deadline published by the Registrar. (This deadline is the Monday after preregistration.)

Final Thesis Preparation and Submission

Students should plan to begin actual writing no later than mid-semester. This means that a considerable part of the necessary research must be completed prior to the beginning of the semester. It is the department’s expectation that the student will work closely with the primary faculty supervisor throughout the semester and consult with additional faculty members as advised.

Senior theses in anthropology may follow two models.

  • One is the traditional thesis model which is 40 to 60 pages long;
  • the other model is an article-length paper with a focused argument that is 25–30 pages.

Examples of previous theses are available for examination in the Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC). In preparing the final draft, students should use one of the major citation and bibliographic styles used in the discipline. (See the guidelines of the American Anthropological Association for an example.) The timing of a student’s oral presentation of the thesis will be based on mutual agreement, normally prior to final examination week. The student should submit an electronic version of the thesis to Patty Dale, academic support staff in HSSC. The student should also prepare two copies of the final draft of the thesis, one for the advisor and one for department files.

Summary of Thesis Semester Timeline

  • Beginning of semester: consultations with faculty supervisor(s)
  • Mid-term: begin writing
  • Second to last or last week of classes: public oral presentation of thesis
  • Final exam week: submit signed final draft of thesis to department

Funding for Thesis Research and Off-Campus Presentations

All senior theses are considered Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs). Under this program, the College may provide some funding for expenses incurred during the completion of a thesis through the MAP program. Application for such funds must be included in the budget request section of the MAP form.

There is also funding for students to present their theses at appropriate professional meetings any time within a year of graduation. Application for these funds is through the Dean’s office once a paper has been accepted for presentation at a conference.

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