Senior Thesis / Independent Study

Thesis proposal guidelines

  1. Select two advisors and choose a central question: Each student who majors in Critical Social Thought (CST) shall meet with the program chair and the director of advising, preferably during the first semester of her sophomore year, to discuss her intellectual interests and to select two advisors from the critical social thought faculty who will help her sculpt her curriculum around a central question of her choice. 
  2. Propose a title and curriculum: To declare her major in the program and using the proposal template, the student must submit to the chair a title describing her question, a list of the courses she proposes to take for credit in her major, and the signatures of her two CST advisors. Proposal examples from previous students may help clarify what is needed.
  3. Write a proposal: Later, she must compose a two-to-three page proposal that identifies the focus of her program, explains its genesis and significance, and lists the courses she has taken and intends to take to satisfy the requirements of the major. 
  4. A final draft of this proposal with the signatures of her two advisors shall be submitted to the program chair by the end of the first semester of the student's junior year, or by the end of the second semester of her sophomore year if she plans to be away in the fall of her junior year.


  • If any of the following dates fall on a weekend, count the Monday after that weekend as the correct date, please.
  • Students who wish to pursue an honors project in CST should follow the procedures and schedule below.
  • Students need a 3.00 GPA to enter the honors program.
  • In CST, an “honors” award for a thesis signifies a well-conceived, well-executed, well-written thesis that is clear, independent-minded, imaginative, and carefully supported with argument and/or evidence.
  • “High honors” signifies that the thesis warrants special distinction for its unusual rigor, breadth of knowledge, and insight.
  • “Summa” signifies that the thesis is so beautifully sculpted, original, and compelling as to be truly extraordinary; this recognition is awarded only to students with a GPA of 3.75.

Junior Year

1. Choose a Thesis Topic

In the spring of your junior year, choose a thesis topic. This topic ordinarily will be connected to the thematic question animating your CST curricular program.  At the same time, the topic should be more limited in scope than that question, so that you can write an essay of depth on it of between 50 and our upper limit of 100 pages, including endnotes and bibliography.  (For example, a student whose CST program theme is “Disenchantment and Modernity” might choose, as her thesis topic, the relation of disillusionment to political commitment in the work of Richard Wright, Albert Camus, and Doris Lessing; or the centrality of disillusionment to the theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber; or the challenge posed to modern disenchantment by contemporary fundamentalist movements. What she can’t do is to write a thesis on all possible aspects of modern disenchantment.) A thesis in the creative or performing arts must include a significant piece of analytical writing that probes the critical social questions the thesis explores via painting, playwriting, photography, documentary film, fiction, etc.

2. Choose an Advisor

Approach a faculty member whom you wish to serve as the major advisor for your project. Normally this should be a CST faculty member or affiliate, but you may choose a professor outside the program as your major advisor if no CST faculty member has the intellectual expertise to guide you. If you complete a thesis, however, at least two of the three readers on your examining committee must be CST faculty, and one must be a member of the CST faculty steering committee. If you choose your first reader (your major advisor) from outside the CST faculty, you must arrange a meeting between that advisor and the CST chair in the fall of your senior year so that the outside advisor can be informed of our program’s thesis procedures. A student doing a thesis in the creative or performing arts must ask at least one faculty member from the art in question to be a thesis advisor.

3. Register for Fall Independent Study

During spring advising period, sign up for 4 credits in CST 395 (independent study) for the following fall with the professor you have selected as your major thesis advisor. You must do this in addition to signing up for CST 350, even though you will be using 350 to write a section of your thesis. 

4. Submit Thesis Announcement

By May 1, submit to the CST chair a one-page thesis announcement that includes:

  • Your name
  • Email address
  • P.O. Box
  • Name and signature of major thesis advisor
  • Preliminary thesis title
  • One-paragraph explanation of your thesis topic, as tightly specified as possible
  • A short preliminary bibliography, if possible

Your thesis advisor’s signature will indicate to the chair that he or she sees your thesis idea as a sound one. Juniors in residence at the College should submit this announcement in hard copy; juniors studying abroad may do so by email, copied to both your thesis advisor and the CST chair.  Students may submit thesis announcements only if they have already submitted their CST program proposals, with their advisors’ signatures, to the CST chair.


5. Research Topic

During the summer between your junior and senior years, do as much reading and research as you can on your thesis topic. Outline the argument of your thesis as you begin to formulate it.  As you read, map out the relation of your research to that outline, noting the texts on which each step of your argument will draw. Develop your thesis bibliography.

Senior Year

6. Schedule Meetings with Your Thesis Advisor

In the first week of the fall semester of your senior year, schedule regular meeting times with your thesis advisor.  While you should use part of this semester to complete your research, be sure you are in the position to begin writing by October. Submit drafts of your chapters to your advisor as you write them.

7. Submit Thesis Proposal

By October 20, submit a 3 - 5 page thesis proposal to your thesis advisor. On the cover sheet, write your name, the provisional title of your thesis, and the name of your major thesis advisor. In the proposal, describe the topic, scope, and argument of your thesis as you envision it at this point and append your developed bibliography.  Once your thesis advisor approves your proposal, submit it with your advisor’s signature to the CST chair. All proposals must be submitted to the chair by December 1.

8. Register for Spring Independent Study

If your thesis advisor agrees that your thesis project is on track, sign up for 4 credits of CST 395 for spring with that advisor (see qualification below).  Discuss possible second and third readers for your project with your advisor, and ask them if they will serve before the fall semester ends.  If you decide not to submit a thesis for honors consideration, you may continue your independent work in CST if you wish to do so and if your advisor agrees to continue to oversee your work, as long as your final paper for CST 350 was substantial enough and well-argued enough to have received a grade of at least a B. No senior may take a spring semester 395 in CST, whether for thesis work or not, unless she has received at least a B on her final paper for CST 350.  (This paper should be a thesis chapter for CST students who are writing theses.)  Submit that paper, with your CST 350 professor’s grade and comments, to your CST 395 advisor the first week of the spring semester.

9. Continue to Write Thesis

During January, continue to write your thesis.  A full first draft of the thesis, including an outline of the thesis chapters with their provisional titles, must be submitted to your advisor by February 20.  If at this time you think your thesis may exceed our 100-page limit, you must make an appointment to discuss this with the CST chair. Either at the same time or after your advisor has read and commented on this draft; submit the draft to your second reader for comments. Begin revising to address your readers’ criticisms.

10. Advisor to Inform CST

By March 30, your major thesis advisor must inform the CST faculty of whether or not your thesis will be presented for honors consideration.  If you are going forward, submit your most recent draft to your third reader for critical comments by the same date.  Continue to revise.

11. Submit Thesis

By April 20, submit two copies of your completed thesis to the CST chair and a copy to each of the three members of your examining committee.  CST faculty who wish to participate in the honors process should sign out the thesis from the chair’s office. Contact the CST chair and all the members of your examining committee to arrange a date, time, and place for your oral presentation.  The CST administrative assistant, Patricia Ware (x2132) ,can help you book a room for two hours for this event (one hour for your oral defense; one hour for the committee to evaluate your work).

12. Present Thesis

Immediately following the end of classes, you will present your thesis to the program chair and the three members of your examining committee.  You may invite two or three guests (but not a crowd, please) to this oral presentation. Expect to talk for the first half hour on how you came to your thesis topic, the main line of argument in your thesis, and what you learned from the thesis process. During the second half hour, expect to respond to questions from your readers.  This should be one of the most pleasurable stages in the thesis process, so enjoy it!

13. Final Thesis Submission

A final copy of your thesis, prepared in accordance with College guidelines, must be submitted to the Library by July 1.