Here are 7 tips for seniors to help you get your senior thesis done

Many schools now require that you complete a “capstone” project. This is a longer writing task (sometimes called a junior thesis) in your final academic year. This allows students the chance to work at a higher-level in their chosen field. Some students fear this daunting obstacle will prevent them from obtaining that piece of paper with the university seal. Our top tips will help you get through the senior  paper requirement in preparation for fall.

1. Carefully choose your adviser. A lot of schools consider the senior project to be the first opportunity for a faculty member to supervise your work. It is important to choose a professor that is an expert in your field. If you want to get in depth about a subject, you’ll need someone who can guide you. It’s a good idea to pick someone with whom you’ve taken a couple of courses. You don’t want the feeling that you’re stuck for the whole semester (or even a full year) with someone who you can’t stand.

Extra Pointer. A good idea is to change the topic to which you are interested in working with your professor, rather than trying and get them to sponsor something on a topic that is far from their field of expertise.

2. Make sure you choose carefully your topic. You will never succeed if you start off with a bad topic. Before you begin your quarter, make sure to consult with your adviser.

5-Star Tip. These are just a few signs that a topic is a good one, even though each field and paper is different.

* Previous experience (yours). You have coursework in that area. The time is not right to start working in virgin territory while you are finishing your senior thesis.

* Doability. You can do a lot with the time you have. Don’t get too attached to a project that could take a lifetime, or a topic with a narrow scope that makes it impossible to write even 10 words.

* A question answered (rather than a survey of an area): The best thesis project are ones that address a problem or attempt to solve it. It is not possible to write an analytical paper if you only talk about a topic.

* You have an intrinsic interest. It’s not worth spending hours researching something that bores or makes you sick. This is especially important to consider if your professor suggests something to you rather than you picking it.

3. Consider expanding a course article. Many students wrongly believe that in order to write a senior thesis, one must have a totally new idea. However, many students mistakenly believe that the most successful projects are those that expand, rework, or explore past course papers. It’s easy enough to see why. Most often, you have done significant work on this issue and are therefore familiar with the topic. And in many cases, professors picked the original topics.

4. Make sure you organize your face time. As soon as you begin, consult your adviser about a suitable schedule. A meeting of minds is necessary to determine what the work will be. Is it supposed to be a casual gathering or are you supposed do more? Are you required to have read and/or written drafts of articles each week? Are you required to revise an article that has been published before? Professors are different in their expectations. Know your professor’s needs upfront. Keep to the agreed meeting times.

5-Star Tip. 5 Star Tip. You can discuss with your professor whether you would benefit from consulting other faculty members in the department or with colleagues.

5. Divide your time. Then, spend half of your time writing and half researching. Most students end up spending around 90% of their time researching. This is because they don’t really start to pull together their ideas until its too late. For senior theses to be successful, you will need multiple drafts. The adviser’s comments may require serious revisions. All of this takes time.

6. Don’t believe that longer is better. Many students make the fatal mistake of thinking that the goal is to have as many pages available as possible. Professors don’t judge on quantity, but quality. Ask your adviser about the ideal length of the project. Professors will prefer a 70-page to 80-page magnum opus. However, others would prefer a strong journal article of 25-40 page length.

7. Play to the bitter finish. Many schools offer a capstone project that is followed by an oral exam. In this instance, a group of faculty members takes the stage and questions you for about an hour. This is often the time where the grade (or the level of honors) is decided. Know what to expect at the oral examination, and take the time to prepare (regardless of how knowledgeable you may be about the topic).

Bonus tip. Bonus tip. This is something you should communicate both in the paper (if one exists) and during your thesis defense. The entire purpose of the senior thesis, also known as the capstone project, is for you to get involved in the field. You cannot play unless your position is known and you know who else is playing.

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