Senior Thesis Requirements and Timetable

1. Find an advisor and topic

Well in advance of the semester in which you will do your thesis, you should identify a faculty mentor who is willing and available to work with you. She/he may suggest a topic, or you might have your own ideas based on research that you have previously done.

2. Develop a written plan

At the beginning of your thesis semester, you should develop a written plan with a timetable in consultation with your advisor.  While this may be modified as you proceed, you need to have a clear understanding about what you will be doing, and what your advisor expects.  You should have this plan in place no later than sometime during the second week of the semester. In past years, we have had a few difficulties with students who have not created such a plan and discovered at the last minute that they had not completed a satisfactory piece of work. In all cases, this was due to the failure of the student to communicate effectively with their advisor.

3. Consult regularly with your advisor about progress

Meeting weekly is suggested, but the nature of these meetings is up to you and your advisor.  Remember that you should probably be spending 5-8 hours per week on this effort (expected time for 2 units of credit).  Also remember that it is up to you to monitor progress.  Do not expect your advisor to micro-manage your effort and constantly prod you to make progress.  If you do not set aside time each week to make some progress, it is easy to let things slide and then be overwhelmed.

4. Thesis outline

About halfway, or 2/3 of the way through the semester, you should have a written outline of what you plan to put into your thesis.  By this point, you should have enough data to see what is working well, or what is not. This leaves you a little time to modify your plan.  Data analysis and writing always takes more time than you expect.

5. Format and Submission of a draft

We suggest that you write a section or two soon after your outline is done (methods is often a good place to start).  Ask your advisor to give you feedback, so that you can adjust your writing style to meet the expectations. Expect to submit several drafts of the final product.  You can work out the schedule with your advisor, but it is likely that the first draft should be in by the end of classes.  This should leave time for 2-3more rounds of revision.  Everything should be done within about 10 days of the end of classes, so that your advisor has time to read the final draft and submit a grade.

6. Examples

Most theses are now on the undergrad research page of the undergrad website: http://earth.usc.edu/esurp/publications/unpublished.  Look through these to see what your peers have done and get an idea of formats.  Some have been based in part on work done during summer projects, while others have only used work done during a single semester.  If you incorporate work done previously, there is an expectation for a wider scope of study.  You will need to work this out with your advisor (see item 2 above).  Note that you are allowed to use data that you may have acquired during funded projects in the past (work-study, ESRAP, SOAR, etc).  However, you may not be receiving salary support for research that you are doing to complete your thesis, during the semester that you are registered for the thesis credits.  However, you may use funding for analyses, travel, or equipment to carry out your research. If you need support beyond what your advisor can provide, you must talk to Doug Hammond well in advance of the funding need, and you will need to write a proposal to the Dept. Research fund.

  • Zumberge Hall of Science (ZHS)
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0740
  • Phone: (213) 740-6106
  • Email: earthsci@usc.edu