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Featured Resource: Davidson Honors Theses

What is a Thesis?

Theses are comprehensive research projects completed at the undergraduate level. They encourage independent research, motivating students to contribute knowledge to a field of their choosing. Most theses have two overarching goals: to examine and critique existing scholarly literature, and to contribute a unique voice to the conversation. This second goal can either be met through experimental research, or though deeply analyzing existing research.

Why write a thesis? Are they necessary?

No Davidson students are required to write theses. However, many students may find writing theses to be advantageous. For example, theses can fulfill most major's capstone requirements.

Writing a thesis is also a required to earn academic honors in the following programs:

  • Africana Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Art
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Chinese Studies
  • Classics
  • Communication Studies
  • Digital & Screen Media
  • Economics
  • Educational Studies
  • English
  • Environmental Studies
  • French Studies
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • German Studies
  • Global Literacy Theory
  • Hispanic Studies
  • History 
  • Languages and Cultures of the Middle East
  • Latin American Studies
  • Linguistics
  • Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Neuroscience
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science 
  • Psychology
  • Public health
  • Religious Studies
  • Russian Language and literature
  • Sociology

How are Theses Formatted?

Theses are focused on answering a central research question. This question, chosen by the student, should be well-defined and set the tone for the paper. There are five parts to the typical modern theses: 

  1. Part one: your research question, briefly foreshadowing the paper.
  2. Part two: reviews the existing research and conversation in your subject area. 
  3. Part three: lays out the methodology you used to complete your research.
  4. Part four: present your results.
  5. Part five: interprets and analyzes your results, and compares your conclusions to those found in pre-existing research. 

If your professor asks you to follow a different format, you should do so. If you need help formatting a thesis, please contact your professor or a librarian. 

Tips for Writing Theses

  1. Set deadlines. Theses are often year-long projects, and can occasionally be over 100 pages long.* In undertaking a project of such magnitude, it's incredibly important to stay on track. 
  2. Never stop researching. Beyond directly researching your topic, it may be helpful to read scholarly journals and other completed theses. Here, you can find a collection of Davidson theses (from 2013 to 2020) that have earned departmental honors. 
  3. Think about defense. It's common practice to defend your thesis after submitting it. This includes presenting your thesis, and answering questions about it. It's important to prepare for this question-and-answer session by anticipating questions and formulating answers.
  4. Stay motivated. Your thesis marks your transformation from student to academic. It can occasionally determine your career course or be your first published work. A thesis is much more work than a typical assignment, but has incredible potential to define you!

*This chart plots the average thesis length for programs at Davidson. 

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