A senior thesis is one option for the Psychology major's capstone requirement. As described in the catalog, you write an empirical paper with an American Psychological Association (APA) format.
Why do a Thesis?
It's an opportunity to explore a topic of your own choosing in depth, honing skills that you've learned in many previous classes and learning new skills as well. Unlike a term paper for a class, the thesis is a substantive work that you create over an extended period of time.
Who Should Consider a Thesis?
- Anyone considering applying to a graduate program that has a research requirement (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D., etc.). It will enhance your experiences, your candidacy, and may even help you decide whether to pursue graduate studies.
- Anyone who is intrigued by a psychological question and wishes to seek an answer through individualized research, rather than through the formal structure of a senior-level class.
Where Do Thesis Ideas Come From?
- Previous courses, especially the PSY 301-319, 323, or department seminars. Many of these courses require a "research proposal" or mini-experiment that can be expanded upon.
- Working with a faculty member on a research project.
- Assisting an upperclassman in conducting his or her thesis research.
- A topic that interests you, but there's no formal course offered in it at Davidson. You can design your own tutorial (PSY 330-349 course numbers) to explore the topic.
Overview of the Thesis Process
- You decide upon a topic of interest
- You ask a faculty member to serve as the chair of the Thesis Committee
- You prepare a proposal (with some substantive basis, such as a literature review)
- With advice from the chair, you schedule a colloquium; proposal is reviewed and critiqued by the committee.
- You and the committee arrive at a contract for the parameters/expectations of the finished project.
- If necessary, you go through Davidson's Human Subjects (IRB) or Animal Subjects (IACUC) Research Committee for an ethical review and approval of the proposed work.
- You gather data, analyzes it, and write up the appropriate report as the thesis.
- You submit this write-up to the committee for review.
- You may also be required to orally defend your thesis to the committee.
- Committee may ask for final revisions.
- Upon completion of final draft, Thesis is placed in the department's permanent collection.
- You must also create a poster presentation of for your thesis.
- Posters are presented at the annual Science Poster Party (typically the day before Reading Day, spring semester) to share results with fellow majors, faculty, and the community at large.
- Committee chair determines your final grade.
- For an honors candidacy, the committee chair will review the student's academic record, and poll the faculty for a vote.
Caveats & Advice
A senior thesis project requires maturity, independence, and autonomy. Students must:
- Schedule their own time
- Manage/work around schedules of assistants, subjects, and chair
- Seek hospitality and/or resources in professional settings
- Extend themselves well beyond what is necessary for classroom work
- Impose evaluative structure on their own work, as "things take longer than they take"
Researchers are obligated to do things right, rather than work under limits imposed by the most realistic time schedules. Our faculty has experienced these frustrations, in our training and professional lives. We therefore have the highest regard for our students who undertake a senior thesis. You can depend on our empathy, respect, encouragement, and support.