Senior Research Thesis

The written document describing your research project, your thesis, is a vital part of both Chemistry 393 and your BS degree. Written communication of scientific accomplishments is an essential component of research. Even the most stunning technical accomplishments are worthless if they are left buried in a lab notebook. However, there is not a single formula or recipe for technical writing. A thesis describing a synthetic organic project will certainly look quite different from a theoretical physical chemistry thesis. Thus, what follows are some general guidelines for thesis content. You should talk with your adviser frequently about specific thesis details. It is also wise to ask your adviser and second reader for advice based on their reading of a preliminary draft.

A dictionary definition of the word thesis is "a proposition stated so as to be proved or disproved." The starting point for your thesis should be the introduction of a well defined chemical problem, the problem which your research will address. This introduction should clearly state the objectives of your research, and discuss the significance of the issues involved. You should discuss the methods used to address the problem. It is often useful to compare different possible approaches and state why the chosen methods are appropriate to your project. All procedures and techniques should be carefully defined. A proper guide to the amount of detail required should be that an independent worker should be able to reproduce your work, given only your thesis and a good reference library. Your thesis should be more detailed and complete than a paper published in a research journal. After describing methods, techniques, and procedures, you must present your results. Analysis of results and conclusions drawn from your work is an extremely important part of your thesis. A final discussion of the importance of your work, or how your results interact with other areas of chemistry may also be appropriate.

The great diversity of chemical research makes it impossible to give specific length requirements for a thesis. However, it is difficult to imagine a satisfactory thesis of fewer than 10 pages, and 100 pages is certainly a reasonable upper limit.

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We welcome any questions you may have. Please feel free to consult with a faculty member of the chemistry Undergraduate Studies Committee, or contact:

Deb Contestabile
Undergraduate Program Coordinator
& Course Administrator, Chemistry Dept.

Office: Hutchison Hall, Room 454
Phone: (585) 276-3663