Senior Thesis: Frequently Asked
Q: What's the difference between a "Senior Honors
Thesis" and a "Senior Project"? What if I want
to write a regular (non-honors) senior thesis?
A: At Tufts, a Senior Honors
Thesis has these characteristics:
- It is a year-long project (1 credit per semester
for two consecutive semesters).
- You must register for the Senior Honors Thesis
through your major department. Your department must
approve of your intent to write a thesis.
(Alternatively, you may undertake an
*interdisciplinary* Senior Thesis or Senior Honors
Thesis through the
Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.)
- Your Honors Thesis must be supervised and
approved by a committee of two Tufts professors.
Your committee chair must be from your department
and a full-time faculty member. The second reader
may be from either the same or different
department. A third reader is also possible, but
- You must defend your thesis when you complete
it. (The defense is a formal presentation of your
thesis, followed by a discussion of it with your
committee. All two committee members must be
present at the defense.)
- Based on the quality of your finished thesis,
your committee may award you honors. These honors
will appear on your transcript in English as: Thesis
with Honors; Thesis with High Honors; or Thesis with
Highest Honors. If your committee decides not to
award you honors, your transcript will read "Senior
Thesis." Your committee will also give your thesis a
grade that will apply for both semesters and will be
included in your GPA.
- You must put your thesis in Tufts Archives when
you have completed it.
Senior Project or Senior Thesis has
- You must find one faculty member to supervise
and grade your project or thesis. (Some majors will
require a senior project, and these majors may
require two faculty advisors.)
- Register for "Special Senior Project" or
"Independent Study" or "Supervised Research". The
name of this will vary from department to
department. Look in the Bulletin for details.
- A Senior Project or Senior Thesis is for one
semester. Credit varies: you can register for a half
credit or one credit. Your faculty supervisor will
award you a grade.
- No honors are involved. In many cases, no
formal defense is
Q: Do I have to have a high GPA to qualify to do
a Senior Honors Thesis?
A: In order to qualify to do a
Senior Honors Thesis, you must have been on the Dean's
List at least TWICE prior to your senior year and you must have approval
from your major department. Some departments
require a written thesis proposal. Some departments will
vote on whether a senior can proceed with the Honors
Thesis. A few departments set a minimum GPA for
Honors Thesis candidates. Check with your department!
Q: Do I need to write a Senior Honors Thesis in order
to get Summa Cum Laude honors?
A: That depends on your
department. The honors you receive on your senior
thesis are based solely on the quality of the thesis
itself. Thesis honors appear in English on your
transcript and are not related to GPA. (For example, you
can be awarded Highest Honors on your senior thesis and
have a GPA of only 2.90.) Latin honors (such as cum
laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude) are based
on GPA and the number of As you receive in your major.
However, some departments will only grant summa cum
laude honors to students who have completed a
substantial independent research project, such as a
senior thesis. Check with your department!
Q: What is the "defense"? What exactly am I supposed
A: "Defense" is an archaic word
for the public presentation of one's scholarship.
In the Middle Ages, in order to graduate, scholars
needed to give a public demonstration of their
scholarship by debating with their professors and often
with the rowdy crowd that showed up to humiliate the new
scholar. Nowadays, the "defense" is much gentler. At
Tufts, the Senior Honors Thesis defense is your chance
to present your research and discuss it with your
committee (and sometimes with invited guests). Your
presentation can take a variety of forms. You can choose
to do a "closed defense," which is behind closed doors
with only your two committee members present, or an
"open defense," in which you invite guests to attend and
For more specific questions about thesis
requirements, ask your advisor or department
administrator. Most departments have their own
guidelines for proposals, research requirements, and
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