What is a Senior Thesis?

A senior thesis is a paper which highly-motivated senior undergraduates may write to present the results of a major, independent research or creative project. Unlike most term projects, papers, and lab reports written in undergraduate courses, a senior thesis addresses questions or issues for which no known or generally accepted answers exist.

The Senior Thesis Program allows you to explore your aptitude for research within a more extended and individualized framework than that generally afforded by courses. It deepens your participation in the University’s community of scholars through your close contact with your thesis director and committee members, other interested faculty, graduate and postdoctoral students, and fellow undergraduate researchers. As the most widely recognized and respected hallmark of undergraduate distinction, a senior thesis demonstrates to graduate schools, fellowship committees, and employers your intellectual achievement and sophistication as well as your initiative and self discipline. As the capstone of your undergraduate experience, a senior thesis provides you with the opportunity to draw upon everything you have learned in your college experience and make a significant contribution of your own.

What is a Degree with Distinction?

The term “Distinction” is included in a baccalaureate degree title when the recipient has conducted original research or creative work, written a senior thesis or produced a creative project and successfully defended the work before a committee of University faculty. The University of Delaware offers Degrees with Distinction (DWD) to students who successfully defend a Senior Thesis and who meet all of the requirements listed below. While it is possible to write a Senior Thesis without receiving Distinction, most students do graduate with Distinction. To graduate with Distinction is to graduate with a different kind of degree (e.g., a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with Distinction). The GPA requirement for a Degree with Distinction is a 3.0 cumulative GPA and a 3.5 in your major.

For Honors students who successfully create and defend a Senior Thesis, it is possible to graduate with an Honors Degree with Distinction (HDWD). The HDWD recognizes a student’s completion of the research requirements for the Degree with Distinction in addition to the successful completion of 30 credits in Honors courses through the degree program. The Honors Degree with Distinction is listed on each student’s University of Delaware official transcript. The GPA requirement for an Honors Degree with Distinction is a cumulative 3.4.

What is involved in writing a senior thesis?

  • Research, write, and defend a thesis.
  • Enroll in UNIV 401 & 402 (for specific course info, see handbook)
  • Present at the Undergraduate Research Symposium (optional)

To learn more about how to apply to this program, as well as what goes into being a part of the Senior Thesis Program, please refer to the Senior Thesis Handbook or contact the URP office to set up an advisement appointment.

When is the deadline to apply?

  • Students graduating in the spring need to apply by May 15th of their junior year. 
  • Students graduating in the fall or winter need to apply by November 15th of their junior year.  [Note:  education majors who will engage in student teaching during the spring semester of their senior year can write a thesis, and often start during the fall semester of of their junior year.]

What do I need to do to get started?

  • Find a thesis director.  (Oral confirmation from them is fine.  Make sure this is a faculty member you know, and have had classes with.)
  • Register for UNIV 401 — register for section 000 if you’re non-honors, section 080 if you’re honors.
  • When registering for UNIV 401, be sure to choose your thesis director as your faculty instructor.  If you don’t see them on the list, email Lauren Barsky, and she will add them.
  • If you’re taking a course that conflicts with UNIV 401, register for the other course first.  Then email Lauren Barsky telling her which section of 401 you want to take, the number of credits, and the name of your thesis director. Then Dr. Barsky will give you an override for UNIV 401.
  • Find a second reader.  (Again, oral confirmation is fine.  If you’re not sure whom to ask, see if your thesis director can suggest someone.)
  • Draft your senior thesis proposal, and email it to your director and second reader for their sign-off.  Consult the Senior Thesis Handbook or the Thesis Application System for more information about what to include in your proposal.
  • Once you revise your proposal to your director and second reader’s liking, upload it to the senior thesis system.
  • Please read over the Senior Thesis Handbook. It’s not the most exciting read, but it will help explain many things that you might have questions about.
  • Make an appointment with Dr. Barsky (lbarsky@udel.edu) or Adam Grimes (agrimes@udel.edu).  We need you fill out some paperwork, and ask about your course load for your senior year.  The Honors Program will also need you to fill out a form for your Honors Degree with Distinction; the deadline for that form is also May 15.