Senior Thesis: What Is It?

Senior Thesis: What Is It?
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A senior thesis is a big research project that students work on during their senior year in college or high school. This is their most important work at this institution and it should demonstrate their research and writing skills. For many students, a senior thesis is necessary to graduate with honors. College-Writers team prepared this quick guide so that you can learn more about this type of papers.

The Organization and Style Manuals

The structure of a senior thesis depends on the required style manual. Science, history, law, and other disciplines have different requirements when it comes to senior thesis organization. There are several most common formatting styles.

MLA (Modern Language Association)

This style is common in arts, literature, and the humanities, including philosophy and linguistics. To use this style properly, you need to include parenthetical citations for your sources, along with a particular “works cited” page that should contain all the articles and books that you’ve used.

APA (American Psychologist Association)

This style is often used in education, psychology, and the social sciences. APA implies using the following elements:

  • Title page;
  • Abstract;
  • Introduction;
  • Methods;
  • Results;
  • Discussion;
  • References;
  • Tables;
  • Figures;
  • Appendix.


This style is described in “The Chicago Manual of Style.” This is the most common style in professional publications, college-level history courses, and scholarly articles. Papers written according to this style include footnotes, endnotes, and a bibliography section, along with the parenthetical in-text citations.


This is a type of Chicago style intended for students. It includes special requirements for book reports and other college-level papers. Endnotes, footnotes, and bibliography are also used in this style.

Science Style

Instructors may also require students to use a format that is common in scientific journals. In this case, your paper will include the following sections:

  • Title page;
  • Abstract;
  • Materials and methods;
  • Results;
  • Discussion;
  • References;
  • Acknowledgments.

AMA (American Medical Association)

This style is used by students in premedical and medical degree programs in college. AMA research papers usually include the following sections:

  • Title page;
  • Abstract;
  • Headings and lists;
  • Tables and figures;
  • In-text citations;
  • Reference list.

Choose Your Topic

If you have a narrow or too difficult topic, the chances are that you won’t be able to get good results. We also recommend that you don’t choose too broad topics because they require a lot of research. Narrow topics are a good choice for short papers but not for a senior thesis. We also recommended that you choose a topic that has been actively researched recently.

Select a topic that looks interesting to you. It will be hard for you to spend many hours writing about something boring. If you have to choose from among several topics offered by your professor, make sure to choose the most interesting one.

You may also expand a paper that you’ve already written before. In this case, it will be much easier for you to start because you have already done some research. Before finalizing a topic, talk to your advisor. You don’t want to spend many hours writing about a subject that won’t be approved by your instructor.

Manage Your Time

Dedicate half of your time to researching, and another half to writing. Quite often, students spend a lot of time researching and then don’t have enough time to write their paper. We recommend that you set clear goals with specific timeframes and stick to your own weekly schedule.

Organize Your Research

Jot down your bibliography entries or works cited in advance. Your formatting style may require you to provide access dates for online sources and page numbers for other citations. Therefore, if you start working on these details at the end of the project, you will have to put a lot of effort into reviewing all of your sources and searching for the necessary citation. Always note dates when you access online sources, save PDF files, and make sure that you have the necessary information on all the sources.

Choose an Advisor

The chances are that your senior thesis will be the first time when you’ll work with direct supervision. Therefore, choose a supervisor who’s familiar with your area of study. If you’ve already taken someone’s classes, it may be a considerable advantage for your collaboration.

Consult Your Instructor

Your instructor is a person who will decide whether or not your paper meets the necessary requirements. They are the final authority. Talk to your instructor at the very beginning of the project to clarify all the requirements and their personal preferences. Write down all the most important information and check this list of requirements from time to time because if you don’t write it, you will be at risk of forgetting something important.

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