Senior Thesis and Honors Program

Earth and Environmental Geoscience faculty encourage you to consider doing a thesis. The research experience is demanding, exciting, and rewarding, and the research and writing skills you gain are important for going to graduate school or going directly into a job.

Both BA and BS students can do a thesis. You should feel free to think of a project you are particularly interested in but, depending on the topic, you may need to have an advisor from outside the W&L Department of Earth and Environmental Geoscience. You receive 2 credit each term (fall and winter) for thesis research; 3 credits each term (fall and winter) for honors thesis research. If you are interested in finding out more, talk to your advisor and faculty about doing a thesis. Here's a list of recent theses.

Proposal deadline
For the class of 2024 thesis and honors thesis students, the proposal deadline will be mid-March, 2023. They should be emailed to your thesis advisor and the Administrative Assistant. Your advisor will provide feedback; a second faculty member may read your proposal also. Any necessary revisions will need to be submitted by the end of spring term. All that said, if the deadline has passed and you are interested in doing a thesis, talk to your advisor.

Elements of your proposal
Your proposal should articulate one or more research questions and place them in an intellectual context. You must demonstrate that you understand how these questions/your proposed project fit into the larger field of your chosen science. Please discuss what methods you will use, what data you will collect, and how the data will contribute to your research. Your proposal should include citations from scientific literature.

Aim for your proposal to be 2-3 pages in length. Your writing should be clear and concise and you may include figures as appropriate.

To the extent possible, you should attach a preliminary budget for your research project. Please also consult with your thesis advisor as you craft a budget.

We suggest you review former student theses as you are considering doing a thesis and in preparation for your proposal. The list of student theses can be found at the link above. Let the Administrative Assistant know if you want to view any thesis or abstract.

We want to assure you that we understand that sometimes a thesis project can change. Results do not always show us what we expect, experiments may fail, or new questions may be more interesting or exciting than the original question at hand. That is OK, as long as you and your advisor are in agreement about the best path forward. We also acknowledge that there may be some uncertainty in your specific project goals as you approach your summer research season. That too is OK as long as you and your advisor are on the same page. There is still value in crafting a proposal that aims to prepare for the work ahead and understand the bigger questions or goals that your project fits into.

Presenting your research -- and celebrating!
At the end of winter term each year thesis students present their research to the faculty and their peers. Everyone usually works until the last minute perfecting their presentation and then they shine when they have the laser pointer in hand. After the presentations we have a end of the year BBQ and announce departmental award winners. The presentations and celebration are a highlight of the year for majors and faculty alike.

Students often present research that they us for their thesis during their senior year at the Geological Society of America or American Geophysical Union conferences. See our research and conferences pages for more info.

The Honors Program in Earth and Environmental Geoscience 

The Honors Program requires that students:

  1. Fulfill all requirements for the B.S. and have an overall GPA of 3.3 and a Earth and Environmental Geoscience major GPA of 3.5.
  2. Submit a thesis proposal as described above, and include your current overall and major GPA status.
  3. Complete a thesis by the end of winter term exam week. Students must also meet any other deadlines provided by their primary advisor. Students must obtain an Excellent grade as determined by their primary advisor.
  4. Present your thesis work in a public forum at a time determined by the Department of Earth and Environmental Geoscience faculty, near the end of winter term of senior year.
  5. Pass written and oral comprehensive exams at the Excellent, or Pass with Distinction, level.

Please feel free to contact the Department Head with any questions you have regarding the information above.