Senior Thesis and Honors Program

Geology 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 Geology Department. 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 intersted in finding out more, talk to your advisor and faculty about doing a thesis. Here's a list of recent theses with abstracts.

Proposal deadline
For the class of 2022 thesis and honors thesis students, the proposal deadline is Friday, March 19, 2021. They should be emailed to Sarah and your thesis advisor. 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.

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. Indicate where you have sought funding prior to this proposal, what funding you have been awarded, if any, and where you seek to obtain funding in the future. Refer to the geology department website's page Funding for Research under the Current Students tab for funding suggestions.

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 Sarah 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.

The Honors Program in Geology 

The Honors Program requires that students:

  1. Fulfill all requirements for the B.S. in Geology and have an overall GPA of 3.3 and a Geology 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 Geology Department 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 Geology Department Head with any questions you have regarding the information above.