Senior Thesis Proposal

  • ab•stract \ n. a brief statement of the essential content of a book, article, speech, court record, etc.; summary.
  • pro•po•sal \ n. a statement, theorem, etc. set forth for argument, demonstration, proof, etc.; refers to a plan, offer, etc. presented for acceptance or rejection
  • pro•spec•tus \ n. a statement outlining the main features of a new work

Whether we call it an abstract, proposal or prospectus, each of the above definitions from Webster’s New World College Dictionary give some clues as to what the statement should entail: brevity, a plan, and an outline of the key features of the senior thesis.

The senior thesis proposal must be submitted in the spring of the junior year along with the following:

  • The Senior Thesis Application
  • A tentative title for the senior project
  • A 5-7 page statement
  • A bibliography
  • The signature of a Religion faculty member who will act as the thesis advisor

A helpful way to begin the proposal is with a question to investigate. Instead of beginning:

My thesis is about the exegetical techniques of Martin Luther.

Try beginning:

How did Martin Luther’s biblical commentaries reflect a significant departure from medieval exegetical methodology?

The question format allows the leeway needed to do more research. It also sets students up to discuss how they propose to go about researching and answering this question. The key ingredients to the proposal should be:

  • defining the key questions to be investigated
  • describing the nature of the source materials to be examined
  • stating the choice of methods, theoretical approach, and hermeneutical tools to be used to pursue the investigation

In general, the proposal introduces readers to the project’s topic. It should also communicate why the topic is important and give some hint to its broader significance within the field of religious studies.

Writing the proposal should be the culmination of a process that involves preliminary research on the topic, some discussion with faculty members, and some individual reflection about what interests the writer. Choosing a topic can be difficult if the student’s interests are wide-ranging; even after choosing a topic, narrowing the focus to one that is feasible for a senior project can be even more challenging. Some of the following questions might help student as they embark on the proposal.

  • Are you beginning with a question that is unresolved? What puzzles you? What do you want to find out?
  • Do you care about the question? Are you clear about what you are asking? What observations have led you to the question? What hunches do you have about possible answers?
  • Is the topic interesting? Can it be made interesting to others?
  • Can the topic be researched? How can it be researched? What kinds of information are necessary to answer the question posed?
  • Does the topic present problems that can be explored or solved with analysis? Does it provide you with an opportunity to do some creative and original thinking?
  • How does your specific topic, and the questions it generates, relate to broader issues in the study of religion?