Thesis Guidelines and Funding

Selecting an Advisor

During the spring of their junior year students need to enlist a Religion faculty member to serve as their advisor during their senior year. The first step in selecting an advisor is to make an appointment with one or more faculty members who have some familiarity with the field, period, tradition, or topic the student proposes to investigate. Students ought to talk over their ideas with the faculty member and discuss their project. Students may go to several faculty members to discuss the project, but must identify one as their primary advisor. That faculty member should be available to oversee the thesis process throughout their senior year. This does not preclude students from seeking advice from other faculty members during the course of the research project; rather, they are encouraged to do so. Senior theses are read and evaluated by two readers, one of whom is the thesis advisor; in many cases the second reader is a faculty member with whom students have discussed their thesis.

Students should be sure to clarify their expectations and those of their advisor early in the process. When questions, thoughts, or concerns regarding the thesis arise the advisor is the first person students should approach. Students should not feel that they can only meet with their advisor with printed text in hand. In fact, one of the most important times to see their advisor is when they are confused, experiencing writer’s block, or just want to sound out various ideas or strategies. Talking over ideas is an essential part of the advisee-advisor relationship. However, at various points it is imperative to present written outlines and drafts to ensure ideas are being clearly expressed in writing.

Length and Grading

The length of a senior thesis is usually around forty pages, and is determined by the demands of the particular topic as well as the limits set by the thesis advisor. Remember that length is no guarantee of quality and different subfields within the academic study of religion may have different expectations that affect the final format of the thesis.

Senior theses are evaluated by two faculty members, one being the thesis advisor. Theses are awarded grades of fail, pass, or distinction.

Research Funding

Both Columbia College and the School of General Studies offer grants to offset the cost of research related to the senior thesis. These funds may be put toward relevant expenses, such as traveling for interviews and photocopying. Students should consult Columbia College and the School of General Studies for application information and deadlines.