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Course Research Thesis Requirements

students doing research

Course Research Thesis Requirements

Requirements for Course Research Thesis - Chemistry 96 (2023-2024)

The comprehensive requirement in Chemistry/Biochemistry may be met by completion of an undergraduate thesis based on research work. Enrollment in a minimum of two credits of Chem 96 (Research Thesis) over the last three semesters of the student's residence at Swarthmore is required; typically, this is done by one credit in each of the two semesters of the senior year. One summer of research is strongly recommended. An additional summer (or summers) is (are) optional.

2023-2024 Deadlines

  • Monday, September 25, 2023Draft thesis prospectus materials submitted to the Thesis Workshop supervisor by 5pm.
  • Tuesday, October 3, 2023: Final thesis prospectus submitted to the Thesis Workshop supervisor and committee members by 9am.  
  • Week of October 9th, 2023: Meetings with committees to review prospectus.
  • Monday, April 22, 2024: Written theses due to each faculty member on your committee by Noon.
  • Thursday, April 25 and May 2, 2024:  Thesis Talks:  Presentation of a 15-minute thesis talk.  
  • May 6-8, 2024:   Thesis oral exams by committees.  
  • Monday, May 20, 2024:  Corrected version of thesis due by Noon at the Chemistry office (SC 188A).

The following are the Department's expectations for work in Chem 96:

  1. Registration and participation in Chemistry 199: Senior Thesis Workshop during the Fall and Spring semesters of the senior year. (Note that the Workshop will have meetings and deadlines in addition to those described here.)
  2. Time input for research and thesis writing: approximately 12-16 hours per week for each of two semesters.
  3. Each thesis student will have a three-member faculty committee responsible for reading and evaluating the student's thesis prospectus, reading and evaluating the completed thesis prior to the oral defense, and orally examining the student.
  4. Submission of thesis prospectus materials (draft due: Monday, September 25, 2023; final version due Tuesday, October 3, 2023), which is intended to help each student organize the final semesters of thesis work. Writing a thesis is a big undertaking and it is important to plan ahead and start early to avoid being overwhelmed at the end of the year. The specific aims of this assignment are as follows:
    1. to encourage a thorough and critical examination of the scientific literature related to the research project.
    2. to evaluate the current status of each student's research and plan a strategy for completing any remaining laboratory work, calculations, or data analysis.
    3. to plan the contents of the thesis.
    4. to get feedback about each student's progress and plans from the thesis committee.
    Thesis prospectus materials to be submitted should consist of the following three sections:
    1. Introduction (1-2 pages of text, 1.5 spaced): The introduction of the prospectus is to be written for an audience in your general field of research, i.e., skip very general background material. It should contain a concise description of the aims and scope of the thesis project and relevant background about your specific experimental and/or theoretical approach. It should also put your project in the context of any closely related work in the scientific literature. This will require a good command of the literature directly related to your project and the introduction should make generous reference to these sources.
    2. Progress Report (less than 1 page of text; use as many figures (with captions), and tables as needed):  Describe the work you have done thus far. Present your most significant data and conclusions. This may include negative results. Assess the degree of completion of your project, specifically addressing the aims and scope described in the Introduction.
    3. Proposed Work (less than 1 page of text): Describe any remaining experiments, calculations, and/or analysis you plan to include in your thesis. How will these contribute to your project? Is it feasible to complete this work in the time remaining?
  5. Attendance at the departmental Colloquium Series (including preview sessions before each speaker's visit) is mandatory.
  6. Discuss your research with a colloquium speaker during the academic year.
  7. Submission of a written research thesis to the committee (due date: Monday, April 22, 2024Noon). Turn in a double sided, double spaced hard copy to each member of your committee.  (PDF submission may be acceptable; consult with your committee members.)  Students should keep an identical hard copy for themselves for preparation for the oral defense as well as give a hard copy of the thesis to their research mentor.  NOTE: If the thesis is turned in late, after the deadline, the following sentence will be added to the information received by Thesis Committee members: "In making your evaluation, you may wish to know that this paper was submitted __ days after the deadline observed by other students."

    The Research Thesis should have the following structure:
    1. Abstract: A one page summary of the results and conclusions of the entire thesis.
    2. Introduction: A detailed review of the recent literature pertaining to the research project. It should attempt to fit the project into the wider framework of the field.
    3. Experimental Section: A detailed description of all the experimental techniques used in the research project as well as a detailed account of the experimental procedures used in each experiment.
    4. Results: Presentation of the experiments conducted and the results obtained from them. It should not be assumed that the reader has already read the experimental section. The experiments should be described and the experimental section referred to for details. This section should contain tables and figures with detailed legends.
    5. Discussion: Summary of the results of the work with the emphasis on the conclusions which can be drawn from the work and the theoretical explanation (if applicable) for these conclusions. This section may contain some (but not too much) speculation on the meaning of the work and should provide suggestions for future experiments intended to support, verify or extend the present project.
  8. Course Thesis Talks
    Presentation of a 15 minute thesis talk (~12 minute talk, ~3 minutes for questions) to the department. This will occur on Thursday, April 25 and May 2, 2024, from 4:30-5:30 PM. Each thesis student will be given 12 minutes to talk (timer used) and then three minutes for questions. Please practice your talk carefully to make sure it fits into the 12-minute slot. Clearly, this is too short a time to give an exhaustive overview of your thesis project. We suggest you provide an overview of your work and the motivation for your project, and then pick one short story that exemplifies the work you did. Do not try to speed-talk and cover all your work. You are strongly encouraged to seek the guidance of your research mentor well before your scheduled presentation. All majors/minors and instructional staff in the department will be invited. You are also welcome to invite all your friends from other departments as well.
  9. There will be an oral defense of the thesis during the beginning of reading week (May 6-8, 2024).    
  10. Your final, corrected thesis will be due in the Chemistry office (SCI 188A) by Noon on Monday, May 20, 2024
    The thesis must be in a format suitable for binding and reproduction:
    • Three good quality copies (one for you, one for your supervisor, one for the seminar room)
    • Double sided, double spaced
    • Margins: 1 inch top and bottom; and 1.25 inches each side
    • You must include page numbers, table of contents and cover page
  11. There is a departmental limit of 60 pages for text and figures for presenting the primary work completed. Supplementary material (such as compound verification, computer code, etc) is not included in this page limit. Furthermore, appendices can be added beyond the 60-page limit for additional information on work that you wish to include in the written record.