Skip to main content

Honors Research Thesis Requirements

student doing research

Charlotte Pohl works on her research project in the Yatsunyk lab.

Honors Research Thesis - Chemistry 180 (2023-2024)

Enrollment in a minimum of two credits of Chem 180 (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. It is expected that ~12-16 hours be dedicated to Chem 180 per week during the academic year. Please discuss with research advisor the specific requirements for her/his research group.

The grade on your transcript for Chem 180 is determined by the Honors Examiner. Until the Honors Orals Exams are complete, each semester of credit for Chem 180 will be listed as "IP" (In Progress) on your transcript.

Also note that enrollment in Chem 180 requires attendance at the departmental Colloquium Series (including preview sessions before each speaker's visit). Each Honors thesis student should also i) sign up to present a preview session and ii)  discuss research with a colloquium speaker at least once during the academic year.

2023-2024 Dates:

Monday, September 25, 2023: Draft thesis prospectus materials submitted to the Thesis Workshop supervisor by 5pm.

Thursday, April 25 and May 2, 2024: Thesis Talks
Each 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.

Monday, April 22, 2024, by Noon: Honors Thesis Due
Turn in an electronic (pdf) copy to the Chemistry Department Administrative Coordinator.  Students should keep an identical copy for themselves for preparation for the oral exams as well as give a copy of the thesis to their research mentor.

Research mentors should be consulted for questions regarding suitable structure of the honors research thesis. Use the following margins:  1 inch top and bottom; and 1.25 inches each side.  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 the examiner to see.

NOTE: If the thesis is turned in late after the deadline, the following sentence will be added to the information received by Honors Examiner:  "In making your evaluation, you may wish to know that this paper was submitted __ days after the deadline observed by other students. "

Sunday-Tuesday May 19-21, 2024, Time TBA: Thesis oral exams by visiting Honors Examiners. The format of the one-hour Honors Oral Exam is at the discretion of each examiner. The department will inform each examiner that each student has a set of PowerPoint slides of ~15-30 minutes presentation material available in case the examiner would like to use that format as part of the oral exam.

Thursday, May 23, 2024, by Noon: Corrected version of thesis must be turned in to the Chemistry Office (SCI 188A) . 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. Include page numbers, table of contents and cover page.

Additional expectations for work in Chemistry 180:

  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 above.)
  2. Completion and submission of thesis prospectus materials as part of the Senior Thesis Workshop (draft due Monday, September 25, 2023). This exercise is intended to help each student organize the final period 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 the thesis prospectus are:
    1. a.  to encourage a thorough and critical examination of the scientific literature related to the research project.
    2. to establish the current status of the research and plan a strategy for completing any remaining laboratory work, calculations, or data analysis.
    3. to plan the contents of the thesis.

    Thesis prospectus materials to be submitted should consist of the following three sections:

    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.

    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.

    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?