Requirements for Research Thesis Chem 96


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.

2012-2013 Deadlines

  • Friday, January 25: Thesis proposal due to committee members
  • Week of January 28-February 1: Meetings with committees to review proposal
  • A Thursday afternoon in April: 15 minute thesis talk by each student to department
  • Friday May 10 at 5 PM: Written theses due to committee
  • May 20-21: Thesis oral exams by committees
  • Wednesday May 29 at Noon: Corrected version of thesis due.

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

  1. Time Input: approximately 12-15 hours per week for each of two semesters.
  2. Attendance at the departmental Colloquium Series (including preview sessions before each speaker's visit) is mandatory.
  3. Selecting, from among the faculty, a thesis committee. The three-member committee is responsible for reading and evaluating the student's thesis proposal (see below, item 4), reading and evaluating the completed thesis prior to the oral defense, and orally examining the student during the time scheduled in the college calendar for comprehensive examinations at the end of the senior year. Students, in consultation with their faculty advisor, suggest names for the committee. Final committee membership is determined by the faculty. The research advisor must be one of those chosen; at least one of the additional faculty members should be from the chemistry department. The third member may be from another department.
  4. Submission of a thesis proposal (due date: Friday, January 25), which is intended to help each student organize the final semester 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.

    The thesis proposal should consist of the following three sections:

    1. Introduction (2-3 pages of text, 1.5 spaced): The introduction of the proposal 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 2 pages 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 2 pages 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. Presentation of a 15 minute thesis talk (~12 minute talk, ~3 minutes for questions) to the department. This will occur in a regular seminar slot (Thursday afternoon) in April.
  6. Submission of a written research thesis to the committee (due date: 5 PM on Friday, May 10). Turn in a double-sided hard copy to each member of your committee. The thesis should be double spaced with 1 inch top, bottom, and right side margins, 1.5 inch left side margins.

    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.
  7. There will be an oral defense of the thesis during the time scheduled in the college calendar for comprehensive examinations (May 20-21).
  8. Your final, corrected thesis will be due in to the Chemistry general office by noon on Wednesday, May 29. You may wish to hand it in earlier so as to enjoy senior week.

    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)
    • Single sided, double spaced
    • Margins: 1 inch top, bottom, and right side; 1.5 inch left side
    • Please include page numbers