Croft Senior Thesis

One of the requirements for graduating with a major in International Studies is completion of the senior thesis during your final year in the program.  The senior thesis is a substantial work of original research and analysis in the student's regional and/or thematic concentration.

Guided by a faculty member who serves as your individual mentor, you write your thesis over the course of two semesters, in two consecutive courses, Inst 421 and Inst 422. 

The thesis represents the culmination of your learning and intellectual development as a Croft student.  It is one of the most important components of the major.  Writing and completing your thesis is a truly  formative experience, which will remain with you for the rest of your life and make you extremely proud of having chosen Croft and International Studies as your major. 

The target length of the Croft senior thesis is anywhere between forty and sixty pages, but many completed theses end up being longer than that. Detailed instructions concerning thesis format can be found by following the relevant link elsewhere on this page.  We have also provided a link to sample theses, which give you an excellent idea of what some of the better Croft theses look like and what Croft students who have gone before you were able to accomplish.

We encourage you to start thinking about your thesis at a relatively early stage in your career in the major.  It is not too early to begin considering a thesis topic and your choice of a mentor in the sophomore year.  Early selection of topic and mentor will often make it possible to do preliminary research during the time you study abroad as a junior.  You must select your mentor and a thesis topic before you leave campus for your study-abroad semester or year.  Students who study abroad in the fall of their junior year must select their mentor during the following spring semester.

Faculty mentors for the thesis will in most cases be Croft professors or Croft-affiliated professors, though other faculty members of the University can also serve as mentors.  You select a mentor in consultation with your Croft academic advisor.

A committee of three faculty members evaluates the senior thesis: the mentor, the second reader, and a third reader.  Either Dr. Gispen or Dr. Schenck serves as the second reader, while the third reader is a faculty member you select early on in Inst 421 in consultation with your mentor and Croft advisor.  The requirements, deadlines, and schedule for Inst 421 can be found by following the relevant link posted elswhere on this page.  You defend your thesis at the end of the second semester.  The requirements, deadlines, and schedule for Inst 422 can be found by following the relevant link posted elsewhere on this page.

Second and third readers have limited but important roles.  They provide brief written comments on the thesis prospectus in Inst 421 and on the penultimate thesis draft in Inst 422.

Students who intend to write a thesis involving research on human subjects (e.g., interviews) must obtain approval from the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB) before embarking on their research.  The IRB is a multidisciplinary board at the University that works under strict Federal guidelines to insure the protection of human research subjects.  To learn more about this topic, and how to apply for IRB approval for a project, please visit the IRB website.  Be sure to alert your thesis mentor and Croft academic advisor if you plan to do any sort of work involving human subjects in your senior thesis!  Also, know that the IRB application process looks more intimidating than it is once you start the process.

 Inst 421 and 422 are structured as individual tutorials and offered every semester.

Inst 421.  You meet with your mentor on a regular basis as determined by the mentor.  The principal requirement in Inst 421 is that you complete approximately half of the thesis by the end of the semester.  Your mentor grades your work in Inst 421 with a regular letter grade.  Important milestones in Inst 421 include the preparation of a thesis prospectus early on, preparation of a literature review, and an oral presentation with A/V assistance (e.g. PowerPoint) of your project about two-thirds into the semester in the Thesis Writers' Conference.  This event, which takes place in Croft 107, is attended by your readers and other Croft students and faculty.  The final requirement in Inst 421 is completion of the "preliminary research product,' or, in practice, approximately half of the final thesis.  Datapoints for determining your grade in Inst 421 are the prospectus, the literature review, your performance at the Writers' Conference, and the chapters or other parts of the thesis that you complete by the end of the semester.

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of accomplishing as much as you possibly can in Inst 421.  Researching and writing the senior thesis takes a great deal of time.  You have that time in Inst 421, but you don't have it in Inst 422.  The deadline for turning in a full and complete draft of the thesis in Inst 422 is the middle of the semester--not the end of the semester!  Please note that you will not be allowed to register for Inst 422 if your mentor deems your performance in Inst 421 unsatisfactory.

Inst 422.  You complete writing the thesis in Inst 422 during the first half of the semester in close consultation with your mentor.  You must turn in a complete and full draft of the thesis no later than the 7th week of the semester.  The remainder of the semester goes to rewriting, editing, and improving your draft as suggested in oral and written comments from your mentor and second and third readers.  The final draft of the thesis is due two weeks before the end of classes.  Defenses take place during the last two weeks of classes, before finals week.  Remember that your mentor is the final gatekeeper and clearing house for all suggestions by second and third readers and that the mentor decides whether your thesis is ready to go forward to the final stage of an oral defense.  The grade in Inst 422 is determined by the three readers on the thesis committee and is based on the quality of your written work and your performance during the defense.

Katie Wright, winner of the Terasawa Prize for Best Overall Thesis in 2016, with her mentor, Dr. Marcos Mendoza, her third reader, Dr. Luanne Buchanan (front), and her second reader, Dr. Kees Gispen.

Zach Cookston, winner of the 2016 Prize for the Best Senior Thesis on an East Asian Topic, with his mentor Dr. Gang Guo (second from right), his second reader, Dr. Will Schenck, and his third reader Dr. Joshua Howard (right).

Erica McGraw, winner of the 2016 Prize for the Best Senior Thesis on a European Topic, with her third reader, Dr. Susan Allen (second from right), her second reader, Dr. Kees Gispen (left), and her mentor, Dr. Benjamin Jones (right).

Maggie Hall, winner of the 2016 Prize for the Best Senior Thesis on an Interregional Topic, with her mentor, Dr. Milorad Novicevic (second from left), her second reader, Dr. Will Schenck (left), and her third reader, Dr. Christopher Newman (right).