Senior Thesis Procedures

Phys 799 Thesis

[From the Undergraduate Catalog]

Students work under the direction of a faculty sponsor to plan and carry out independent research resulting in a written thesis. Required for Honors-in-Major. Restricted to seniors. Prereq: permission. Writing intensive. 4 credits, may be repeated to a maximum of 8 credits.

Guidelines for Phys 799 Thesis

[More details for student and advisor]

Proposal process

A student who wants to do a thesis, either honors or non-honors, needs to identify an advisor who is a physics department faculty member. Typically students have worked at least a semester on research already.  Occasionally students also have an advisor in a closely related field (e.g. mathematics or computer science).

After consultation with the advisor, the student will prepare a one-page proposal that gives a tentative title for the thesis, describes the physical system to be studied, summarizes previous work by themselves or others, outlines a specific plan for the research and the writing of the thesis, and gives a tentative timeline. Click here to download a sample proposal. The proposal is to be submitted to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee via Prof. Harald Kucharek who is the departmental advisor for the senior thesis.  The due date is November 15th (for spring thesis) or April 15th for fall thesis. The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee will evaluate the proposal, and ask for clarification if needed.  They will also appoint a co-advisor who will advise the writing process.  Be sure to sign up for Physics 799 as you would for any other class.

If you have any questions about the senior thesis process, contact Prof. Karl Slifer or Prof. Harald Kucharek who are the departmental senior thesis coordinators.

 

The Course

While the main responsibility of advising rests with the advisor chosen by the student, the co-advisor will monitor the progress made in the research as well as the writing of the thesis. The co-advisor will make sure that the criteria of a writing-intensive course, reproduced below, are met. It is the student's task to keep the co-advisor informed about her or his progress towards the thesis. The student should meet with the co-advisor at least once a month to discuss writing to date.  Both advisors together will assign a grade to the thesis.

The time spent should be similar to that for any other 4 credit course:  12-14 hours per week for non-honors and 16-20 hours for honors.

 

The Written Thesis

Unless a student intends to continue Phys 799 for the following semester (s)he will submit a thesis no later than the last day of finals to the advisor and co-advisor who will evaluate and grade it. Advisor and co-advisor may define more specific expectations concerning the deadline for submission and for the scope of the thesis. In any case, especially if the thesis is being prepared during the following semester, substantial writing assignments should be done throughout the semester (see the next section for details).

To give you a sense of expectations we provide here two sample theses on magnetic reconnection on and the solar cycle . For those who would like to learn LaTeX, we include the solar cycle thesis as LaTeX source code. Here is a broad set of guidelines about what questions your thesis should address.

You may also find the American Institute of Physics style guide of some use.

 

Oral Presentation

The student must present their thesis work in one other formal way. The student, advisor, and co-advisor should choose the presentation format together. This presentation could be a poster and/or a talk at the annual spring UNH Undergraduate Research Conference, a talk or poster at a regional professional meeting, a talk to fellow physics students or to the whole physics department (this is scheduled for the last colloquium of the semester), or a paper in a professional journal.

If you choose to speak at the department colloquium, plan on a 10 minute talk, using either Powerpoint or the blackboard.  You will not be able to present everything you did, so focus on motivating why your question is interesting, your main method of investigatin and your key results.  We strongly recommend that you practice giving the talk to a few friends to make the talk go more smoothly.

 

How to Make the Course Writing Intensive

Phys 799 is writing intensive; writing needs to be an integral part of it throughout the semester. For a project that extends over more than one semester, it may be more appropriate to register for Phys 795 (Independent Study, no writing required) during the first semester, and for Phys 799 during the following semester.

 

Handing in a final thesis at the end of the semester is not enough to make this a writing intensive course (see the criteria on the next page). Here are some suggestions and some requirements for meeting the criteria in a way that supports experimental or theoretical research in physics:

  1. Read relevant articles and write summaries.
  2. Keep a log of experimental work that the advisor and co-advisor look at from time to time. Write informally in the log about
    • Next steps in experiment
    • Current understanding of what is going on
    • Evaluation of data taken
  3. The thesis must be written throughout the semester, not just at the end. (The thesis can be written over two semesters if the course lasts two semesters.) In the beginning writing can be done on literature review, question to be studied, experimental setup. Data analysis and conclusions will come last.
  4. The thesis advisor and co-advisor must see drafts of the thesis and give feedback on what is written. The student should make use of the Connors Writing Center. The advisors should concentrate first on higher order concerns, that is, is the physics correctly explained, does the argument flow well, and so on.
  5. About half of the grade should be given on the quality of the data taken and creativity and care in carrying out the experiment or calculation. The other half of the grade should be given on the quality of the thesis. That is, are the data presented clearly? Is the literature carefully reviewed and connected to the student's work? Is a thesis clearly presented and carefully supported? Is the argument of the thesis clear and convincing? Note that this grade includes issues of style and grammar, but is also very dependent on the student's understanding of the discipline and how we come to know things within this discipline. (To see that this is more than style, imagine what kind of thesis an English professor who is given good data but who has no knowledge of physics would write.)
  6. The student must present their thesis work in one other formal way. The student, advisor, and co-advisor should choose the presentation format together. This presentation could be a poster and/or a talk at the annual spring UNH Undergraduate Research Conference, a talk or poster at a regional professional meeting, a talk to fellow physics students or to the whole physics department (this is scheduled for the last Monday of the semester), or a paper in a professional journal.

Criteria and Expectations for Writing Intensive Courses

From: Writing Intensive Course Guidelines

  1. Students in the course should do substantial writing which enhances learning and demonstrates knowledge of the subject or discipline. Writing should be an integral part of the course and should count for a significant part (approximately 50% or more) of the final grade.
  2. Writing should be assigned in such a manner as to require students to write regularly throughout the course. Major assignments should integrate the process of writing (prewriting, drafting, revision, editing). Students should be able to receive constructive feedback of some kind (peer response, workshop, Writing Center, professor, T.A., etc.) during the drafting/revising process to help improve their writing.
  3. The course should include both formal (graded) and informal (heuristic) writing. There should be papers written outside of class which are handed in for formal evaluation as well as informal assignments designed to promote learning, such as invention activities, in-class essays, reaction papers, journals, reading summarize, or other appropriate exercise.