Head-Start for the Senior Thesis



Step 1:  Establish your personal career goals and a five-year plan.  It’s time for commitment!  

Check out our Career Services at http://careerservices.evansville.edu.   

Check out Graduate Schools at http://www.uni.edu/walsh/linda2.html and start preparing for the GRE or MCAT now (see endnote links of this email). 

UNI also has some good tips on Career Alternatives at http://www.uni.edu/walsh/linda1.html.  


Step 2:  Select an area of interest and identify possible thesis topics that support your career goals.  All theses must substantially review the literature concerning a topic of personal relevance.  Consultation with faculty and career-goal professionals is strongly encouraged.  You must obtain formal approval of your thesis topic from the Instructor (this topic is likely to be refined over the course of your literature search) -- you may do this by email over the summer.  


Step 3:   Initiate the literature search as soon as possible.   You must determine if there's enough literature for adequate review (required of all theses) and if this material does indeed support your career goals.  Usually it's a good idea to start with general Annual Review articles, then move on to more specific journal reviews and research reports (often found in the AR's References).  Concentrate on recent material published within the last five years. 


(a) Find and read recent Annual Review of Psychology articles that cover your topic (or other Annual Review articles – there are Annual Reviews of Neuroscience, Public Health, Sociology, Medicine, etc.).  These reviews should help you identify the existent literature pertinent to your interests.  Importantly, if you cannot find a review covering your preferred topic, you may need to select an alternative topic!  To search for Annual Review articles, click  http://psych.annualreviews.org/search.dtl  or http://neuro.annualreviews.org/search.dtl.  You can read the full text of psychology review articles at our Library website: click http://libraries.evansville.edu/, under Databases by Subject click Psychology, and then click Annual Review of Psychology FT – you may also access other Annual Reviews from this page.  For off-campus access, go to Login for Off Campus Access and enter your Student ID barcode number.  Hardcopy Annual Reviews are also available in our Library. 


b) Conduct PsycINFO and MEDLINE searches to obtain the recent reviews and research reports—PsycARTICLES provides full-text articles from all the APA journals.  To conduct these searches, click http://libraries.evansville.edu/, under Databases by Subject click Psychology, and then click PsycINFO PFT or Medline PFT.  Enter the key search terms for your topic.  Print out important abstracts (or save to a floppy or hard disk).  If the journals are not available in our Library, click Request Forms to request the article (comes as an PDF email attachment and it usually takes about two weeks) or go to the author’s website if known.


(c) Articles can often be obtained on or by the internet.  Author addresses are a part of the MEDLINE and PsycINFO output, and e-mail addresses and faculty websites are usually available at the institutional department's website (http://www.google.com/).  Often the faculty webpage will have PDFs of published articles that can be downloaded.  While a bit old-fashion now, you can also email asking for a specific "reprint" of the article and any reprints or "preprints" of any subsequent or related work.  You can also ask questions about their work -- these direct email contacts have helped some select a graduate program and gain admission to it (graduate faculty like new students specifically interested in their research).


Step 4:  Start your Literature Portfolio.   Collect your printouts of online library search abstracts, interlibrary loan photocopies, photocopies of key book sections, and PDF files of articles.  Organize everything in a quality folder, and organize PDFs in your UE My Documents folder, a flash drive, and your personal PC (backups). This Portfolio will be used to prepare your Thesis Proposal, Thesis Prospectus, and Thesis, and it must be submitted (PDFs burned to a CD) with and as part of your Thesis.


Step 5:  Prepare your Thesis Proposal for early submission:  See Rosnow & Rosnow (2012), 3.5 (pp. 57-60).  Select a tentative title that clearly and effectively conveys the topic of your review.  After your name, insert the name of your reader, “Thesis Supervisor:  [Name].”  If an outside reader, someone other than the course instructor, that person must have agreed to supervise and grade your work.  As part of an extended Background section, you will reflect on your education thus far, explain your educational and career goals, and specifically note how your thesis topic will support those goals.  Your Proposal should be about five pages (minimum 2 pages of well-written text).  That cites and references at least 10 articles. This proposal will be graded for both content and APA format by Dr. Lakey:  Submit a paper copy to Dr. Lakey, upload an electronic copy to TurnItIn.com, and provide a second paper copy to any other Thesis Supervisor for their review and comments. Backup everything periodically.


Step 6:  The Senior Thesis is due on or before November 11th.   Most acceptable theses range from 20-30 pages citing 25 or more references with most of the references contained in the accompanying portfolio (photocopies) and CD (PDFs).  Papers that have been submitted in other courses are not acceptable as Senior Theses—in whole or in part.  Late submissions are penalized with a progressively lowered grade. You will submit your thesis to TurnItIn.com (determines your submission date) and your Thesis Supervisor.  Depending on your Thesis Supervisor, you may be allowed a revision to improve your grade (clarify this in advance).  Backup everything periodically.


What’s Expected:  Read some of the model "Best Theses" at our class website at http://faculty.evansville.edu/jl3/psych490/index.htm.


Good Content:  All Senior Theses will thoroughly review the literature—primary journal articles that report research data as well as the secondary literature (books and review articles that may summarize those research reports).  Avoid overuse of a few secondary references!  All literature relevant to the topic will be methodically searched, effectively organized, and concisely presented in your thesis.  Then, this review is to be intelligently evaluated for unique insights, valid conclusions, and noteworthy perspectives.  Any original research on the topic (your own study) should be integrated as a primary report following this review and evaluation (good research begins with a good literature review—your results should contribute to that literature and knowledge).   As a goal for your thesis effort, you are to become an “expert”—knowing more about the topic than your faculty reader (the best theses are those that educated the grader). This expertise can help achieve those stated career goals. 


Good Construction:  Senior Theses will be well written and carefully edited.  Effective writing skills must be demonstrated to pass the course—regardless other performance.  If needed, you are authorized to obtain assistance writing and editing your thesis from our Writing Center (you must acknowledge this and any other assistance with a title footnote).  Avoid verbosity.   Avoid awkward and nonparallel constructions.  Avoid discursive and logical transition errors.  Avoid lexical and grammatical (semantic and syntactic) errors.  Avoid APA citation and format errors. Direct quotations may not exceed 5% of the total word count.  To obtain your best work, start early and put in the time to write, rewrite, edit, and rewrite some more.


Some Useful Hyperlinks:

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) information at http://www.gre.org/.  For preparation see Amazon.com: for example http://www.amazon.com/tag/gre/ref=tag_dpp_cust_itdp_bn_t (good reports for Kaplan's Premier, check for newest edition).  If you think you might go to graduate school – ever – take the GRE now and take the subject test in psychology just after our Senior Comprehensive Examination – you will never be better prepared.


Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) information at http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/start.htm.  Medical school application information athttp://www.aamc.org/students/amcas/start.htm.  For preparation see Amazon.com: for example http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-2011-2012-Edition-Graduate-Preparation/dp/037542718X/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339014740&sr=1-4 (important to check for newest edition for new MCAT 2015)


Association for Psychological Science website at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/:  general information for STUDENTS.


American Psychological Association website at http://www.apa.org/:  general information for students at http://www.apa.org/students/.  


National Association of Social Workers at http://www.socialworkers.org/ with information for students at https://www.socialworkers.org/profession/overview.asp.


Society for Neuroscience website at http://www.sfn.org/:  general information about neuroscience and links to other related websites.