Note: Previous honors theses advised by Geoscience faculty are archived HERE. Prospective honor thesis students are strongly encouraged to consult with previous examples of successful Geosciences Honor Theses to gain an understanding for general expectations for the final product of this year long intensive research experience.

Entry into this program is described generally in Wellesley College Articles of Government, Book II, Article IV, Section 2A as follows:

Normally a student will apply to her major department in the spring of her junior year to write a thesis. To be admitted to the thesis program, a student should have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100-level and the recommendation of the departmental committee or of the advisors for an individual major program. Department (or advisors of individual majors) may recommend to the Committee on Curriculum and Academic Policy students whose average is below 3.5, but above 3.0 if they have exceptional qualifications.

Students wishing to complete an honors thesis initiate the process in the spring of their junior year, they typically begin research in the summer, and work on their project throughout their senior year, as follows:

  1. Project Prospectus (spring junior year). Potential thesis students consult with a faculty advisor (or advisors) in the spring of their junior year in order to develop a project prospectus, a reading list, and a rough timetable for the proposed work.

  2. Preliminary research (summer junior year). Often thesis students begin to conduct research (field work, data collection, etc.)  in the summer before the their senior year either by participating in the summer research program on campus or by conducting off-campus research with their advisor.

  3. Research proposal (end of the first week of classes fall semester). The prospective honors thesis student, in consultation with their advisor, writes a 3-5 page research proposal. The proposal will contextualize the planned research, state the question or hypothesis being addressed, explain the specific approach proposed to address the question/hypothesis, include references cited, and outline a general timeline for completing the research and writing the thesis .

  4. Enrollment in GEOS 360 (prior to the end of add period fall semester). The Department collectively discusses thesis proposals during the add period of the fall semester and notifies each student of its recommendation.  The department chair registers thesis students for GEOS 360.

  5. Constitute a Thesis Committee.  The prospective honors thesis student  invites a minimum of three faculty, selected in consultation with their advisor, to serve on the thesis committee.  The committee must include the student’s advisor and two faculty from the Geosciences (one typically being the department Chair or the Chair’s designated representative). In consultation with the thesis advisor an additional committee member can be selected  from the appropriate cognate sciences (CHEM, BISC, PHYS, ASTR, CS) departments.

  6. Thesis committee meeting (during the fall semester). The thesis student will convene at least one thesis committee meeting in the fall semester to provide a detailed timeline for executing the proposed research and update the committee on progress to date.

  7. Enroll in GEOS 370 (assessment at the end of the fall semester). In accordance with Articles of Government (Book II, Article IV, Section 2A), the thesis student’s primary advisor will grade the GEOS 360 experience. The grade will reflect both the quality of the research accomplishments and the demonstrated ability of the student to write a thesis. Writing ability will be assessed by the thesis committee based on a completed thesis chapter and appropriately formatted ‘References Cited’ list.  Students who demonstrate sufficient research progress and writing proficiency may register for GEOS 370, Senior Thesis (1.0),  in the spring.

  8. Research during Wintersession (January senior year). Many students have found that working full time on their theses during Wintersession is an effective way to manage the workload.  Students can apply for on-campus housing. Funding may be available to compensate for research conducted during Wintersession. Student should consult with their thesis advisor about the efficacy of on-campus Wintersession research.

  9. Thesis committee meeting(s) during the spring semester. The thesis student, in consultation with their thesis advisor, will convene at least one thesis committee meeting in the first two weeks of the spring semester to provide an update on the research and to revisit the research timeline.

  10. Completing the thesis (spring semester senior year). The Registrar’s Office webpage has specific guidelines and deadlines for the thesis process and students have specific responsibilities that must be met.  These include  submitting the thesis by the deadline, successfully completing  the thesis submission process, deciding whether to choose a temporary embargo on public access to the thesis, and archiving the final version.  Thesis students should understand these guidelines well in advance of the deadline and consult with their thesis advisor on the need for an embargo.  The thesis guidelines are firm and must be followed fastidiously, and students must meet their responsibilities.

  11. Invitations for thesis defense readers: CCAP representative and external. The Registrar's office publishes a list of faculty that are willing to serve as CCAP representatives on thesis committee defenses.  Often this representative is  a faculty member from outside the sciences.  Candidates are chosen in consultation with thesis advisor.  See Registrar’s Office webpage for details.  Students also have the option to invite a faculty member from outside the College to serve as a thesis reader and to participate in the thesis defense.  Some students have found the addition of an external faculty member to be a valuable part of the process and excellent preparation for graduate school.  

  12. Present  research (Ruhlman Presentations). Geosciences thesis students are expected to present  their research at the Ruhlman conference at the end of April, at professional conferences, and/or as a public presentation to the Geosciences Department.  Funding is available from the department to cover travel expenses for professional conferences.

  13. Thesis Defense (reading period).  During the reading period thesis students arrange to defend their research to their thesis committee. The specific format of this defense is flexible and can be designed by the advisor/committee and student in a manner that best allows for dynamic exchange of ideas. The committee may recommend minor edits and/or small changes to the thesis before final archiving.  

  14. Final draft submitted to college archives.  The student submits the final, edited pdf version of thesis for permanent archiving in late May.  The Registrar’s Office webpage provides detailed instructions for final submission.