Project and Thesis Information

Thinking About Doing a Thesis or Project in American Studies?

Here is a List of Frequently Asked Questions (and Their Answers) to Help Get You Started...


What is the difference between a thesis and a project and what does each involve?

A thesis is a more intensive exercise than a project and also stretches over two semesters instead of one. A thesis is worth two credits, whereas a project is worth one credit. Theses and projects vary in length; theses often run from 80-100 pages (with multiple chapters), whereas projects typically run 40-50 pages. For each you must submit a proposal.


What are the benefits of doing a thesis or project?

There are many good reasons to do a thesis or project. The following are just a few:

  • The opportunity to do an in-depth study leading to expertise in a particular area of interest;

  • Doing a project or thesis will help to prepare you for graduate work.

  • The research skills you learn and the confidence and discipline you develop will make you a more attractive candidate to graduate and professional schools;

  • Only students who complete a thesis or project are eligible for honors in American Studies at graduation.

Who should I see if I'm interested in doing a thesis or project?

You should meet first with your major advisor to discuss your ideas. S/he will help you to identify an appropriate faculty member (if you do not already have one in mind) to advise your research. Your major advisor could end up being your thesis advisor but this need not be the case.


When should I get started?

The sooner you are able to get started, the better. If you think you might like to write a thesis, you should plan to meet with your major adviser (and ideally, the prospective thesis advisor) in the spring of your junior year. If you are going to do a project, you have the option of completing the project in the fall or the spring semester of your senior year. In either event, you'll want to meet as early in the semester as possible with your advisor to discuss your plans.


Do I have to register for a thesis or project? Is there any special paperwork to complete?

Yes! Both theses and projects are assigned a course number in the Schedule of Classes. You should enroll during registration (in the fall of your senior year for a thesis; in the fall or spring for a project). You may pick up the
requisite form from either the Registrar's Office or the American Studies office.

You will also need to submit a separate proposal form to American Studies director. Thesis writers should submit a preliminary and final proposal: the first in the spring of the junior year; the second by September 15th of the senior year. 


What is involved in writing a thesis/project proposal?

Once you have identified a thesis/project adviser, you will work with that  faculty member to develop a thesis/project proposal. You can obtain a copy of the proposal guidelines from the American Studies office. This form explains what information you will need to submit for each kind of proposal. 


When is the thesis/project proposal due?

The proposal should be submitted to the American Studies office as early in the term as possible. For a thesis: by September 15th; for a project: by October 1st or February 1st. Be sure to retain a copy for your own records. 


When is the completed project/thesis due?

A project is due at the end of the term in which it was begun. A final draft of the thesis is due by April 15th. (The final version of the thesis must be graded and deposited by the first week of May.) Other deadlines are provisional and should be worked out between you and your adviser.  These deadlines will help both of you to monitor your progress. 


Do I need a second reader for a thesis?

Yes. Your thesis/project adviser may recommend a second reader if s/he knows of another faculty member with expertise in the particular area/topic you have chosen to study. After you name a second reader, you, your
advisor, and the second reader should confer to determine in advance what role the second reader will play with regard to advising the writing in progress and evaluating the completed thesis. 


Are there models that I can look at for writing a project or thesis?

The American Studies Program office maintains copies of theses and projects submitted by former students. You are welcome to browse through these anytime.