1 Writing a BA Thesis in Political Science Program Chair Professor Charles Lipson
2 BA Thesis Path: 3 rd Year Students This meeting will focus on The bureaucratic details of writing a BA Thesis What you need to do now How to research your thesis project and write your paper You can begin by reading chapters 1-4 of my book, How to Write a BA Thesis. It is assigned in the Colloquium and covers the key points you need to consider right now.
3 Write BA Thesis Proposal and Find an Adviser This Spring By the end of eighth week of Spring Quarter, students who intend to write a BA thesis must have Completed a one- or two-page proposal describing their topic and listing a few key readings Chosen a faculty adviser Gotten written approval from their faculty adviser to supervise the project. (The faculty adviser does not have to be a member of the political science department.) The signed proposal must be filed with the department by the end of 8 th week, Spring Quarter.
4 Is the BA Thesis for Honors or Not? All political science majors are welcome to write a BA Thesis. Researching and writing a thesis is valuable in its own right. You do not have to be eligible for honors to write a thesis.
5 Who is Eligible for Honors? Students who have done exceptionally well in their courses and write an outstanding BA thesis are recommended for honors. Honors requires 1. A BA Thesis approved for honors 2. A GPA of 3.6 or higher in political science 3. An overall GPA of 3.0 or higher GPAs are determined in the quarter before your graduation. If you are graduating in the Spring, then your GPA eligibility is determined at the end of Winter Quarter.
6 BA Thesis Path: 4 th Year Students All students writing a thesis, whether for honors or not, must sign up for 2 courses during their 4 th year: BA Colloquium (PS 298) BA Thesis Supervision (PS 299) These courses each count as one course toward the twelve-course requirement. They do not count toward the subfield distribution requirement.
7 BA Colloquium for 4 th Year Students The required BA Colloquium meets during the Autumn and Winter Quarters. Since this counts as a single course, you register for this course for one quarter, not two. You can choose whether to register for it during the Autumn or Winter. (The same rule applies to the BA Faculty Thesis Supervision course.) You must take this course to graduate with honors unless you meet one of the specific criteria for exceptions. I will explain them in a moment.
8 BA Colloquium for 4 th Year Students The BA Colloquium helps students carry out their thesis research and offers feedback on their progress. The colloquium meets weekly in Autumn and every other week in Winter. Students discuss the entire process of researching and writing a thesis, and they present their own work-in-progress.
9 BA Colloquium for 4 th Year Students The department runs several BA Colloquia, each emphasizing a different area of political science. Each is led by a BA Preceptor, an advanced graduate student in political science who specializes in that area. Besides the Colloquium, you will have regular, individual meetings with your faculty adviser. So you have 2 sources of help on your project: Your faculty adviser The colloquium in your subfield, led by the Preceptor
10 How Do Grades Work For the BA Colloquium? The grade is based on three factors: 1. Your regular attendance in the colloquium during the autumn and winter quarters 2. Your active participation in the colloquium, including presenting your own work and commenting on others work 3. The quality of your draft papers, as evaluated by the BA Colloquium preceptor
11 Must I Take the BA Colloquium? Yes. You must take the Colloquium, even if you are double-majoring and are required to take a similar class in another major. Are there any exceptions? Yes, but they are rare.
12 Exceptions to Taking the BA Colloquium? There are three exceptions to the rule that all Honors students must take the BA Colloquium. 1. Students who are abroad during the Autumn 2. Students who are not enrolled in the Autumn, or 3. Students who are graduating early at the end of Autumn quarter Students who will be abroad or not enrolled in the Winter Quarter should still take the Colloquium. You will need to inform the BA Preceptor of your situation in advance to arrange grading.
13 If You Are Not Taking the BA Colloquium, You Must Notify the Chair of the Undergraduate Program in Writing If you will not be taking the Colloquium for any of these reasons, you must inform the head of the undergraduate program in writing and explain your reason. Please note that students who are excused from taking the Colloquium will need to add one other political science class to fulfill the required 12.
14 BA Thesis Supervision To encourage regular meetings with your faculty adviser, you must register for PS 299, BA Thesis Supervision, during one quarter of your 4 th year. You will meet with your faculty supervisor all year long, but you only register for one quarter. The form for registering is at the College advisers office.
15 Must the Faculty Advisor for my BA Thesis Be a Member of the Political Science Department? No. Appropriate faculty in other departments are fine choices for BA advisors. You will also take BA Thesis Supervision with them, whether or not they are members of the political science department.
16 How Do Grades Work For BA Thesis Supervision? First, the course meets over three quarters (autumn, winter, and spring until your paper is completed), but it counts only as a single course. So it has only a single grade. Your final grade for BA Thesis Supervision is simply the grade your faculty adviser gives your BA Thesis. BA Theses are given a letter grade, such as A Minus, as well as being evaluated as Honors or Not.
17 Who Decides Whether My BA Thesis Receives Honors? We have a standard procedure for deciding whether a paper receives honors. Your Faculty BA Advisor and your BA Colloquium Preceptor read the paper independently. If both say yes, then your paper receives Honors If both say no, then your paper does not receive Honors If one says yes and one says no, then we ask a faculty member to read the paper anonymously and make the decision.
18 Deadlines: 3 rd Year Students who want to write a BA thesis must Write a brief proposal Find a faculty adviser Have the professor sign the proposal. The signed proposal is due in Pick 401, at the end of 8 th week, Spring Quarter. If you are not writing a BA Thesis, there are no deadlines during the 3 rd Year.
19 Deadlines: 4 th Year BA Theses and Long Papers must be approved in the quarter you intend to graduate, or earlier. Specific dates are available in the college catalog and on our Web site.
20 What If I Intend to Graduate Early? All deadlines are related to the quarter you graduate. For example, The GPA criteria must be met the quarter before you graduate The deadline for turning in your BA Thesis is during the quarter you graduate If you intend to graduate at the end of Winter Quarter, you should take the BA Colloquium. If you intend to graduate early at the end of Autumn Quarter, you should probably take the BA Colloquium in your third year. Please consult individually with the Program Chair.
21 Can You Switch Paths, from the BA Yes. Thesis to the Long Paper? During your 4 th year, you can still choose to write a 20-page paper instead of the BA Thesis. That is, you can switch even if you have begun the BA Colloquium and BA Thesis Supervision. If you do switch, however, you will need to complete the required 12 courses for the Long Paper Path. With the chair s permission, you might be able to get a grade for one of the two courses (the Colloquium or Thesis Supervision), but not both. To receive a grade, you will need to complete a writing assignment.
22 Double Majors: BA Path If you intend to write a BA Thesis in political science, you must attend our department s BA Colloquium even if your other major requires attendance at its colloquium. You may choose to write separate theses for each department or one thesis to meet both requirements. If you write a single thesis for both departments, you need to fill out a form, available from the College adviser s office, and have it signed by the program chairs in both departments. To receive honors in political science, the BA thesis must be approved by our department at the honors level.
23 Now, let s turn to researching and writing the thesis itself
24 How to Find a Thesis Topic Your first task really proceeds in three stages. 1. Pick a topic you really care about. Go fishing for a topic Do lots of background reading on the subject 2. Narrow your topic to a manageable size. 3. Work to convert your topic into a question. An interesting question is the key to an interesting thesis Work closely with your faculty adviser in narrowing your topic and converting it into a good question.
25 Key Points in Researching a Thesis Once you have narrowed your topic or developed a question, you need to study it in depth. Start by making a reading list Ask your professor for additional readings. Your goal is to work toward A clear question and then an answer The answer is your thesis or central argument. Every thesis should have a thesis.
26 Structuring Your Paper Let s assume you have found a good question. Your answer proceeds in several steps, or sections. Link the sections together with smooth transitions. Ask yourself, what are the steps I need to take to make an argument. The steps are the sections of the paper. Start What steps do I need to take here? End
27 Structuring Your Paper: A Metaphor Think of the steps in your argument as if they were stepping stones to help you cross a stream. Riverbank Riverbank Introduction Stages of Your Argument Conclusion
28 Structuring Your Paper Ask yourself: What are the steps I need to take to make an argument. Start End Steps in your Argument Work hard with your adviser to figure out Which steps you need to take What order you need to take them in
29 The Trick to Writing a BA Thesis Write a very brief introduction laying out the argument for yourself. That will get you started. Then, write each step as a totally separate paper. Start End Next, fit the separate papers together with brief transitions. They should fit easily.
30 The Trick : Write Each Step as a Separate 5-6 Page Paper X 1 X2 X3 X4 X Start End Write each step as a totally separate paper. Don t worry about any of the other sections.
31 The Trick : Write Each Step as a Separate 5-6 Page Paper X X1 2 X3 X4 X Start End Write section 2 as a separate paper. Don t think about sections 1, 3, or anything else.
32 The Trick to Writing a BA Thesis If the sections do not fit together easily, then you have one of two problems. You left out a section, or You put the sections in the wrong order It is easy to fix either problem. Start End
33 Linking Up the Sections Once you have written the separate papers and lined them up in order, you need to write transitions. Start End
34 You Cannot Write the Introduction and Conclusion Until You Have Drafted the Whole Paper Write an early draft of the introduction to get you started. But don t waste too much time on it. Work on the introduction and conclusion as the last stages of your project. Edit and rewrite them. Introduction Conclusion
35 Checklist to Remember for Good Theses Compare your argument with others Why is your better than the others? If you use case studies, you should explain Why you are using case studies at all? Why you are using these particular ones? Explain the limits of any generalizations you develop or test. Are you claiming too much or too little?
36 Advice about Writing Do not separate the stages of research and writing. Write up your work as you go along. Cite as you write. Bring brief written materials to your adviser whenever you meet. Pick an audience to write for. My suggestion is write for a friend who is majoring in history or sociology.
37 Advice about Writing Write clearly and succinctly, using the active voice. Edit carefully and edit often. To write well, you must write drafts and edit them. Reread your work so you hear it. If it does not sound right, then it is not written correctly.
38 Meeting with Your Faculty Adviser Establish a schedule with your advisor. Set out your key ideas in writing as soon as possible and share them with your adviser. Bring two copies of your draft paper to each meeting. stapled, numbered pages Include your name and address Before each meeting, think about what you want to accomplish.
39 Any Questions? I hope I have addressed your main questions and concerns. I m happy to answer questions.
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