Senior Thesis

Why write a thesis?

  • It provides a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member. Many who write a thesis find that it is the most meaningful academic experience of their undergraduate career.
  • Thesis students have gone to law school, Ph.D. econ programs, and the private sector doing analytics, investment banking, etc.  In other words, undertaking such a thorough research project can be helpful in a variety of career paths.
  • The thesis gives you something meaningful (that you can take ownership of) to talk about in job interviews and on grad school applications.

Year-by-year Guide

Sophomore year

  • Take core courses; Intermediate Microeconomics, Intermediate Macroeconomics, Statistics and Econometrics.
  • If you are interested in graduate school, be sure you are taking upper level Math courses
  • Visit the office hours of your professors and get to know what they are working on.

Junior year

  • Take electives in areas that interest you, especially a writing intensive course that could be a springboard to a thesis.  Examples include Economics of the Family, Health Economics, Economics of China.
  • Find an area of economics that interests you and talk with the faculty expert in that area and have them give you some suggested readings.
  • In your second semester, you should narrow down on topic and advisor.  This is easier said than done.  Don’t be afraid to ask a professor to serve as your advisor but you should have done your homework.  Know what their area of expertise is and why you think your thesis will be interesting to them.  Ideally, you’ve been working on this relationship since Sophomore year.
  • Be sure to anticipate if you intend to go abroad your Junior year.  It is difficult to get this organized from abroad.
  • Submit to your department a letter of intent to write a thesis or contact the Director of Undergraduate studies to indicate your intent.
  • Submit a proposal second semester junior year to fund research trips, document retrieval, purchase of equipment/materials, and the like for the summer between junior and senior year.
  • You can apply for grants from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, Nanovic Institute for European Studies, Office for Undergraduate Studies, and the President’s Circle Fund.

Senior year

  • In fall, students often:
    • collect data or identify a secondary data set,
    • attend library colloquia,
    • revise and share proposals in small groups,
    • conduct a thorough review of the literature,
    • write an annotated bibliography,
    • submit a progress report (i.e., your understanding of the project, a plan for research and writing in the next semester, and a tentative outline), and
    • submit an opening chapter.
  • In spring, students often:
    • submit, by January, a first draft or present a creative work in progress for faculty review,
    • continue with analyses,
    • share drafts in progress, and
    • focus on content and style.
  • Complete your senior thesis project by beginning of April.


Senior Thesis Info Session - Spring 2023

Past Senior Thesis Projects