It is typically the final hurdle for communications majors on their way to graduation. This is the Senior Thesis.

It is typically the final hurdle for communications majors on their way to graduation. Some students embrace the challenge—others, well, must climb through before seeing daylight. This is the Senior Thesis. It encompasses a final research paper, as long as 50 pages, that demonstrates a student’s ability to research, write, and, essentially, prove his or her intellectual rigor as a soon-to-be graduating communications major. Professors Peter Costello and Sal Fallica lead the required theses class each semester. Here Costello explains what students gain by taking the course, even if, at times, the struggle to complete a thesis seems daunting.

The-Front-Page-Newsletter-Spring-2015-final-draft3-30In writing their senior theses, students have an opportunity to design their own learning experience and to explore a subject of their own choosing in great depth throughout the semester. It is a course spent learning about what they choose to know more deeply. Students who have strong interests usually embrace this opportunity and often come into the workshop already knowing a great deal about what they want to write about. Students who don’t know what they might be interested in writing about may struggle until they arrive at a topic.

A second challenge for students in writing a senior thesis is that so much of the work has to be self-initiated and self-monitored. While this is great preparation for professional life after school–one of the most frequent criticisms employers make of student interns is that they don’t show enough initiative and self-direction—it does run counter to the experiences that students have usually had in many years of schooling, where they are very often placed in the situation of being relatively passive consumers of specific requirements and content designed and packaged by their teachers and textbooks. Writing a senior thesis makes a student much more directly responsible for their own learning activities. This is an opportunity and a challenge.

Finally, senior thesis stretches students capacities in terms of finding, organizing, and effectively conveying in extended written form a complex and high quality set of ideas, concepts, facts, insights, arguments, and other types of information. As one of the last courses students take with us, senior thesis asks students to do this at a higher level of performance than they have probably had to do before in any course they have taken before.

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of The Front Page, the Department of Communications newsletter.

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