Senior Project Thesis Instructions

(last updated February 28, 2020 )

Writing the senior project thesis is a substantial effort. Although it will not be due until the end of the semester, you are strongly encouraged to have as much of it done by Spring Break (or the equivalent time for students finishing in the fall) as possible. The due date cannot be extended; it is constrained by the need to assign grades by the Registrar’s deadline so the Office of Undergraduate Studies can certify graduation requirements have been met before commencement.

The good news is that much of the thesis can be prepared months in advance; in fact much of it might be derived from the research proposal you prepared in the first semester of PHYS 352, your progress reports and poster presentation. While data acquisition and analysis might be continuing until just days before the thesis due date, you should assemble in advance things like the introduction, background, literature survey, and experimental or theoretical methods that can be written in advance of obtaining, analyzing and explaining the final data.  To encourage you to do this, a draft version of your thesis will be due several weeks before the final due date.

Your thesis should normally be written in a style appropriate for a Masters or Ph.D. thesis, but will probably be shorter. If, however, you and your research mentor prefer that you use the form of a journal article rather than thesis, that is allowed. In either case, your manuscript should include a comprehensive description of the physics involved and the equipment or mathematical techniques employed. With the results, discussion, abstract, conclusion, references, tables and figures, a proper thesis will normally require at least 25 pages. 

Your thesis or manuscript should be provided electronically, as a Word or PDF file. The format for a thesis should be single-column, double-spaced, full-page. This format is also acceptable for a journal article submission although you may, if you wish, instead mimic the style of a Physical Review journal. Figures should ideally be embedded in the text as in a journal article rather than appended at the end. Improper spelling or grammar is problematic and will result in a significant reduction of your grade.  (Use your spell checker and, if necessary, the Writing Resource Center!)

Your report should be written for an audience of your peers, other senior CWRU physics majors. There should be enough background material for the reader to understand where the current work fits in with the research field in general.  The formal guidelines for a CWRU Ph.D. or Master’s thesis are described here.  A PHYS 352 thesis should have the following components, although the organization and section titles may vary somewhat:

TITLE PAGE: Title, Author, Affiliation (CWRU + address) and Research Mentor (and affiliation)

Abstract – typically 150 words or less.

Table of Contents

Introduction/Background about the general area of physics to set the scene for your work (perhaps a page or two ). Remember that your audience includes senior physics majors who may know little about the field of research for your senior project.  

Literature Review: References are to appear as in most AIP journals, e.g. if the paper referred to is Foldy et al 22, then, at the end of the paper, you list in the the references:

(22) Foldy, Leslie L. and Wouthuysen, Siegfried A. “On the Dirac Theory of Spin 1/2 Particles and Its Non-Relativistic Limit “ Phys. Rev. 78 29 (1950).

Including an URL to an electronic version of the reference such as http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRev.78.29 , is encouraged. 

Methods/Description of the experimental, computational and/or mathematical techniques employed.  Figures, photos and illustrations can be very useful. Each figure here and in the next section(s) should include a figure caption. Axes in a plot must be clearly labeled with quantity and units.

Results, Discussion & Conclusions of your work should include an appropriate discussion of uncertainties and comparisons with other work. There are various ways to mix or separate these sections  within a thesis; the decision about how best to do this is left to you, although most authors prefer a separate conclusions section near the end.

Follow-through: A thesis often concludes with discussion of the continuation of the work, of lessons learned, of improvements which could be made. (no excuses, mea culpa’s , or finger-pointing blame here, please.)

Acknowledgements: Thank your collaborators, advisors, mentors, friends, family and anyone else you believe helped you make it to his point.