Preparing for the Philosophy Thesis

The philosophy senior thesis, while not required, provides an opportunity to investigate a philosophical issue in depth and create sustained original work written on a topic that you choose in consultation with two readers.

The length of a thesis varies with the subject matter (anywhere from 30 to 60 pages). Your project should demonstrate mastery of your topic, including engagement with the relevant secondary literature. It can help to look over past philosophy theses, which are located in the philosophy department’s library (Pearsons 208).

You will need to decide on the following before the beginning of the fall semester:

  • The area you would like to work in (e.g., history, value theory, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of science, aesthetics, etc.)
  • The topic or question(s) that you would like to investigate
  • The readers with whom you would like to work for the academic year[1]
  • A reading list, created in consultation with your readers, relevant to your topic or question(s)

During Fall semester, you will complete the senior literature review on the basis of your chosen readings. This literature review serves as a foundation for the thesis. After completing the literature review, but before beginning Spring semester, discuss with your readers whether to attempt the thesis in Spring. If all are agreed with proceeding, then have your readers sign the Readers’ Agreement.

Thesis Schedule

It is critical that you schedule regular meetings with your readers throughout each semester. 

Complete Draft

Due: before spring break begins

This should include full and complete drafts of all chapters, introductory and concluding chapters, and a bibliography. It is the responsibility of your readers to provide comments within two weeks. Confirm that your readers received your draft. If two weeks after this confirmation you do not hear from your readers, you will need to get in touch with them.

Final Version of the Thesis

Due: at the beginning of the 14th week of Spring

Provide a final version of the thesis to your readers and turn in a bound copy of the thesis to Vicki Hirales in Pearsons 208. The bound copy will be stored in the Department library. Whether you bind the copies for your readers is up to you.

Presentations

TBA

Grading

You are responsible for coming to an agreement with your readers about the grading policies for late work.

Advice

This will, in all likelihood, be the longest academic project you have undertaken. The key to completing a project like this is to break it into a series of smaller, more manageable pieces and work steadily throughout the year accomplishing each piece.

We recommend that you set up regular meetings with both your readers; those regular meetings will help keep you on track and lead to fruitful exchanges of ideas.

We also recommend that you take advantage of The Writing Center. The Writing Center will connect you with a Writing Partner, who will work with you throughout the year. Setting up regular meetings with your Writing Partner is another excellent way to keep making progress throughout the year. 

While you have latitude in choosing your topic, in our experience, projects turn out better if you (i) take up a question that has come up in your coursework, where you have a feel for the issues and know some of the background literature, yet never resolved the question to your satisfaction or (ii) apply knowledge from your coursework to a novel area. Remember that you readers must agree to the topic and readings you have chosen.

The Readers' Agreement

[1] At least one reader must be in the Pomona Philosophy Department and both readers cannot be on leave during the academic year.