Senior Project Schedule & Guidelines 2012-2013

Senior Project Schedule 2012-2013

Week of March 26 Receive ES Department Senior Project Schedule for 2012-2013 and link to faculty advisor preference form by email.
By Monday, April 9 Submit faculty advisor preference form electronically by noon.
By Thursday, April 19 Receive notification of senior project advisor and appropriate section of ES 600 to register for.
By Tuesday, May 1 Register for the appropriate section of the Senior Project (ES 600) before 5 pm by submitting signature card to the Registrar’s Office.
By Tuesday, September 4 Register for and attend the appropriate section of ES 600.
By Friday, September 7 Submit an electronic copy of the Fall Form, including the name of your project advisor, the title of your project, and a two-sentence description of your project.
By Friday, October 5 Submit a 5-8 page project proposal to your committee.
By Friday, October 12 Complete your proposal meeting with your committee.
By Wednesday, December 12 Submit a progress report to your senior project advisor.
By Spring Semester ADD deadline Register for the appropriate section of ES 610.
By Friday, March 1 Submit a first draft of your written thesis to your advisor.
By Monday, April 1 Submit a final draft of your written thesis to each member of your committee by 5:00 pm. (Failure to meet this deadline will result in a full letter grade penalty, plus an additional letter grade penalty for each additional week past this date.)
By Friday, April 19 Complete your oral defense of your senior project before your committee.
By Tuesday, April 30 Step 1. Submit to your advisor a signed Project Permission Form which will be distributed in senior seminar during the week of April 15.
Step 2. Submit an electronic copy of your abstract via the ES Department Abstract Form to the department and by email to your advisor.
Step 3. Submit an electronic copy of your thesis to Pelletier Library according to instructions here:  (Your grade cannot be submitted – and therefore you will not graduate until Steps 1 through 3 have been completed to the satisfaction of your advisor.)

Senior Project Guidelines 2012-2013

Date: March 26, 2012
To: Environmental Science Department Juniors
From: ES Faculty
Re: Senior Projects

This memo is meant to clarify what the ES faculty expects from a Senior Project, whether it is for the Environmental Studies or Science degree. The key to our expectations is that it is an independent project; you are expected to initiate the necessary procedures discussed below. In essence, the senior project is designed to help you begin to operate on your own as a critical thinker and investigator. We think that you will be able to use this training in any career you pursue, academic or otherwise. Finally, and quite sincerely, we want your senior project to be a rewarding experience. It is your chance to become deeply involved with some aspect of the environmental sciences that particularly interests you.

Senior projects in the ES Department are yearlong projects that will be broken into two 1-semester courses carrying a total of 8 credits. The first semester’s work will be worth 4 credits and will involve

1) writing or re-writing your research proposal,
2) discussing the proposal with your committee and establishing mutually agreeable expectations,
3) learning experimental or literature research techniques,
4) collecting and analyzing data and/or library research, and
5) attending a weekly seminar with your advisor and other senior project students (Senior Seminar).

The grade for the first semester of work will be based on the senior project committee’s evaluation of a research proposal, submitted no later than October 5, 2012, a progress report, which will be due December 12, 2012, and attendance and participation in the Senior Seminar.

The second [Spring] semester’s work will be worth 4 credits and will be a continuation of the experiments, data collection, data analyses, and/or writing that you began in the first semester. You will submit a draft of your written thesis to your advisor by March 1, 2013 and a final draft to your committee by April 1, 2013. Shortly after the written report has been submitted the department will schedule an oral defense of the report, which will be held no later than April 22, 2012. In this oral defense, you may be asked to give a short presentation of the project and its results, and will answer questions from the senior project committee regarding the project.

The following is a more detailed outline of the procedure you should follow:

We will be giving you a form that you should submit with a list of your first three choices for a faculty senior project advisor, in order of preference. Your senior project committee must include one member of the ES Department. The department will match you with a senior project advisor and second reader attempting to give you your first choices as much as is possible. Once you have been advised of your match, you should begin consulting with your senior project advisor immediately to be sure that your project is acceptable to both of you. You should also adjust your registration with drop/add cards so that enrollments accurately reflect student-advisor matches.

When you return in the fall, you should meet with your Senior Seminar group on the first Thursday of the semester. BySeptember 7, 2012 you should have submitted the electronic departmental form to the Secretary listing the topic of your senior project, your committee members, and information about how we can reach you. By September 22, 2012, you should also have handed each committee member a revised senior project proposal and have scheduled a meeting with them which should occur no later than October 12, 2012.

Once you have completed the above steps, START WORKING! The final due date for your senior project, April 1, 2013 will come much sooner than you think. Anyone who has done an extensive research project, such as the Senior Project, knows that there is significant inertia to be overcome in just getting started. To help you with this, we are requiring that you submit a written progress report to your senior project advisor by December 12, 2013. The progress report should contain a description of the work done on the project during the first semester, including a summary of any relevant data collected, and a discussion of problems and/or modifications of the proposed experimental design suggested by the preliminary experiments. This document, along with informal observations of your progress and attendance and participation in the Senior Seminar, will be used by your advisor to assign a grade for the first semester.

A final note:

Remember to register for the appropriate section of the second semester of your senior project (610) during the pre-registration period for Spring Semester.


In order to help both the student and the faculty members involved, the following guidelines will be used to evaluate the project:

1. Quality of the written thesis.

a) Style. Style refers to the appropriate format of the written thesis. Considerations include: a clear statement of the hypothesis when appropriate, self explanatory tables and figures, references correctly cited, topic adequately introduced in the Introduction, discussion related to other work of importance.
b) Content. Content refers to the intellectual quality and scope of the work. Considerations include: appropriateness of experimental design for testing the stated hypothesis, application of appropriate statistical tests if necessary, convincing presentation of the data, interpretation of the results and integration with the literature.

2. Oral examination.

The oral examination is intended to test the depth and breadth of knowledge relevant to the topic. The student should be able to demonstrate a solid understanding of the subject area and be aware of problems and/or limitations of the particular study. The student should demonstrate that he/she knew what was being done in the laboratory and why it was being done. The student must have some idea of the limits of extrapolation. When describing the implications of the experimental results, the student should be able to refer to a few of the major references in the literature. The oral examination does not necessarily involve a formal presentation by the student, although some advisors may ask for a summary of the rationale, results, and significance of your research. Most of the oral exam will involve a discussion that allows your committee to assess whether you have a solid understanding of the project, be it a laboratory or library project. You should be aware of the problems and limitations of your study (all studies have some), the ramifications of the study, and other research which could be undertaken to deal with the problems or ramifications. In other words, you must be intellectually involved with your work. Simple reporting of your data, or reorganization of some published information is considered a serious weakness. You should be ready to discuss and make your own interpretation of the ideas in your study based upon fundamental concepts and ideas in environmental science. We are certainly not “after your hide” although you will no doubt receive a lot of constructive criticism along the way. (One part of the educational process is to learn to take and benefit from criticism.)

3. Independence of thought and action.

Senior project topics are sometimes completely the student’s idea, but often they involve a joint effort between student and advisor. However, once an appropriate topic has been chosen, and an overview of current methodologies explored, the student is expected to work independently. Students should not rely heavily on faculty members for guidance at every turn of events. Laboratory and fieldwork should be done conscientiously, deadlines should be met, and laboratory apparatus and field equipment must be put away cleaned.

4. Deadlines.

All deadlines are enforced strictly. Departures from set dates may be accommodated only under extreme circumstances, and only after consultation with and appoval by your senior project advisor. Such departures may require departmental approval.

EVALUATIONGrading of the Senior Project will be determined as follows:

Fall Semester (4 credits)

30% of the grade is based on the quality of the research proposal
50% of the grade is based on the extent and quality of the progress made on the project as evidenced primarily in the written progress report
20% for attendance and quality of participation in the Senior Seminar

Spring Semester (4 credits)

10% for attendance and quality of participation in the Senior Seminar
30% of the grade is based on the quality of the written project
30% of the grade is based on the quality of your oral presentation and subsequent defense of your project (i.e. your ability to “think on your feet”)
30% of the grade is based on the level of scientific scholarship that you display during the research. (The Department considers intellectual curiosity, persistence, flexibility, etc., as evidence for scientific scholarship.)

The submitted senior thesis and grading procedure for the senior project is as follows:

The thesis that you submit on April 1, 2013 will be the graded copy, but it should not be bound because the committee will often ask you to make changes before they will accept the thesis. Your oral defense should be scheduled for sometime between April 1 and April 19. Immediately following your senior project oral exam, your committee will tell you whether or not you will receive a passing grade and whether or not any revisions are required in the written manuscript. You will receive in writing from the senior project committee, the earned grade on the project, a summary of the evaluation, and notice of any additional corrections required for the manuscript which should be completed no later than April 22.

Your grade will be forwarded to the registrar’s office only after:

1) these corrections have been made to the satisfaction of the committee;
2) your work areas have been cleaned and you have returned equipment; and
3) you have submitted an electronic copy of the file(s) that make up your senior project to Pelletier Library according to instructions given by email at the appropriate time, and an abstract (on departmental electronic form) to the department secretary.


  1. Your report should be well-written in proper English and of a style consistent with the literature in your specific field.
  2. The report must be typed, with line spacing set at 1.5, and with 1″ margins.
  3. Generally avoid quotes. Their content can generally be incorporated into the paper without direct quotes.
  4. Properly reference outside sources using the published literature in your field as an example. Check with your senior project advisor to be sure of the proper format.
  5. Be consistent.

Organizational Criteria:

The following outline is most appropriate for experimental projects. The organization of a senior thesis on a non-experimental project should be agreed upon in consultation with your advisor.

1. Abstract.

A brief (< 200 words) paragraph which highlights the salient points of your research.

2. Introduction.

a) Relatively short–this is not a complete review of the literature, but a logical development of your hypothesis.
b) Clearly state the hypothesis being tested.
c) One of the more important aspects of the senior project is defining your problem narrowly enough to be able to statistically analyze it.
d) Show an understanding of the background for the problem.

3. Materials and Methods.

a) This section should be detailed enough for someone else to reproduce your study. Do not include such unnecessary information as the number of flasks or spatulas used.
b) Your experimental design should be appropriate to the questions being asked. Have adequate repetitions and controls.
c) Your techniques should be appropriate for the problem studied.
d) Use metric units.

4. Results.

a) Keep your results separate from your discussion.
b) This section should be a clear exposition of your actual findings with some assistance to the reader to show her/him which results and relationships you want to specifically consider.
c) Tables and figures should have self explanatory titles, and should be on a separate page. Figure legends occur below the figure and Table legends above the table.

-Lengthy tables of raw data should be placed in an appendix.
-Be sure that they are well labeled. Tables and figures must be clear enough so that the reader can understand the data in them without referring to the text.

d) Proper statistical analyses must be used to aid you in evaluating your data.

5. Discussion.

a) The investigator should discuss his/her results with regard to the hypothesis posed in the Introduction. The answer should logically follow from the results.
b) Use appropriate supporting or contradictory literature to put your results in perspective. This is not, however, a review of everything you know about the subject.
c) Recognition of any significant weaknesses or limitations in your study should be made.
d) You may wish to suggest further research to clarify some of the unanswered issues related to your problem.

6. References.

All references cited in the text of your thesis are to be listed in an order consistent with the published literature in your field. List only the references that you cite.