Professor Melissa Deckman, (Left) chair of the political science department, meets with advisee Heather Noto, ‘14 (Right) to discuss her senior capstone project. In changing the page requirement from 50 to 30 pages, Deckman and other political science advisers hope their students’ writing will be more clear with concise analysis rather than filler just to reach the minimum page count.
Photo by Kayla Kyle

By Emma Way
Elm Staff Writer

For the past few years, the political science department has been back and forth on whether to change the senior thesis requirements for graduating majors. This year the department took the leap by introducing completely remodeled senior capstone experience requirements.

One of the most striking differences between the old thesis and the new political science thesis is the page difference; instead of writing a minimum of 50 pages, seniors are only now required to write 30.

The hope in reducing the page number requirement is for seniors to really develop their research goals into concise arguments instead of repetitiously dragging it out for 50 pages or more. Students are, however, still permitted to write 50 pages if they so please.

These new changes are in effect for this graduating class as well as the rest of the Political Science students when they reach their senior year.

Max Villa, a senior political science and economics double major, said, “In the job world today, managers and corporate leaders are not looking for a 50-page report to read. They want direct and concise data to read and analyze, and I feel this page reduction helps the student achieve this aspect of getting their point across efficiently.”

Additionally, the department has added a presentation aspect to the project so as to better prepare their seniors for future presentations to come whether in graduate school or in a professional career. This presentation will be shown to all the professors and students in the Political Science department.
Seniors will present their research as guests walk around and listen to the various projects. Presenting one’s research is very common in not only the political science field, but across the board.

“We believe it’s important for students to build their communication skills… by sharing their findings from their senior thesis in a poster session,” said Professor Melissa Deckman, professor and chair of the political science department.

Deckman not only played a vital role in the changing of the thesis process, but also serves as an advisor for some of the political science majors going through this process for the first time.

The structure implemented with the thesis changes will model a formal journal article. Deckman also said, “It’s a good exercise for seniors to mirror what real full-time political scientists are doing with their research.”

The thesis for political science majors are now due in February 2014 instead of May, in order to prevent the last-time rush at the end of student’s senior year who are just trying to finish it.

“We always had a couple of cases that went up until the very end and it wasn’t a pleasant experience for us at that point—for either the advisor and for the student. Once in a while the student would fail to reach the deadline and fail to graduate on time,” said Deckman.

With a hard deadline of Feb. 15, Deckman hopes that it will make for a less stressful spring semester for the political science seniors.

“It will also allow us to really focus on crafting a tight, successful, well-presented oral presentation,” she said.

As this is the first year that changes have been implemented, there’s no telling what the outcome will be, but from the perspective of the advisors and seniors it has been an overwhelmingly positive change.

“I do like the changes. Political science theses used to have to be 50 pages and I worried about finding enough to write on,” said senior political science major Caitlin Steele. “Now with a 30-page requirement I know my writing will be more precise and focused.”

“I feel that I am ahead of the game as I know people haven’t even researched topics yet,” Villa said.

He added, “It’s nice to have the page reduction for one, you are not filling their paper with a lot of extra irrelevant material or fluff, and two, you are less redundant trying to make the page limit.”

For a couple of years now the current seniors were aware that changes were to be put into place during their senior year, so none of this was much of a surprise. Deckman, along with other political science professors, worked together to structure this new functional thesis arrangement.

As mentioned earlier the second portion of the senior thesis is a presentation, but there is also an alternative option for students who prefer not giving a full length presentation. This option requires students to write an opinion editorial.

Oliver O’Connor, senior and political science major, said, “I believe giving students an option between an oral presentation or [an] Op Ed article in showcasing our work is a benefit in that it recognizes the differences we have in skill set and comfort.”

The political science department’s changes to their senior capstone experience have been embraced by the seniors.

“The deadline… allows you to have nearly two and half months where you don’t have to stress out over your thesis anymore; you can fully enjoy the extent of you final spring semester at WAC,” said Villa.

The Elm

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