Senior Thesis in Philosophy

Senior Thesis Writing

A senior thesis is a substantial piece of philosophical work undertaken at the undergraduate level during the senior (final) year of study. Theses are intended to serve as the culmination of a period of focused study of a topic, problem, theme, or idea within philosophy. It is the end result of thorough research conducted by the student under the guidance of a faculty advisor. The topic, problem, theme, or idea should be one with which the student already has some familiarity, and the thesis should employ an argument pertaining to it.

Eligibility: Only majors (either Philosophy or Economics-Philosophy) may write a senior thesis; there is no grade point average requirement.  

An announcement is sent out mid-term to undergraduate majors calling for senior thesis proposals. An informational luncheon is also held with the Director of Undergraduate Studies where all interested majors can ask questions related to senior theses.

Procedure Overview

  • Student confers with potential faculty advisors on the feasibility of writing their thesis;
  • When a faculty member agrees to advise the thesis, the student can submit the thesis proposal to the Department;
  • A three member faculty committee reviews the thesis proposals and selects those it deems feasible;
  • Those with approval are sent notification to register for a supervised research section with their advisor for spring.

The Proposal

The goal of the thesis proposal is to demonstrate the feasibility of writing the thesis by the April deadline. It should provide a brief overview of the question(s) to be taken up in the thesis while outlining the structure of the argument(s) to be made (though this may change over the course of writing the thesis).

Students are urged to speak with potential advisors well before the proposal deadline. Students may begin working on their proposals as early as they like, however they are encouraged to work on the proposal in close consultation with the faculty advisor; no proposal will be accepted without a faculty advisor.

Proposal Requirements

Proposals should include a title block containing the name of the student author and his or her UNI and telephone number, the name of the faculty advisor, and a tentative title. Proposals may vary in length, but should be not far outside the range of three to five pages. If works are cited in the proposal, it should include a "works cited" section. Separate from the works cited, the proposal should include, on the last page, a list of works as suggested reading for the thesis, titled “Proposed Bibliography”. In essence, the proposal should contain four parts:

  • A statement to the effect that you have met with your faculty advisor and they have agreed with your proposal;
  • An overview of the anticipated thesis; a sketch outlining the structure of the argument(s) (include works cited for any cited works)
  • A timeline for completing your work
  • A proposed bibliography, i.e. suggested reading for conducting your research 

For formatting the proposal, follow the formatting guidelines given for the thesis, below.

Proposals must be submitted as pdfs by email, to the Director of Academic Administration and Finance, Stacey Quartaro at sg2170@columbia.edu, copying both the faculty advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies, David Albert, at da5@columbia.edu.

Students will be informed of a decision by the end of December.

Proposal Deadline: December 3, 2021

The Thesis

Students whose thesis proposals are approved must register for a section of Supervised Individual Research PHIL UN3997/UN3998 with their advisor in the following spring term, during which the student will meet regularly with the advisor and give progress reports when requested.

Over the course of the spring term, students are to continue researching under the guidance of their faculty advisor. During this time, students should revise and refine their argument(s) as necessary.

Length Requirement

Theses should be not fewer than 30 pages and not greater than 40 pages in length; any exception will have to be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Formatting

The preferred fonts are 10-point Arial or 12-point Times New Roman; however, any legible serif or sans-serif standard font may be used, as long as it is roughly equivalent in size. Script or ornamental fonts should not be used. The font should be uniform throughout the text. Margins should be one inch on all sides. There is no preference concerning formatting the bibliography, but it should follow one of the major formatting styles (e.g. APA, MLA, or Chicago—see https://owl.english.purdue.edu for a useful style guide available online, or visit the Writing Center located in 310 Philosophy Hall for in-person assistance with writing and editing).

The thesis should have a title block that includes the same information as in the proposal's title block (see above).

Submitting the Senior Thesis

Theses must be submitted as pdfs by email to the Director of Academic Administration and Finance, Stacey Quartaro, at sg2170@columbia.edu, copying both the faculty advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies, David Albert, at da5@columbia.edu.

In the body of the email, students should include the information contained within the title block, i.e. their name, UNI, and telephone number, their faculty advisor’s name, and the title of their thesis.

Submission Deadline: senior theses must be submitted by: March 31, 2022

No late submissions will be accepted.

Senior Thesis Symposium

At the end of the term the Department will host a Senior Thesis Symposium. All students who successfully completed a thesis are invited to attend and give a short presentation of their work to fellow students and faculty members. A reception will follow the presentations.

The 2022 Senior Thesis Symposium will be held: TBA

Senior Theses and Departmental Honors

Seniors who submit completed theses on time and also have a grade point average of 3.6 or above will be considered for departmental honors.

Submitting a thesis is not a necessary condition for honors consideration; high achieving majors are also placed into consideration upon their nomination by a faculty member and the submission of a piece of their philosophical writing/work sample when requested.