The honors thesis is written in the general form of a scientific paper with additions peculiar to the thesis format. Thus, it has several discrete parts that serve different purposes. These parts are listed and discussed below. Departmental honors theses are available in Skillman Library and in the Biology Department Office, and students should refer to them for examples of acceptable form and style. Sample honors thesis are available in Appendix 3.
Title page. This lists in separate paragraphs the title of the honors thesis, its author and the thesis adviser.
Biographical sketch. This section is peculiar to the Lafayette honors thesis and is not usually included in a scientific paper submitted for publication. Refer to the examples provided in recent theses in the department office.
Table of contents.
Abstract. An abstract is a terse, one-paragraph statement of the major findings of the study; it is not a summary of the entire thesis. The abstract should begin with a statement of the purpose of the study and then present the major findings. A good abstract ends with a one- or two-sentence summary of the significance of the findings.
Introduction. The purpose of the introduction is to present the reader with a concise summary of what was known about the subject to be investigated at the start of the study. This section has a historical perspective and is often two or three times the length of the introduction of a standard scientific paper written for the more narrowly focused audience of a specialty journal. In order to write such a summary, the student will have to find, read, and digest the literature on the subject.
Materials and Methods. In this section of the thesis, the student describes the identity, source, and maintenance of the organism(s) studied, methods used in data collection, identifies important pieces of equipment, chemical analyses and any other special tests or methods used. Sufficient detail must be included so that another scientist could repeat the study if he or she wished to do so.
Results. Data are presented in turn as serially numbered figures and tables, and the major trends of the data are pointed out to the reader. Note that the figures and tables are presented in separate sections at the end of the thesis. Not all data require their own figures or tables; in some cases it is appropriate to simply mention a single important datum or observation in a separate paragraph.
Discussion. The findings of the study are discussed within the larger context of what is known about the subject and a synthesis of the new facts with the old ones is attempted. As with the introduction, the discussion section of a thesis is usually significantly longer than that of a standard scientific paper. In the last paragraph of the discussion, it is appropriate to suggest directions for further research.
Acknowledgments. This is the place to credit those who have helped you in the experiments, in the preparation of the thesis, and in its presentation. Use complete names and indicate the exact nature of the assistance. Be certain to acknowledge any financial support from grants.
Literature Cited. Here the student lists, in alphabetical order by first author, all of the published or unpublished works, personal communications, etc.,which were mentioned in the text of the thesis. Note that italics are used for genus and species names, journal or book titles, and volume and issue numbers.
Tables. Here the tables are presented in numerical order on separate pages in their own section, complete with legends.
Figures. The figures are grouped together in this section in numerical order on separate pages, again, complete with legends.