thesis guide coverA Guide to Writing a Senior Thesis in Social Studies answers many of the common questions students have about the thesis-writing process. We suggest that you read this guide once through before beginning your thesis process, so that you know what’s in store for the year ahead. Then, we suggest that you refer back to the guide while working on your project, using the table of contents to identify questions that come up once your work on the project has begun. 

A Social Studies thesis needs to be between 20,000 and 30,000 words long, which is roughly equivalent to 80-120 double-spaced pages in length.

The usual format for a topical thesis is the following:

  • Introduction: This sets out the question you are posing along with its significance, your methodology for investigating that question, and the argument you’ll be making
  • 3-4 Body Chapters:
    • Background Chapter: This provides either the theoretical background or the historical background to set up your discussion in chapters to come
    • 2-3 Additional Chapters: These should be oriented around your primary source data collection and organized in a way that supports your main argument
  • Conclusion: Tying together the previous chapters and tying the paper together

Students planning to write a theory thesis will find the word count to be lower, and the structure to be slightly different. Consult your advisor for more regarding writing this type of thesis. If you continue to have questions, please contact Dr. Bonnie Talbert who can assist you with questions regarding this type of research and writing.

All theses must incorporate a substantial amount of primary source data, and they should also make an original argument. That is, they should be a “contribution to knowledge.”

You may consider reading a sample thesis early on in the process, to gain a better sense of your end goal. Model (Hoopes-winning) theses are posted on the Social Studies 99 website.