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College honors and certificate programs typically ask students to accomplish something special beyond coursework requirements. The Polymathic Scholars Capstone thesis satisfies this tradition while providing opportunities for external recognition through publications or prizes. Completing a Capstone thesis also helps students develop and hone skills they will find valuable in graduate school, professional schools, internships, and professional jobs after graduation.

Topics and Faculty Mentors

Polymaths determine thesis topics by reflecting on coursework for their Capstone fields of study, conducting independent research, and talking with faculty. Although topics vary widely, every thesis is expected to relate to the student’s Capstone field, to pose a question, and to answer this question through evidence-based argumentation. So, as Polymaths begin their theses, they will know the question they want to ask, but they may not know the answer. The thesis is that answer.

Faculty interaction is essential to a student’s development as a researcher and writer, so all Polymaths must secure at least one faculty mentor to guide their thesis efforts. Finding a mentor is largely an independent process, although CNS Honors Center staff are happy to help Polymaths identify faculty with relevant expertise. Once they have a mentor, they write a thesis proposal and submit a thesis registration form, which the mentor signs.

Timing and Thesis Courses

Two courses directly support Polymaths’ thesis efforts. First, they take the NSC 323: Capstone Thesis Preparation Seminar in the Fall of their fourth year. This seminar helps them formulate a research question, collect relevant sources, write a thesis proposal, and develop a plan for the thesis itself. In the Spring of their fourth year, Polymaths take the NSC 371: Capstone Thesis Seminar, which provides a sense of community, a forum for discussing thesis progress, and guidance for timely and successful completion of the thesis. Students also present their work to a multidisciplinary audience during Research Week in April.

Sample Theses

Since the program began in 2013, Polymathic Scholars have designed more than 250 distinctly different fields of study. Their Capstone theses are similarly diverse. While one thesis may analyze the literature on a topic of interest, another may introduce a new concept, and a third may report the results of an original survey or experiment.

Although the program furnishes general thesis guidelines, Polymaths and their faculty mentors ultimately agree on the scope, format, and style of a thesis that reflects the conventions of their discipline(s) and publication outlets. We encourage all Polymaths to join the scholarly conversation on their topic by submitting their work for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Students who pursue publication research appropriate journals, work with editors, and end up adapting and improving their work in the process. Here are examples of recent Polymathic Scholars' theses:

Guidelines and Forms

These materials clarify the nature of the thesis, the faculty mentor's role, and some procedures needed to register and submit the thesis.

1. Thesis Guide for Students: Read this to understand the scope of the thesis.

2. Thesis Guide for Faculty: Give this to faculty who are considering being your thesis mentor.

3. Thesis Registration Form: Submit this to the CNS Honors Center before taking the NSC 371 Capstone Thesis Seminar