College honors and certificate programs typically ask students to accomplish something special outside coursework requirements. The Polymathic Scholars Capstone thesis satisfies this tradition while providing many opportunities for external recognition through publications or prizes. The Capstone thesis also is a welcome addition to applications to professional schools, graduate schools, internships, and professional jobs after graduation.
Topics and Faculty Mentors
Polymaths determine a thesis topic by reflecting on their certificate coursework, conducting independent research, and talking with faculty. Although topics vary widely, every thesis is expected to relate to the student’s certificate, 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 not 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 a 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 support Polymaths’ thesis efforts. First, they take the NSC 323 Capstone Preparation Seminar in the Fall of their fourth year. This seminar helps them formulate a research question, collect relevant sources, write a prospectus, and secure a faculty mentor. 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 information and guidance necessary for timely and successful completion of the thesis. Students also present their work during Research Week in April.
Since the program began in 2008, Polymathic Scholars have designed more than 250 distinctly different certificates. Their Capstone theses are similarly diverse. While one thesis may analyze the literature on neonatal seizures, another may introduce a new concept—ambiguous cinema.
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 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:
Jennifer Den: "Bioenergy for Electricity Generation"
Evan Alvarez-Keesee: "Focusing on Now: Mindfulness in the 21st Century"
Sofie McComb: "Fostering Enlightenment Coffeehouse Culture in the Present"
Allison Woods: "The No Child Left Behind Act: Negative Implications for Low Socioeconomic Schools"
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 (.docx): Submit this to the CNS Honors Center before taking the NSC 371 Capstone Thesis Seminar.