A thesis for Distinction in Biology is a wonderful way for you to close the loop on your undergraduate research experience and showcase your scientific scholarship. Your thesis will be evaluated by the Faculty in Biology and answers the following questions: What did you do? Why did you do it? What is the significance of your results? What else would you do, were you to continue the project?
In answering the above questions, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding and intellectual ownership of a project; not simply your productivity in the lab. The volume of results or completeness of the study is not critical for a successful thesis. Instead, we will be looking for the following:
- An argument for the significance of your research, contextualized within the scientific literature;
- A review of appropriate literature as evidence in support of claims you make in your argument;
- A statement of your research goals, i.e., a meaningful question of biological importance;
- A description of experimental approaches and methods ;
- Appropriate presentation of results through tables, figures, and images;
- A discussion of the meaning and significance of your results;
- A description of limitations and future directions for the project.
Expanded guidelines can be found in the Biology Thesis Assessment Protocol (BioTAP):
Format of the Thesis
The basic format of the thesis should resemble that of any scientific journal article that is common in your subdiscipline. It generally includes the following sections: Introduction & Background; Methods; Results; Discussion; Acknowledgements; and References. In some instances, it may be useful to sub-divide the Methods & Results section to correspond to multiple aims. However, if you chose to take this route, remember that there should still be a general Introduction and Discussion sections that address the project as a whole. The thesis should not consist of several "mini-papers" that are unconnected.
The format of the final copy should follow these guidelines:
- Cover Page (sample): Title; student's name; supervisor's name; date of submission; 3 signature lines at bottom right (Research Supervisor, DUS, Reader). Please follow the format and language of the sample.
- Abstract Page: single-spaced, roughly 250 words.
- Thesis should be double-spaced
- Pages should be numbered at the top right corner of the page
- It is preferred that figures are embedded within the document instead of all at the end
- There is no minimum page requirement or limit, although most are approximately 25 pages.
Examples of Distinction papers from previous years are available for examination in the Undergraduate Studies Office (Rm 135 BioSci). Several samples are also available below as PDF files.
- Tracing the origins of antimalarial resistance in Plasmodium vivax
- Interaction network optimization improves the antimicrobial efficacy of phage cocktails
- Identifying how ufmylation of RAB1B regulates IFN-β signaling
- Library Resources for Students Writing Theses
- How to write and publish a scientific paper by Barbara Gastel and Robert A. Day
- Biology 495(S): Scientific Argument in Writing. This course is particularly appropriate for seniors working on an undergraduate thesis or major research paper and is recommended, although not required, for all candidates for Graduation with Distinction in biology. The course is writing intensive and carries a “W” designation and, in the fall semester only, is a seminar and carries an “S” designation.
- Biology Writes offers writing resources, feedback, one-on-one consultations, and more.