Senior Thesis Guidelines

In general, under the direction of your professor or committee, following the style of a major scientific journal in the area of the study is recommended. Journals either have their own format and style requirements or follow the Council of Biology Editors guidelines in the CBE Manual (in UVU Library Reference section, call number: REF T11.S386, 1999). The following is a general "default" format. Ensure that any information other than your own is properly cited. Follow the citation/reference style of an appropriate scientific journal or the CBE Manual.

Abstract (less than or equal to 1 double-spaced page)

The abstract is a short narrative summary of your thesis. Introduce the problem or question you are studying, describe the experimental approach, your results (what data you collected and what facts you learned), and summarize your conclusions (what you think those facts mean).

Some students may feel compelled to write the abstract first because it’s at the beginning,however, you should write it last to summarize the paper or proposal. You should plan on writing (or rewriting) the abstract when you are finished writing the body of the thesis.

Introduction (approximately 1 to 5 double-spaced pages)

In the introduction, you should give background information to help the reader understand why your topic is interesting and/or important, and tell the reader (in general terms) what you were trying to do for your thesis (i.e., What question did your thesis address?). Include a summary (review) of relevant scientific literature with citations.

Materials and Methods (length may vary)

  • Describe what methods were used. Unlike a cookbook, the materials and methods should be incorporated into a single narrative. You do not need to explain the mechanisms, just give instructions on how the work was done, so others could replicate your experiments or observations. If materials or unusual supplies were purchased, give the name of the manufacturer.
  • Describe how data were collected (e.g., What experiments were done?) and what data analysis techniques were used. Do not list the actual data in this section.  Your data should be summarized in the i"results" section.
  • List any statistical methods, data analysis computer programs (name, manufacturer) or other data analysis techniques used.
  • If research tools were constructed, describe how they were made.
  • If research samples (like tissues or collected specimens) were used, describe where and how they were collected, processed, identified, and stored. If voucher specimens were deposited in a research collection (such as an herbarium or museum), list where they were deposited.

Results (length depends on amount and type of data)

The "results" section contains just what is implied - the summarized data - with just enough narrative to ensure it is "sensible." Save your interpretations and conclusions for the "discussion" section. Describe the results of data analysis. Use appropriate formats for particular data (figures, photos, lists, tables, diagrams, graphs) with sufficient captions so the tables, etc., are "stand alone."

Discussion (as long as it needs to be)

Here is where you interpret your data. What do your findings mean? How do your findings bear on the question  you set out to answer? Do your results support or refute your hypothesis? Were there any unexpected findings that changed your hypothesis or pre-study ideas? If so, how, and what are your new ideas? What are your conclusions? (Watch out: Your conclusions must be supported by your data – you can speculate about other possibilities, but make sure you identify these as such). Compare your results with those of others (i.e., compare your results and conclusions with those published by others). Are there additional experiments you would propose to resolve new or unanswered questions? If so, describe them.

Bibliography (sometimes termed References, Literature, or Literature Cited)