Guideline for Writing a Senior Thesis

Except as noted below, each thesis should be about 20-25 pages in length (12 pt font, double-spaced except for abstract which may be single-spaced) and written in the style of an article to be published in a journal in the area of the research. For information concerning scientific writing, see here. Students should, of course, consult with their research directors about the structure of their theses; however, a suggested outline which may be used as a default follows. [Comments in brackets apply to research publications in primary literature and are generally based on material in The ACS Style Guide.]

Title Page

title; names of student and research director; date.[The title should be brief, grammatically correct, and accurate enough to stand alone. The purposes of the title are to attract the potential audience and to aid retrieval and indexing services. The latter is facilitated by using several keywords in the title. In a journal publication, the title is followed by the names of the authors, the address of the institution where the work was conducted, and the date on which the paper was received by the journal editor. The names of the authors are each listed in the order: first, middle initial, and surname; and include all who made substantial contributions to the research. An asterisk is placed on the name of the author to whom correspondence should be addressed.]


one half to one page (single-spaced); a succinct summary of objectives, methods, results and conclusions. [The purposes of the abstract are (1) to allow the reader to determine the nature and information given in the paper and (2) to allow editors to pinpoint key features for use in indexing and retrieval. State briefly the problem or purpose of the research if it is not adequately conveyed by the title. Indicate theoretical or experimental plan used, accurately summarize the principal findings, and point out major conclusions.]


statement of objectives and significance and a review of pertinent literature, carefully cited. This section should generally be more detailed than allowed for a journal article. [The introduction should contain a clear statement of the problem and why you are studying it. Outline what has been done before by citing truly pertinent literature. Indicate the significance, scope and limits of your work. In journals, this section is frequently not labelled.]


methods used; instrumental, synthetic and analytical, as well as computational. Also, description of equipment built, compounds synthesized, computer programs written, etc. [This section should include sufficient detail about the materials and methods that you used so that experienced workers could repeat your work and obtain comparable results.]


the data, complete and detailed, with sufficient description to be understood — but without interpretation. [Summarize the data collected and the statistical treatment of them. Use equations, figures, and tables where necessary for clarity and conciseness.]


the interpretation, analysis and explanation of the results, both positive and negative; what does it all mean? [In journal publications, the Results section is sometimes combined with the Discussion section of the paper.]


final wrap-up statement. [Have you resolved the original problem? If not, what exactly have you contributed? Conclusions must be based on evidence presented in the paper. Suggest further study or applications, if appropriate. This section may be omitted and its contents presented in the Discussion section.]


[the last paragraph of a journal article frequently contains acknowledgements of people, places, financing, etc.]


In the style indicated by your research director. If your research director does not indicate a specific style, use the following. Book references. Author or editor (last name followed by initials),book title in italics or underlined, publisher, city of publication, year of publication, page number(s). Dodd, J.S., Ed.; The ACS Style Guide, American Chemical Society:Washington, DC, 1986, pp 108-111. Journal references. Author (last name, followed by initials), abbreviated journal title in italics or underlined, year of publication (boldface), volume number in italics or underlined, and initial page of cited article (the complete span is better). Fletcher, T.R.; Rosenfeld, R.N. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1985, 107, 2203-2212.


any extensive tabulations of raw data, additional spectra not needed for illustration of the main text or listings of computer programs written or modified. That is, if there is just too much data to include in the Results Section or if much of the raw data have been abstracted and/or tabulated, these abstracts and/or tables may go in the Results Section along with only representative spectra (or chromatograms, etc.), and the bulk raw data put in Appendices. NEW: An appendix on safety should be added to the thesis.

Further notes on style:

  1. All pages should be numbered consecutively.
  2. Each table should be on a separate sheet, be consecutively numbered, and have a caption at the top. Columns must be labeled and all labels should be explained in the caption or in footnotes.
  3. Each figure should be carefully drawn on a separate sheet, consecutively numbered and accompanied by a legend. The legend should normally appear below the figure but may be placed on a separate sheet, if necessary. Figures should be carefully prepared using a drawing program such as ChemDraw or ISIS. Graphs are treated as figures, i.e., they should not be labeled as "Graph 1," "Graph 2," etc. Each axis of a graph must be clearly labeled as to the variable represented and its value along the axis. Each curve on a graph should be clearly identified. Raw data displayed in graphs may also appear in separate tables. All symbols and conventions, such as broken lines or dotted lines, should be explained in the legend.
  4. Insofar as is practical, mathematical equations, Greek letters, special mathematical symbols, and chemical reaction schemes should be typed in the text.
  5. Reprints or preprints of any publications that have already arisen from the research being reported may be appended.
  6. Further details may be obtained from The ACS Style Guide.