The Senior Thesis at New Covenant is a student’s final opportunity in the School of Rhetoric to improve his/her critical thinking, research, and rhetorical skills by preparing, presenting, and defending a substantive argument on a debatable question. It is the culmination of academic formation and training in grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. The paper and the defense process provide excellent training in the rhetorical skills of invention, arrangement and delivery, which serve a student well in the college experience.
In one sense, the senior thesis is nothing more than another term paper, many of which have already been written during a New Covenant career. However, students are expected to prepare the thesis as formal proof of learning and skill, presenting the very best and, perhaps, the most lengthy essay they will write. While there is no minimum or maximum length, most theses are fifteen to twenty-five pages in length. The process of research and writing is supplemented by regular consultation with the Senior Thesis Director and other members of a student’s faculty committee.
1. Proposal (late junior year/early senior year) – As a part of the Senior Thesis class, students finalize and research a topic that they formally propose to a faculty committee. This committee is comprised of teachers whose interest and expertise suits them to the topic of choice. Topic approval is governed by the discretion of the faculty.
2. Consultation (fall of senior year; on-going throughout the process) – Students maintain contact with the committee of faculty supervising their projects as they perform further research on the approved topics.
3. Composition (fall through winter of senior year) – Students write the thesis in a series of drafts that are reviewed by the faculty committee, and together they strive to complete an essay that adequately defends a position on the issues relevant to that topic. During this stage students also practice the oral defense element by performing smaller speeches in the Senior Thesis class.
4. Presentation and Defense (spring of senior year) – When students have fully prepared, they present and defend the thesis to the faculty and invited guests at the Senior Thesis Defense. During the defense, members of the faculty put questions and objections to the students for further explanation. The paper is presented formally, but extemporaneously, after at least one classroom rehearsal.
Successful completion of all four stages in the Senior Thesis is a requirement for graduation.