Thesis option

A thesis is a paper or essay based on original research. If you choose this option for your Capstone, you should design a research project that addresses a question with relevance to your area of concentration within the major: Culture & Politics, Urban & International, or Physical Environment. The project should demonstrate your ability to think and act independently and to apply what you have learned during your course of study in geography. There are three primary stages to the thesis: the proposal, field research, and research report.

I. The proposal.

  • Your thesis proposal should include:
  • Identification of a research topic or question and an explanation of its relevance to your area of concentration.
  • An overview of current research related to that question, and an explanation of how your project will contribute to that body of work.
  • A research design, that is, a plan and methodology for answering your question or addressing your topic.

You will write your proposal in consultation with your advisor. Once your advisor has approved your proposal, you can continue to the next stage of work. Your advisor may bring in a second reader to evaluate the merits of your proposal.

II. Field research.

Following approval of your proposal, and under the supervision of your advisor, you will begin your original research. Where and how you conduct your research will be worked out as part of your research design.

III. Research report.

After leaving the field, you will present your findings in a research report. Typically, this will take the form of a paper, but other options, such as posters or lectures, may be allowed, contingent on consent of your advisor.

Specific formatting and expectations will be worked out with your advisor, but the major components of the research report are:

  • An abstract.
  • An introduction with a thesis statement.
  • Background on the topic, including the review of current research from the proposal, revised as needed.
  • An explanation of and critical reflection on the research design.
  • A summary of findings.
  • Conclusions.

Normally, you will write your research report while enrolled in GEOG 499 Capstone Experience. Your grade for that course will reflect your advisor’s assessment of your completed thesis. Your advisor may make their assessment with input and perspective from additional readers. The recruitment of additional readers will depend on the joint judgment of advisor and student as to what kind of expertise or perspective will be needed to assess the project. However, your final grade in GEOG 499 will be the sole responsibility of your advisor.


Mike McGlade, Geography Department Chair

Email:   Office: HSS 211

Tel: 503-838-8381