Senior Thesis

Any senior OBE major may elect to undertake a senior thesis. A senior OBE major who completes a high quality senior thesis, presents it orally at OBE Day, and has a high grade point average will receive Graduation with Distinction. This honor will be recorded on the student's official transcript and noted on the commencement program at graduation. If a student meets the senior thesis and presentation requirements, but does not have a high enough GPA, s/he will not receive Graduation with Distinction, but the successful completion of the senior thesis requirements will become part of the student's official transcript under BE499 Senior Thesis.

CHECKLIST to graduate with distinction in Organismal Biology and Ecology

  1. Complete an OBE senior thesis with a grade of A- or above and
  2. From the courses taken for the OBE major, achieve a GPA of at least 3.7 for the 10 courses with the highest grades. If a student does not have seven or more grade track courses, e.g. is a transfer student or a student taking the MBL Semester in Ecosystem Science, a faculty member may nominate the student for consideration for distinction by a departmental vote.

The option of undertaking a senior thesis must be initiated by the student and approved by an OBE Department faculty member (primary research advisor), who will supervise the student's research and senior thesis. In addition, another faculty member (who may be in another CC department if the area of research falls under the other faculty member's area of expertise) must agree to act as a secondary advisor. The primary and secondary research advisors comprise the thesis committee. The thesis committee will establish the format and requirements of the research and thesis, read and suggest revisions in the thesis, and determine whether the thesis is of sufficient quality to qualify for Graduation With Distinction. Ideally, the decision to write a senior thesis should be made in the fall of the junior year so that the spring may be devoted to a survey of the literature and planning for the research. The research itself should begin by the following summer. Work on the writing of the research must begin by the fall of the senior year. The senior thesis is based on original research done by the student. A literature review, although a necessary part of a senior thesis, is not in itself considered to be a thesis.


Off-campus research projects done in such programs as the Oak Ridge Semester, the ACM Tropical Field Research Program in Costa Rica, research at another institution, or other approved research experience at a laboratory or field station may be used for the research on which a senior thesis is based. Students should be aware, however, that sometimes research supervision in these programs is not very good, and that they could end their off-campus program without having obtained suitable data for a senior thesis. A student should approach a CC OBE faculty member about being the student's primary research advisor before the student undertakes the off-campus research. When the student returns to CC after finishing the off-campus research, the primary thesis advisor will determine whether the results of the student's off-campus research project is worthy of a senior thesis. Students are additionally cautioned that the actual writing of the senior thesis based on off-campus research must be done by working closely with the CC OBE Department faculty member who has agreed to be the student's primary research advisor. In this case the primary thesis advisor supervises the data analysis and writing of the thesis, rather than supervising the actual research.


Students undertaking a senior thesis must return a completed form (on OBE website) entitled, Registration for Senior Thesis, by the end of block 2 of the senior year, to the coordinator of the Senior Thesis/Distinction program. Students must arrange for a thesis committee consisting of a primary research advisor, who must be an OBE Department faculty member, and a secondary advisor, who may be in another academic department. An oral presentation advisor, normally the primary research advisor, is also necessary. These advisors must sign the registration form before it is turned in to the Senior Thesis/Distinction coordinator.


By the end of block 2, students planning to do a senior thesis should be enrolled in BE499 Senior Thesis through the Registrar's Office. Enrolling in BE499 and completing the OBE Department's requirements for a senior thesis will provide an official record of the senior thesis on the student's transcript. There is an option of enrolling in BE499 as a regular block course, or enrolling in BE499 as a FULL YEAR extended format course. Students may enroll in one extended format course per semester for ½ CC unit at no extra tuition cost (in the case of BE499 students therefore must enroll for both semesters, thus obtaining a whole unit of credit). The instructor for BE499 should be the primary thesis advisor.


In addition to the written senior thesis, a student must make a high quality oral presentation of the thesis research and results. Ordinarily, this presentation will be at the annual spring OBE Day. The presentation is prepared under the supervision of at least one OBE faculty member who is also part of the thesis committee. Normally the oral presentation advisor is also the primary research advisor for the senior thesis, unless circumstances dictate otherwise. The student's oral presentation advisor will help the student fit the presentation into the time available at OBE Day, make suggestions about organization and the preparation of slides, and help set the level of the talk appropriate for the CC audience. The talk must be a well-planned, rehearsed, understandable, and professional presentation of scholarly work. Students who do off-campus research as a basis for their senior thesis are cautioned that they must work closely with their CC presentation advisor to prepare their talk, even if they have orally presented the results previously as part of their off-campus research experience. This will help ensure that the presentation will meet the OBE Department's standards of quality.

The student must inform the faculty coordinator of OBE Day of his or her intention to give an oral presentation at OBE Day and must submit an abstract of the presentation for the OBE Day program. The OBE Day coordinator will send instructions for the abstract via campus mail or e-mail to all those students who have submitted a form declaring their intention to write a senior thesis (see section on Registration for Senior Thesis); however, it is the student's responsibility to check his/her Worner box and e-mail regularly and make certain that his/her abstract is submitted in a timely manner.

Note: Any student may request to present research based on independent study (such as for BE309/409) at the OBE Department's annual OBE Day. Because of time limitations for oral presentations of students attempting to qualify for Graduation with Distinction, however, other student presentations at OBE Day will usually be in the form of a poster. The coordinator of OBE Day will make the final decision about the format of research presentations at OBE Day.

Students attempting to graduate with distinction in December must discuss their situation with their advisor and the Department Chair to arrange for fulfilling the oral presentation requirement outside of OBE Day.


By the first Friday of Block 8, a final, clean, and professional-looking original of the thesis, signed by the thesis committee (on a title page as shown in Appendix II of this handbook) must be turned in to the OBE office. By signing, the thesis advisors have judged that the written thesis meets the standards of quality necessary for Graduation With Distinction.

The thesis must also be submitted to the library, which only accepts electronic copies. The student should use their last name and tiger number to log in to the following website: After logging in, they will be prompted with instructions on how to complete the submission.

For a detailed overview of the thesis submission process, covering everything from how to get departmental and personal bound copies to submitting a thesis electronically, see .

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/17/2020