Grading Criteria

In order to help both the student and the faculty members involved, the following guidelines will be used to evaluate the project:

1. Quality of the written thesis.

a) Style. Style refers to the appropriate format of the written thesis. Considerations include: a clear statement of the hypothesis when appropriate, self explanatory tables and figures, references correctly cited, topic adequately introduced in the Introduction, discussion related to other work of importance.
b) Content. Content refers to the intellectual quality and scope of the work. Considerations include: appropriateness of experimental design for testing the stated hypothesis, application of appropriate statistical tests if necessary, convincing presentation of the data, interpretation of the results and integration with the literature.

2. Oral examination.

The oral examination is intended to test the depth and breadth of knowledge relevant to the topic. The student should be able to demonstrate a solid understanding of the subject area and be aware of problems and/or limitations of the particular study. The student should demonstrate that he/she knew what was being done in the laboratory and why it was being done. The student must have some idea of the limits of extrapolation. When describing the implications of the experimental results, the student should be able to refer to a few of the major references in the literature. The oral examination does not necessarily involve a formal presentation by the student, although some advisors may ask for a summary of the rationale, results, and significance of your research. Most of the oral exam will involve a discussion that allows your committee to assess whether you have a solid understanding of the project, be it a laboratory or library project. You should be aware of the problems and limitations of your study (all studies have some), the ramifications of the study, and other research which could be undertaken to deal with the problems or ramifications. In other words, you must be intellectually involved with your work. Simple reporting of your data, or reorganization of some published information is considered a serious weakness. You should be ready to discuss and make your own interpretation of the ideas in your study based upon fundamental concepts and ideas in environmental science. We are certainly not "after your hide" although you will no doubt receive a lot of constructive criticism along the way. (One part of the educational process is to learn to take and benefit from criticism.)

3. Independence of thought and action.

Senior project topics are sometimes completely the student's idea, but often they involve a joint effort between student and advisor. However, once an appropriate topic has been chosen, and an overview of current methodologies explored, the student is expected to work independently. Students should not rely heavily on faculty members for guidance at every turn of events. Laboratory and fieldwork should be done conscientiously, deadlines should be met, and laboratory apparatus and field equipment must be put away cleaned.

4. Deadlines.

All deadlines are enforced strictly. Departures from set dates may be accommodated only under extreme circumstances, and only after consultation with and appoval by your senior project advisor. Such departures may require departmental approval.

Grading of the Senior Project will be determined as follows:

Fall Semester (4 credits)

30% of the grade is based on the quality of the research proposal
50% of the grade is based on the extent and quality of the progress made on the project as evidenced primarily in the written progress report
20% for attendance and quality of participation in the Senior Seminar

Spring Semester (4 credits)

10% for attendance and quality of participation in the Senior Seminar
30% of the grade is based on the quality of the written project
30% of the grade is based on the quality of your oral presentation and subsequent defense of your project (i.e. your ability to "think on your feet")
30% of the grade is based on the level of scientific scholarship that you display during the research. (The Department considers intellectual curiosity, persistence, flexibility, etc., as evidence for scientific scholarship.)

The submitted senior thesis and grading procedure for the senior project is as follows:

The thesis that you submit on April 4, 2011 will be the graded copy, but it should not be bound because the committee will often ask you to make changes before they will accept the thesis. Your oral defense should be scheduled for sometime between April 4 and April 22. Immediately following your senior project oral exam, your committee will tell you whether or not you will receive a passing grade and whether or not any revisions are required in the written manuscript. You will receive in writing from the senior project committee, the earned grade on the project, a summary of the evaluation, and notice of any additional corrections required for the manuscript which should be completed no later than April 25.

Your grade will be forwarded to the registrar's office only after:

1) these corrections have been made to the satisfaction of the committee;
2) your work areas have been cleaned and you have returned equipment; and
3) you have submitted an electronic copy of the file(s) that make up your senior project to Pelletier Library according to instructions given by email at the appropriate time, and an abstract (on departmental electronic form) to the department secretary.