Swarthmore College Department of Computer Science

thesis and examination details and tips

Thesis Research and Writing

A large portion of your time and effort will involve conducting your thesis research and writing your thesis. Your thesis advisor will have specific guidelines for how to conduct your thesis research and how to organize your thesis; you should talk to your thesis advisor early and often about what he/she expects from your thesis.

Professor Newhall has a CS Honors Thesis Research and Writing Guide that includes information on finding related work, a thesis organization and writing style guide, tips for getting started and for staying on track, bibtex and latex examples, and links to other sources of writing advice.

Thesis Research Presentation

You are required to give a 30-40 minute presentation of your thesis work as a CS Lunch talk sometime during your senior year. Professor Newhall's Guidelines & Tips for Preparing Your Thesis Talk document contains tips for organizing, preparing, and presenting your research talk, as well as links to other sources of advice on preparing and giving an oral presentation.

Honors Exams

Written Exams:

During the final exam period of the spring semester of your senior year you will take two written exams in your two 2-credit honors major preparations, and one written exam in your 2-credit honors minor preparation.

Copies of previous year's written honors exams are available from Bridget in the CS department.

Oral Exams:

During honors week, you will take four oral exams with outside examiners. Three exams are on your two major and one minor 2-credit preparations. The fourth exam is on your honors thesis.

One good way to prepare for the oral exam is to go over all written exam questions after taking the written exam. Make sure that you can answer the questions that you missed, or did not answer completely, on the written exam. As you prepare for your oral exams this week, here are a few tips:

  • If you feel that you made some mistakes on a problem in the written exam, then you should certainly be ready to explain how to redo the problem correctly in the oral.
  • If the written exam provided choices of which problems to solve, you may want to be ready to respond to the choices that you didn't answer on the written.
  • Remember that the examiner is in charge and is free to ask you about anything related to the exam topics. If you feel that a question is unfair in some way, rather than complaining that it is inappropriate, you might want to say "We didn't cover that in our classes at Swarthmore, but I will try to respond."
  • During the oral, the examiner is trying to determine the appropriate honorific. Therefore he or she may want to ask a broad range of questions from quite simple to very difficult. Do not be insulted if the examiner interrupts you once he or she sees that you are able to answer a question, and quickly moves on to another question. Also do not be concerned if there are questions you do not know how to answer. The examiner may be trying to decide between high honors and highest honors.
  • Finally, be sure to arrive on time, dress appropriately, and treat the examiner with respect.