Finding a Faculty Member to Direct the Thesis

It is your responsibility to find an IUP faculty member willing to guide you through the thesis project and give you a grade at the end.

This person is called your thesis director. How do you find such a person?

First, your topic and director have to be a match. If you want to do a thesis on teaching reading to young learners, you need to find a professor whose own research and teaching experience are in that field. If you are a French major fascinated by Proust, who's the department's expert on that author?

How do you know which professors have which expertise? Some departments have brochures introducing their faculty, and others identify professors' specialties on their webpages. The courses that faculty teach are another good clue. Often the best information will come from your academic advisor because faculty colleagues always know each other's work well.

Second, your thesis director should be someone with whom you think you can work well. Professors and students are no less human than anyone else, and some personalities and learning styles match better than others. In many cases, you will already know your director well from prior coursework, and he or she will know you. If you do not know each other well, you each may want to spend some time in conversation before making a commitment. Remember that the professor is making a large time commitment to you, just as you are to the project. You both need to feel good about what you are undertaking.

You should not be hesitant about approaching a professor. In truth, most professors love to have thesis students, and they will consider it a compliment that you are asking them to be your director. It is, of course, possible that they may already have taken on as many thesis students as they can handle or made other commitments that make it impossible for them to work with you in any given semester. But the vast majority will be eager to work with you if they can possibly manage it. Professors who may seem distant or even daunting in other circumstances can become suddenly enthusiastic when they find out that you are passionate about the very same things that they are. Just as in other human relationships, common interests and common tasks make a good foundation for cordiality and mutual respect.

If the professor is not familiar with the Faculty Thesis Directors—Supplemental Information, you should call that section of this guide to his or her attention.

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