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Capstone thesis being dragged out by Adviser

by mxbob468
Tags: adviser, capstone, dragged, thesis
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Nov10-10, 08:11 PM
P: 50
I'm an undegrad. At my school one can choose to do either 2 semesters of an upper division physics lab class or 1 semester and a capstone thesis project. With intentions of being a theorist (and because the upper div lab was in total disrepair) I opted to do a capstone thesis.

I'll admit this was a decision I made fairly hastily, with only 2 semesters before graduation but the adviser was aware of this and told me he would structure the problem so that it could be completed in 2 semesters. Well it wasn't and now here I am 2 semesters overdue for graduation (I should have graduated last spring). I'm not in town anymore since I finished taking classes in spring and we've been corresponding through email about it. I've done a lot of work on it (at least from the perspective of an undergrad physics major [I'm sure to someone in the know I haven't done much]) but I only have a better than superficial understanding of what I've done.

The relevance is that I've been writing it up for the past 2 months and though I put in absolutely everything I did and in the way that I understood in his editing a mountain of errors and oversights have been revealed. 2 weeks ago I thought I had corrected them all and yesterday I got an email back essentially stating that I need to completely restructure it filling in even more things (most of which I don't know [such as relevance to the field, prior work, etc.]). I understand this is all expected of a real PhD. thesis and even maybe an undergrad thesis but at this point I feel I simply do not have time (before the end of this semester) nor the ability to do this (since I can't meet with him).

So I don't know what to do
. If I don't finish the thesis I don't get a B.S. in physics (I have a B.S. in Math regardless) but I can't delay graduation for another semester because I'm going into the Peace Corps (in Uganda) in February.

The riling thing is that I know at my school this thesis is a formality. When I signed up for the project I was worried I wouldn't do something worthwhile and wouldn't pass the defense and his response was "don't worry no one fails."
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Nov10-10, 10:46 PM
Sci Advisor
P: 2,726
Obviously it's difficult for us to gauge whether your advisor is being unreasonable without actually seeing the work, but I think the key phrase is one that you typed yourself: "If I don't finish the thesis I don't get a B.S. in physics."

Generally an undergraduate thesis (in my experience anyway) has a deadline. Just like any other project or lab, you hand in what you can by the end of the term and get graded on what's there. It sounds to me like this advisor is treating the project like a graduate thesis where the goal is to produce the best final product you can, even if it takes an extra sememster to do it.

What I suggest is:
(1) Communicate your concern with your supervisor. Tell him you need to finish by a given date.
(2) Establish a clear cut-off time that's agreeable to both of you.
(3) Determine specifically what you need to accomplish by then. If it just needs you to add a literature survey then perform and write up the literature survey. (This doesn't sound like an unreasonable task to me.) Communicate with your supervisor by phone if email is too slow.
(4) Hand in what you have by the agreed upon date.
Nov11-10, 10:24 AM
P: 980
I agree that most undergrad theses are not taken this seriously. I got a ton of corrections to make to mine, which was about 100 pages total, but then I had time to make the corrections and there was no talk at all about making me stay later to finish anything. At my most recent university where we had undergrads doing research with us for their 'thesis' they didn't even have to write anything up - a crappy poster you wouldn't take to a meeting was enough. Everyone got an A even if they never accomplished anything.

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