The senior thesis in neuroscience is the culmination of original work conducted by the student with the guidance of a faculty member in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (including associated and affiliated members).

Formats

Neuroscience at Princeton is a broad and interdisciplinary field so there are several acceptable formats that can be followed to generate a successful senior thesis. The basic formats are described below. It is important to check with your adviser about which format (and topic) you will be researching.

There are three basic senior thesis formats: 1) an experimental thesis; 2) a computational thesis; and 3) a theoretical thesis. Another option is to combine the first two formats into an experimental/computational thesis.

  1. Experimental thesis research
    You will work both independently and under supervision to plan and conduct experiments to advance scientific knowledge, with attention to proper controls. You will be expected to analyze and interpret critically the results of experiments, to use the conclusions of individual experiments to plan and revise subsequent experiments and to integrate your knowledge from all sources.
  2. Computational thesis research
    You will work both independently and with the input of your adviser to carry out hypothesis-driven research culminating in the construction of a computational model that addresses some set of empirical data, cognitive processes, and/or neural mechanisms. Alternatively, a data analysis-oriented project might include new analyses and/or meta-analysis of previously acquired data.
  3. Theoretical thesis research
    You will work both independently and with the input of your adviser to carry out research in the service of developing a theoretical synthesis of the existing literature with the generation and presentation of new conceptual ideas.

General Guidelines

There are no set requirements for style or length of the senior thesis. Below are some suggestions you can use as a guide. It is most important to check with your adviser about any questions regarding how to organize your write-up.

Experimental and/or Computational theses

These typically have 4 chapters: introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

  • Introduction
    The Introduction includes a comprehensive review of the relevant scientific literature that forms the rationale for your project. At the end of the introduction, you should clearly state what research question your senior thesis sought to answer.
  • Methods
    In the methods section, you should describe how the research project was carried out with enough detail so that others could repeat the study, whether the methods were experimental, computational or both. As you prepare to write this section, it is helpful to consult the methods sections in research articles closely related to your project, to get an idea of the level of detail. Be certain that you look at the methods in supplemental materials if you are consulting a journal that contains abbreviated methods in the main text.
  • Results
    In the results section, you should describe your findings (experimental data and/or computational results) clearly and in detail, including any statistical analyses to support your findings. Include figures and tables showing your findings in this section.
  • Discussion                       
    In this section, you should discuss how your findings fit with the published literature.  Are they consistent with previous findings or were the results unexpected?  If so, discuss reasons why discrepancies might have arisen. After you have discussed your findings and any limitations in your methods, discuss ways that new studies might help to clarify and information your scientific question further. Summary figures can be included in the Discussion.

Theoretical thesis

For non-laboratory thesis work that involves a theoretical synthesis of the existing literature with the generation and presentation of new conceptual ideas, the write-up should include an introduction, a discussion and several intermediate chapters that clearly articulate your theoretical ideas and/or interpretations of existing data, and any predictions that they make. It is important to check in with your adviser about this before you get started writing.

  • A Note on Figures:
    All figures should be placed at the appropriate location in the text. Each figure should include a legend that describes the figure. For data figures, statistics and n sizes should be included in the legend. In the case where figures are adapted from published papers, make certain to indicate this in the legend
  • A Note on Citations:
    A critical component of any scholarly work is the appropriate citation of published papers. Wherever possible, cite primary research articles. There is no set requirement for the format of references, but you should be consistent with your format throughout the reference list. Check with your adviser to get a recommendation about a journal style to follow
  • A Note on General Formatting:
    It is recommended to use 11 or 12 point font, 1 inch margins and 1.5 line spacing. Number the pages and include a table of contents page. Check with your adviser about any formatting preferences.

Re-use of Junior Paper Material

Since the senior thesis typically follows the research proposal put forth as the spring junior paper, it often makes sense to re-use material from the junior paper. If that is the case, you must either

  1. Cite your junior paper (and list in the bibliography) as you would any other paper
    OR
  2. Make a note in the relevant section of text with the following form: “This section contains text that is based closely on, or identical to, text found in my junior paper."

Grading

The senior thesis grade has a written and oral component. Each is graded by the adviser and one other neuroscience faculty member assigned by the Director of Undergraduate Studies

Oral exam. In addition to submitting the thesis document, students are required to present their work to the adviser and other faculty reader in a 30-minute oral exam. For the oral exam, students should prepare a short Powerpoint-style presentation that explains the scientific problem, the relevant background, the student’s hypotheses, results, conclusions and future directions. 

Deadline and Submission

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the deadline is Friday, April 26, 2024 at 5:00pm EST.

All papers will be submitted in the IW Portal. Use your PU Net Id and password to log in the IW portal to upload your senior thesis. Please do NOT email your paper to your adviser.

Deadline extensions: These will only be granted for a documented illness (requires a note from McCosh) or exceptional circumstances with the written approval of the adviser (cc the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Asif Ghazanfar). Extensions beyond the Dean’s Date can only be granted by your college Dean and with the approval of the Undergraduate Studies Committee. These will only be considered under extreme circumstances.

For AY 2023-2024, NEU senior oral exams will take place on May 8 (Wednesday) and May 9 (Thursday), 2024.