Expectations & Grading Policy

The senior seminar in the both semesters has 3 credits. We expect you to spend on average about 9 hours/week on the course (3 hours/credit). This includes times spent on the research project during the semester inside and outside of the class room. Since research is inherently unpredictable there might be crunch times where you need to spend more time and others where you can relax. However, some planning can go a long way to avoid work overload. 

I. Seminar Products/

  1. A thesis (2nd semester students) or thesis proposal (1st semester students)
  2. One oral presentations about your research (10 minutes, plus discussion)
  3. One poster (2nd semester students only)
  4. If you do not deliver any one of these 3 products, you will fail this course.
  5. We will deduct 1/3 of a grade per day from the combined final grade if  the final thesis/proposal (in paper and electronic form)  is not turned in on time (e.g. from B+ to B), unless we receive a doctor’s or dean’s note.

II. Process (10% of Senior Seminar Grade)

We expect from you that you meet the following requirements in a timely manner:

  1. Attend seminar sessions and participate in group discussions
  2. Read one previously written thesis proposal/thesis recommended by you seminar advisor and summarize the content in words at one of the individual meetings.
  3. Discuss with your seminar advisor at least one paper that is relevant for your project.
  4. Attend the group and individual meetings (except for those that are optional).
  5. Implement your project in a professional manner: meet regularly with your thesis mentor (all students are required to have a mentor), and be proactive about carrying your project through.
  6. Hand in outline, draft and final version of your thesis (proposal), on time!
  7. Improve your drafts following advice of advisors, mentors, and writing fellows
  8. Work with your peer and provide timely feedback
  9. Present your work in the mini conferences and poster session.

III. Oral presentation: 10% of Senior Seminar Grade

You’ll receive feedback from your advisor after your oral presentation including comments made by fellow students and faculty and a formal grade for the presentation.

IV. Workshop deliverables: 10% of Senior Seminar Grade

This includes a poster (2nd semester students),  and peer review.

V. Thesis (Proposal): 70% of Senior Seminar Grade (also see grading rubric)

Content (most important):

    1.  Does the paper clearly define the (proposed) research?  Does contain a good discussion of the scientific background of the study? Is the proposed research design adequate?  Are statements of fact appropriately referenced? Does the abstract summarize the major results of the work to date?

Writing Quality:  Does the manuscript flow or are there gaps in the logic?  Is it well organized?  Does each paragraph cover one subject?  Is the grammar correct?  Does the paper have spelling errors that would be caught by using a spell checker? Is the title informative and a reflection of the content?  Are all scientific terms adequately defined?  Is scientific terminology used correctly?  Are abbreviations and acronyms used only when absolutely necessary?

Quality of Graphs and Tables:  Are any reproductions of high quality? Is each axis labeled?  Does each figure have a figure caption?  Are different symbols legible? Are all figures interleaved with the text?  Do figures adequately  represent the points you want to make?

Referencing:  Does the paper contain an adequate number of references from the peer reviewed scientific literature?  For the proposal we require at least 15 and for the final thesis, 30 RELEVANT references.  A few web sites are acceptable, as are major reference books and newspapers.  However, the bulk of the references should be from scientific journals and books.  Are all citations in the list of references?

Approximate final thesis (proposal) length: 40 (20) pages, double spaced, 12pt font, including title page, plus figures.

We plan to apply this rubric also to your thesis/proposal drafts.

VI. Conducting research during the school year

The goal of the senior seminar is to conduct independent research and present the results at the end of the year.  Some students include the summer in their research, other’s don’t.  Both groups of students can and have produced excellent theses.  For both groups we expect that the research and results are furthered during the academic year.  Results and reports written during the summer can be a part of but not the entire thesis.  The students who routinely have the best theses do not have the largest or most complex data sets but are the students who diligently work on their topic and thoroughly analyze and discuss the data they have; taking the time throughout the year to fully explore their topic.

VII. Definition of grades

A+ 4.3 Highly exceptional, rare performance
A 4.0 Outstanding achievement
A- 3.7 Excellent work, exceeds course expectations
B+ 3.3 Very good work, meets all course expectations
B 3.0 Good work, meets most course expectations
B- 2.7 Work meets major course expectations
C+ 2.3 Fair achievement, but below what is generally expected
C 2.0 Acceptable achievement
C- 1.7 Barely acceptable achievement
D 1.0 Lowest achievement to allow for pass
F 0 Failure.

The graph below shows the grade distribution in the senior seminar for 9 semesters from 2013 to 2017.

VIII. Honor Code

Columbia University

The Columbia College Student Council, on behalf of the whole student body, has resolved that maintaining academic integrity is the preserve of all members of our intellectual community including and especially students.

As a consequence, all Columbia College students will now make the following pledge:

We, the undergraduate students of Columbia University, hereby pledge to value the integrity of our ideas and the ideas of others by honestly presenting our work, respecting authorship, and striving not simply for answers but for understanding in the pursuit of our common scholastic goals. In this way, we seek to build an academic community governed by our collective efforts, diligence, and Code of Honor.

In addition, all Columbia College students are committed to the following honor code:

I affirm that I will not plagiarize, use unauthorized materials, or give or receive illegitimate help on assignments, papers, or examinations. I will also uphold equity and honesty in the evaluation of my work and the work of others. I do so to sustain a community built around this Code of Honor.

Barnard College

Approved by the student body in 1912, the Code states:

We, the students of Barnard College, resolve to uphold the honor of the College by refraining from every form of dishonesty in our academic life. We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any papers or books not authorized by the instructor in examinations, or to present oral work or written work which is not entirely our own, unless otherwise approved by the instructor. We consider it dishonest to remove without authorization, alter, or deface library and other academic materials. We pledge to do all that is in our power to create a spirit of honesty and honor for its own sake.

Last Updated : 1/2020