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03/20/2019

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Alexis Elder

One thing that stands out to me about this query is the claim that the department does not offer courses in the student's area of interest (or not many).

At the undergraduate level, part of the purpose of an honors thesis is to learn how to do advanced research by working closely with a faculty member, so I would caution against choosing a topic too far outside any program members' expertise. You may ultimately want to write on (for example) philosophy of physics, but if you try to do so in a program without anyone who is competent in that area you'll be setting yourself up for frustration and depriving yourself of the chance to learn by working with someone at least vaguely familiar with the contours of the field.

I would recommend finding something that you DO find interesting, within the scope of courses and research of your school's faculty, and set out to explore that in greater depth. Life is long and you will have many chances to pursue a variety of topics throughout it. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to function as a high-level researcher by partnering with a good mentor, not ruling out mentorship by focusing on a topic no one local can help you with.

Someone who was once an undergraduate

I strongly second the comment by Alexis. Thinking back over my undergraduate years, my best work was always a healthy mix of original thinking on my part with direction from faculty. While unstructured reading and free exploration of philosophical ideas has its place at this stage in your philosophical career, there's so much you don't know and so many conceptual confusions still baked into your head that more often than not these efforts (while beneficial in some ways) won't result in a quality paper. Quality-wise, a senior thesis written in this way is likely to be pretty bad. It probably won't make a good writing sample, be good prep for the sort of work you'd have to do in a graduate seminar, or even just be the best example of philosophical work you're able to produce at this stage.

Marcus Arvan

I also agree with Alexis. I often encourage my students to read philosophy widely, but to do work here at my institution in areas the faculty know very well. If you go on to grad school, you will have more opportunities to study other things--but you're best served as an undergraduate working on things the faculty supervising you know well!

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