Philosophy Senior Project

All Stetson University students complete a senior project; in the Philosophy Department, this opportunity propels our students into top-flight graduate programs and the ability to speak about their own learning with future employers. We have better than average placement for our graduates, and one reason is our careful engagement with our students as they take up the opportunity to articulate their thinking and arguments under the tutelage of experts in the field.

Here we highlight three recent senior projects and the students who created them. We could not be prouder of the work of our department’s high-achieving and hard-working students, who we assist in tackling tough questions, big and small. The photos were taken in our Lawson seminar room during the students’ oral presentation of their final projects.


David R. Harnage, Spring '22

2023 graduate and philosophy major David Harnage, who also minored in business law and political science, plans to attend law school. His philosophical interests include philosophy of religion, and he worked on the problem of evil under the supervision of Ronald Hall, PhD (Professor Emeritus). Indeed, he sought to handle one of the trickiest issues in philosophy of religion – why should human beings suffer?

Crystal Freeland, Spring '22

2022 graduate, Honors student and philosophy major Crystal Freeland, who also minored in art, continues to pursue her philosophical and artistic interests. A voracious reader and thinker, Crystal held nothing back in addressing how understanding itself works. Fascinated by epistemology, she worked under the supervision of Joshua Rust, PhD. Interweaving language, metaphor and creativity, she sought to describe learning.


Kristina Mickens, Fall '22

2022 graduate Kristina Mickens majored in French and philosophy. In Fall 2023, she begins work on her Master of Arts in bioethics at New York University. In her senior project for philosophy, Kristina was especially interested in describing how one compares oneself to idealized images and how one can strive to achieve societally-valued traits through self-knowledge. She carefully described obstacles to developing the idealized self.

This is an independent capstone course and a requirement for the BA in Philosophy. It is designed as an opportunity for you to bring your philosophical interests, your writing, and oral skills to a level appropriate for a graduating senior majoring in philosophy. It is important to make this project reflect your competence as a philosophy major at Stetson, especially if you are planning further study at the graduate or professional level.

As a philosophy major you are encouraged to begin thinking about a senior thesis early. You must initiate informal discussions with one or more members of the philosophy faculty regarding ideas and proposals for topics you are considering for your thesis. By the time you are a junior, these informal discussions about your thesis should be well underway. During the semester immediately prior to the semester that you take PHI 499, you must meet with the Chair of the Department to submit a formal proposal for approval of your topic. You will not be permitted to register for PHIL 499 until you have completed the approval form and it has been approved. Senior Project Approval Form (Word); Senior Project Approval Form (PDF).  The faculty supervisor will be responsible for assessing and grading the student's research. The grade will be based on the ability of the student to meet deadlines, the quality of the research and writing, an assessment of the final written product, and the oral presentation of the project ( to the Philosophy faculty). Double Majors have special instructions that are included below.

Students typically take Phil 499 in the Fall.


Fall Semester

Spring Semester

A three-page summary detailing your thesis plan and potential argument strategies. This may be an elaboration or a revision of the narrative statement you included on the thesis approval form.

September 5


January 27

First draft (10 pages minimum) due to your supervisor, and must include the thesis title and draft bibliography. Email a copy of this draft to the Department Secretary.

October 5 (prior to midterm grade reports)


February 27

Second draft (20 pages) due. At this point, the paper should be virtually complete and ready for refining.

November 5


March 27

Completed thesis due. Submit one bound copy to each member of the Faculty of the Department and email a copy to the Department Secretary.

November 27


April 18

Upon acceptance of the completed written thesis, the faculty supervisor will schedule an oral defense.

TBD by supervisor

TBD by supervisor

The following elements are desiderata for a successful thesis:

  1. A clear claim and ensuing discussion. Describe a philosophical conversation regarding your topic and place your own views successfully within that conversation. Primary and secondary literature should be considered.
  2. Strong argumentation for your point of view.
  3. Rhetorical flags of use to the reader; a strong overall narrative.
  4. Treatment of at least one objection or “naysayer.”
  5. A correct and complete citation style; grammatical errors, poor sentence construction, and typos are at an absolute minimum or completely avoided.

Requirements for Double Majors in Philosophy

Students pursuing a philosophy major and another department major must take the following two options regarding their Senior Project.

  1. A student may do two separate Senior Projects, one of which must be a senior thesis on a subject in philosophy that The Department of Philosophy approves. The student who takes this option must fulfill the exact requirements as the student with a single major in philosophy. (See: Senior Project Requirements above)
  2. A student may do one thesis on a topic that spans the two disciplines of the two majors. There are two further options within this option:
    1. The student may take the senior project from the Department of Philosophy. Students taking this option will register for PHIL499 and must meet the abovementioned requirements. The department representing the second discipline of the double major determines its requirements, and the double major is responsible for knowing what these are and fulfilling them.
    2. The student may elect to take the senior thesis from another department within the double major. The student who elects this option will not register for PHIL 499 but for the Senior Project course in the discipline of the second major. The Department of Philosophy will appoint a supervisor for the thesis; regular meetings with this faculty member are required. To be accepted as meeting the senior thesis requirement for the philosophy major, the thesis must include a substantial philosophical component. A brief statement must be presented to and approved by the supervisor that demonstrates that the proposed project will satisfy this requirement. Preferably, this statement should be presented to the supervisor in the semester immediately before the semester in which the project is undertaken but no later than two weeks into that semester. Upon completion of the senior project, the philosophy faculty and fellow philosophy majors will conduct an oral defense of the thesis. This defense will focus on the philosophical component of the thesis. Upon completing this oral defense, the senior project requirement for the philosophy major will have been met. The philosophy department reserves the right to reject the thesis. Should this happen, the philosophy major would not be granted; however, as long as the requirements for the second major are met, the student may graduate with a major in the second discipline. No record of this rejection will appear on the student's permanent transcript.

Stetson University is committed to academic integrity and honesty; they are essential to the well-being and proper functioning of an academic community. Any time students attempt to gain access to information about their course of study through dishonest means, they show little concern for their own personal sense of integrity and infringe on the rights of all other members of the academic community. As members of an academic community, we are jointly responsible for maintaining intellectual and academic honesty. By enrolling in Stetson University, students commit themselves to abide by the principles and spirit of the honor system. The honor system seeks to nourish a vital campus culture where students, faculty members, administrators, and staff members are mutually committed to pursuing truth in a spirit of cooperation and respect.

Read Stetson's definitions and policies on "Academic Honesty" and the honor code, pledge, and system on The Honor System webpage. For instance, violations of academic integrity include cheating, multiple submissions, plagiarism, abuse of academic materials (such as the alteration or misuse of documents), misrepresentation, knowingly providing false information or using fraudulent, falsified, or fabricated evidence or material, collusion, copying another person's work, and complicity in academic dishonesty. The student must be familiar with this honor code and system; ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for violating the honor code. Penalties associated with violations of academic honesty may vary from receiving a zero on the work to failure of the course or expulsion.

Also, read carefully "Avoiding Plagiarism and Collusion" (posted on Canvas). Correctly cite all types of sources, including references to course materials. If you are unsure how to properly cite quoted or paraphrased material, including what you should cite, in the body or reference section of papers, consult course materials, a handbook of current English, Stetson's Writing Program website, or your advisor. Ignorance of correct citation techniques is not an acceptable excuse for plagiarism or improper citations.

Per departmental policy, I will refer cases of suspected academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, to the Academic Honor Council. I will handle improper citations (excluding plagiarism) as follows: If feasible, the document will be returned to the student to be redone once, and the assignment will receive a final grade at least one-half letter grade (5 percent) lower than it would have received if it had been done properly the first time. In subsequent instances, the student will receive a final grade of at least two full letter grades (20 percent) lower than it would have received if it had been done properly the first time.

In short, I expect everyone to abide by Stetson's honor pledge and to adhere to the principles and spirit of the honor code and system. I expect you to submit your own work in this course, to acknowledge all contributions from others, and to neither receive nor give unauthorized assistance on exams or assignments to others. In other words, Stetson's honor pledge applies to all work done in this course. You may be asked to write the word with your signature on quizzes and assignments to indicate your commitment to academic integrity. The pledge appears below.

 “As a member of Stetson University, I agree to uphold the highest standards of integrity in my academic work. I promise I will neither give nor receive unauthorized aid on my tests, papers, and assignments. When using the ideas, thoughts, or words of another in my work, I will always clearly acknowledge the individuals and sources on which I am relying. I will avoid using fraudulent, falsified, or fabricated evidence and/or material. I will refrain from resubmitting without authorization work for one class that was obtained from work previously submitted for academic credit in another class. I will not destroy, steal, or make any academic resource material inaccessible. By my actions and my example, I will strive to promote the ideals of honesty, responsibility, trust, fairness, and respect at the heart of Stetson's Honor System.”

Please note that any plagiarism or improper citations in the research proposal appearing in the final research thesis will incur an additional grade penalty.

If you anticipate barriers related to the format or requirements of this course, you should meet with me to discuss ways to ensure full participation. If disability-related accommodations are necessary, please register with the Academic Success Center (386-822-7127; and notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations. You and I and the Academic Success Center will plan how best to coordinate accommodations.