No.4, 2013

Masato SHINODA & Takeshi HIGETA

 The Meaning of a Graduation Thesis in Humanities Departments:

Understanding the Current Situation in Departments and Using the

Instrumental Variables Method to Estimate the Effect of Writing a

Graduation Thesis

 The curriculum in humanities departments is characterized by the belief that the overall integrity may be ensured by positioning the graduation thesis at the center of the curriculum, even though the curriculum is not seen to be “systematic.” At the same time, there are currently movements that are seeking to revamp the humanities curriculum. How do humanities departments at Japanese universities position the graduation thesis within their curriculum and what meaning do they give to the thesis from the perspective of educational outcomes? This study highlights the following two points in response these questions.

First, the results of a survey conducted in November 2011 among humanities departments across Japan indicated that, although the graduation thesis plays an important role in the undergraduate curriculum, its significance has become ambiguous. Second, we conducted a questionnaire survey between January and February 2013 among graduates of the Faculty of Arts at Gakushuin University and used the instrumental variables method to estimate the subjective effects obtained from the experience of writing a graduation thesis. The results indicated that students who wrote a graduation thesis felt that the experience did not have an effect on improving their subjective assessment of their abilities, such as the skills related to their current job. However, specialized education in the Faculty of Arts as represented through the experience of writing a graduation thesis may have the effect of improving the subjective assessment of the richness of students’ emotion or spirit. 

The remaining tasks include explaining the changes in the status of the graduation thesis in the curriculum since the 1990s and responding to the question of whether the experience of writing a graduation thesis has the expected effect.