Even the strongest advocates of the ubiquitous thesis admit that it is not an unmixed blessing. Among the many objections that are from time to time raised against it, the most valid is that the present undergraduate thesis is often merely hackwork. Such a condition is made possible by the nature of the subjects ordinarily assigned, namely those that have already been more or less fully treated in reference works. If the average undergraduate had the time and the inclination to undertake his thesis in the manner which he theoretically adopts, it would doubtless be a positive advantage for him to receive a subject on which there was a large amount of material easily to hand. For indeed to assimilate thoroughly all the matter obtainable on a single topic, to draw original conclusions therefrom, and finally to set these forth in a clear and logical way, most prove of great benefit. Unfortunately such is not the method employed by the average student in writing a thesis. He is far more apt to secure three or four books pertaining to his subject, and then by paraphrasing and judicious selection to turn out a more or less successful bit of hackwork. The benefit to be derived from such an operation is evidently trivial.
To eradicate this tendency towards the mechanical production of theses, the type of subject ordinarily assigned should be radically changed. Instead of the old stock topics that have already received full elucidation, a subject involving personal research might be given, whenever, this is possible. Should, however, the scope of any course render a subject of this character impracticable, a minute topic, with its causes and effects and its relation to larger movements, might be substituted with equal advantage. Subjects of this sort would necessitate thorough and conscientious application for the collection of all available material, and, in addition, they would require thought on the part of the student.