Government 99: Or Everything You Wanted to Know About a Thesis (but were too afraid to ask)

Widener Library: Filled with tons of original manuscripts, while it’s beautiful to look at, not my first choice for studying


Hi all, hope you had a great Thanksgiving if you celebrate or otherwise just a good weekend! I made the trek to New York again last weekend to cook & enjoy family time with my brother and his girlfriend. The weather was perfect for gallivanting around the city.


So today is the last day of Harvard’s Fall 2011 classes! Cause for celebration? Perhaps for some, but the large group of senior Thesis writers including myself, it is more of a time for a bit of stress, as today is also the day our first 7,500+ words is due to our thesis advisor.


Given that, I thought I’d talk today about my class this semester,  “Government 99: Thesis Tutorial”. Unfortunately I don’t have a cool and relevant pictures I’ve taken myself to insert, so I have instead attached some lovely photographs of all the places at Harvard I’ve been studying and doing research at. The most interesting part of this course is not the class itself, as we only meet once a week for an hour and it is only graded pass/fail. Rather, it is the prospect of writing a thesis generally. This was a decision I took on since last spring and have been preparing ever since.

Lamont Library Cafe: Common Late-Night Study Space for Undergrads featuring Coffee & Food

Most departments have a tutorial such as mine (thus, I’m taking the government tutorial, being a government concentrator) that allows students to develop the writing and research skills necessary to embark on a thesis. Most of us, including myself, have never before written a 100+ page paper, but the idea of culminating my experience at Harvard through such a thorough academic investigation is quite exciting, if not a bit daunting.


Luckily, if you decided to write a thesis or as you may know from experience, you have a thesis advisor, usually a graduate student or professor, who has expertise in your area. One thing I’ve learned from the process is to work closely with your advisor to make sure not to fall behind on the writing—7,500 words is not easy to write, but especially if you’re writing it in the last week. Keeping up on my work has been immensely helpful to this.


Another great thing about writing a thesis at Harvard is that there are so many opportunities for funding and traveling abroad if your thesis requires it. I was able to secure funding from the Saloma Fund for helping me travel to New York and D.C. to conduct interviews.


Science Center: Featuring Cabot Science Library which is always fairly less crowded than Lamont

All in all, writing a thesis is a great experience but a choice I wouldn’t suggest to take lightly. It will slightly take-over your life, but if you do well, your thesis grade can help secure graduating with Latin honors (Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Cum Laude).


Of course, I wouldn’t leave you hanging for the weekend without giving some details on my own thesis. Always being philosophically inclined, I have decided to write a political theory thesis about the presence of coercion in the international realm (in particular, through trade relations set out by the World Trade Organization) and whether this presence of coercion in trade relations demands justification through more equal trading mechanics. Let me know if this sounds interesting and I can add a few more details in the comment. With the draft of my first chapter is done and sent into my advisor though, it is time to enjoy the weekend and prepare for the next few weeks of finals.




Be Sociable, Share!


  1. School Datebooks’s avatar

    When I attended undergraduate work at New College of Florida, it was my first attempt at a thesis. My advisor was fantastic, but the number of hours spent researching, writing and enduring was overwhelming at times. Now finishing my graduate work, and preparing for my second thesis, I have learned from my previous mistakes. I wish you luck in yours! Just remember that it truly is worth the experience.

    1. npadilla’s avatar

      I feel you, it is quite daunting at times but good to know the experience was worth it for you as well. Cheers!

    2. Seerly’s avatar

      Hi there, You’ve done an excellent job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this web site.

      1. npadilla’s avatar

        Thanks, that’s great to know. Thanks for reading!

Comments are now closed.