I’ve been unfortunately pretty quiet in the blog world so far this semester, but I think it’s for a pretty great reason: I’m currently charging through the last few weeks (T-16 days!) of my senior thesis for Social Studies. This is a project I hinted at in earlier blog posts but that has become an increasingly large part of my life over the past couple of months, and it’s finally due – printed and bound – at 2 pm on March 13. I’ll be sure to write a more detailed post after I’m finished talking more specifically about what I’ve been working on, but in the meantime I thought it would be interesting to give a bit of a peek into the life of a “senior thesis-er.”
We seniors have a made-up word for the last couple of months of writing: “thesising.” Thesis writers can be spotted at all hours of the day (and night) in libraries, dining halls, and cafes around campus, usually surrounded by a stack of books or journal articles and often frantically typing on our overworked laptops. While many of us started thinking about and planning our theses almost a year ago at this point (time flies!), the bulk of the production and polishing happens between January and March, when most theses are due. About 50% of the senior class works on a thesis each year, and it makes for good company during these weeks of intensive writing and editing. Just for perspective, my thesis must be 20,000-30,000 words in total, which works out to about 100 pages.
Many of us returned early for J-term and lived on campus for three weeks focusing solely on our thesis. During that month, we created an email group – “jtermthesis” – that was shared with many of the seniors on campus and allowed us space to ask questions about chapter formatting or plan outings to the movies as a study break. Some of the best email subject lines from that month included: “something to brighten your thesis adventure,” “late night study buddy?” and “good news for coffee drinkers,” all of which included links or tips for getting through January.
Now that we’re back on campus, thesis-related work has settled into a more regular rhythm because seniors have had to adjust back to class schedules and normal student responsibilities. Social Studies has been a great resource in helping us stay focused on the project deadline, though, largely through workshops and email reminders. I’ve been participating in a thesis writers’ seminar sponsored by Social Studies over the course of the year, and every other week I exchange drafts and feedback with two of my classmates in addition to meeting as a total group of 10 for an hour and a half. Social Studies also organized “presentation workshops,” which allowed me an opportunity to present my whole thesis in 15 minutes to a new group of students; the feedback from a fresh audience was incredibly useful.
Outside of these more formal aspects of thesis writing, there are some more fun additions that have been helping me push through the last couple of weeks. One great tradition maintained by many student groups is “thesis fairies,” where underclassmen volunteer to bring treats to seniors writing theses. Thus far I’ve been generously gifted Nutella, a slice of pie, Oreos, and a Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards – all of which provided an excellent energy boost! There’s also an anonymous Tumblr – seniorthesisproblems.tumblr.com – to which my classmates have been uploading GIFs capturing the sillier side of thesis writing. Definitely worth a visit if you want a funnier angle on the thesis process.
I’m writing this blog post from inside the Graduate School of Education’s Gutman library, which is one of my new favorite spots to study. I’m including a snapshot to give you all a sense of what studying at Harvard looks like!
And finally, I should clarify that I haven’t spent ALL of my spring semester drafting and editing – I did get a chance to enjoy winter during the blizzard a couple of weeks ago and during a weekend trip to my friend’s house in Vermont. I’m including a couple of photos below!