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Behind the Scenes of the Senior Thesis

Every year, the senior History students face the monstrous task of researching and writing their senior thesis. We asked a few seniors who accomplished theirs in one semester to tell us, in list form, about their experiences.

How to write a one semester Thesis

Jacob Gordon, ‘10

  1. Decide on a topic as early as possible.

    I knew before the summer that I wanted to explore the Great War era. During the summer I read what I was able but it was not very focused. I lacked a thesis topic until August. My advisor was getting a bit nervous and pressured to get me to choose a topic.

  2. Be prepared to read… A lot.

    After finally picking a thesis topic there were lots of sources to look at, read, and categorize. I have my own Ivor Gurney library and a nice big white binder full of journal articles and transcribed newspapers articles. 

  3. Stay Organized.

    As with all the readings, I had to remain organized as the paper developed. It does not matter what system one uses for notes and sources but remain consistent. It spares many a moment of “I remember reading that, but where…..” Also come up with a time table early so to keep to deadlines and a steady output. Stay to this as best as possible.

  4. The library and its workers will be good friends.

    Most of my sources initially came from interlibrary loan. Without those I would never have been able to get access to Ivor’s letters. Lynn Jones was willing to work with me and make arrangements to try and keep things past their due date when possible. I have heard of other systems for retaining interlibrary loans, I do not recommend them.

  5. It will take time and not go as planned.

    I started writing in October. I finished writing in December the day before the thesis was due. Ivor’s collection of letters was too expensive to acquire so I had to send for it multiple times. When all was completed I had written 41 pages and when all the supplementary pages were added I had 52 pages. The required length for the one semester thesis was a minimum of 25 pages.

  6. Have fun when you can with your topic.

    It may be very stressful. It is possible the only place to get your sources is in Australia where one can never match up time zones to make arrangements. It will take a lot of time to accomplish. Eventually it will be done and turned in. After that all one has to worry about is presenting it at the symposium.

The Best and the Worst Moments

Matthew Dunker, ‘10

Favorite/Amusing Moments

  1. Researching a topic that I picked and that I was interested in writing.
  2. Developing a better relationship with Dr. Sowell (My thesis advisor).
  3. Being able to complain about the paper with all of the seniors in majoring in history.
  4. Hearing all of Dr. Sowell's interesting stories that had nothing to do with my paper.
  5. Becoming friends with the librarians who help out so much during this time of crisis.
  6. Putting on the white gloves and looking through the primary sources in the Treasury Room.

Least Favorite/ Frustrating Moments

  1. Researching and writing the paper when I had so much work to do for my other classes.
  2. Renewing books that I inter-library loaned.
  3. Fearing the wrath of Dr. Sowell if I wasn't going to make a deadline.
  4. Picking out the important information out of a plethora of info.
  5. The constant proof reading (Sometimes I felt that it would never be good enough).
  6. The difficulty of finding useful and relevant primary sources.
  7. Running the risk of getting carpal tunnel from typing so much.