Welcome to my new series about my decision to do the thesis option for my program, and my advice to those of you considering the same. Are you considering doing a thesis? Does your program require you to? Then join me on this journey! Follow along on Twitter (@JessicaLColbert) with #MSLISthesis.
On Thursday, April 13th, 2017, I sat with my adviser and second reader and defended my Master’s thesis…informally. I don’t have to do a formal defense, but still! I defended my thesis, it was marked “Satisfactory,” and I submitted it for departmental review. I’m still waiting for that process to finish before I do the final submission, but for all intents and purposes, I am finished with my thesis.
Here is what I learned.
After I informally defended, I mentioned to my adviser and my second reader that there was a small part of me that was surprised that I finished on time or at all. When I was an undergraduate, I had a nervous breakdown one semester and failed to finish some papers, mostly because of their length (~20 pages), so a Master’s thesis was this huge thing standing in front of me like a pillar.
I think they were both surprised to hear this and both assured me that they knew I would finish. My second reader mentioned that she had advised so many theses before mine and that so many students didn’t finish. She knew I would not be one of those students, and I think it’s because I’m very passionate and determined.
And I have to agree, though I think being in a much better place mentally helped. So remember, please pick a topic that you really care about because then you’ll actually want to do the work. All the trouble and turmoil of the process will feel so worth it when you finish with something you’re really proud of.
Doing a thesis taught me more about the writing process than any paper I wrote as an English BA ever did. As I’ve mentioned before in this series, the papers I wrote then were from a New Criticism style of textual analysis: no citations, no research, and I could write the whole thing in a few hours if I knew what I wanted to say. Not so with a thesis! Before I even wrote the darn thing, there was a lot of “prep” work, like doing the research for a literature review and studying various methodologies.
Also like, editing is a thing? I was always that person who wouldn’t put words to paper until after I had mulled it over in my head a million times, so I never really edited my papers (though of course, I should have). But being encouraged by my adviser to send anything new her way meant that I was editing through the entire writing process. And boy, having somebody to point out your weird wording and repetitive use of the word “implies” is so helpful. It was also nice because I’m new to this type of writing.
Every time I thought I was finished, I would send it to my adviser, and she would have more for me to change and more for me to add. I was starting to get worried that maybe it would never be good enough. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this type of work. But eventually, I got the OKAY to send it to my second reader. I was done.
And even though I’m done, I’m still in this liminal space where I can’t yet deposit until I get the OKAY from my department, and then after that, the thesis office might have me do changes to the format. So now I’m in this space where I’m sort of not in control of the process anymore? And that’s a weird place to be in, to be honest. Even though I feel like this huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders, I’m still anxious!
What I Wish I Had Known
Hey, future library school students, here’s some things I wish I had known before starting:
- Working with professors, especially those who are a huge deal, is super intimidating.
- Your adviser should be somebody who works well with you, not necessarily somebody who is an expert in your field (wait until you do a PhD for that).
- Getting research participants was almost impossible. I contacted an entire department and only got four people.
- I thought not taking any classes while writing this would mean I had no other distractions. Job hunting is more strenuous than I had expected.
- The deposit process, like I mentioned, is weird and stressful and there’s a bunch of forms.
- People will not agree with your methodology. Be prepared to defend your work.
The Big Picture
Being finished feels great. Knowing that I’m setting myself for a rich career in academic librarianship with this feels even better. And that’s the reason I did this thesis. I know that I want to work in academic libraries, and that’s because I want my research supported. Now I have a taste of what undergoing a huge research project feels like, and I got to do it in a space where my job wasn’t on the line with guidance the entire time.
I also proved to myself and to others who doubted me that I could do this. And that means I can do it again. I can go on to write articles and book chapters. I can contribute to my profession, and I can do so in a way that helps other people.
So thanks for joining me on this journey. When the final deposit has happened, I’ll make sure to tweet the link so that you can read the completed thesis!
And if you want to look back on the series, here it is all in one place.
- So You Wanna Do A Thesis? Part 1: Preparation
- So You Wanna Do A Thesis? Part 2: Moving Forward
- So You Wanna Do a Thesis? Part 3: Keeping Yourself Accountable
- So You Wanna Do a Thesis? Part 4: Paper Structure
- So You Wanna Do a Thesis? Part 5: The Literature Review
Categories: Education & Curriculum