It is important to recognize that doing a thesis is an exhilarating and often anxiety-producing experience. The anxiety is absolutely normal and unavoidable because you will be involved in a new and unfamiliar experience.
The anxiety is often related to several aspects of the process:
- Form the committee
The committee should include faculty with expertise in relevant areas of study, interpersonal styles that are compatible and supportive, and a commitment to work collaboratively with each other. The choice of your committee members is an extremely important decision, since you will be working with them for a minimum of a year. The combination of finding appropriate members with the constraints of faculty needing to set limits on their commitments may restrict the possibilities for forming the "ideal" committee. You should choose your Chair first, and he or she can then help you select appropriate members.
- Schedule a committee meeting
The feat of getting four people together for meetings becomes your responsibility. With all sincere intent to be supportive and cooperative, the busy schedules of faculty and the student are a reality. Faculty help provide guidance on the goals and objectives for meetings, the tasks to be accomplished, and the frequency of meetings; however, the scheduling of meetings is the responsibility of the student and often requires tenacity and diligence on the part of the student.
- Plan deadlines
The University publishes a schedule of deadlines for submission of the thesis which must be met in order to finish your degree within a specific semester. A thesis takes a minimum of a full year to complete, and you need to plan accordingly. Nevertheless, while it is very important to have a timeline for completion of different parts of the project, some deadlines are very hard to set and meet. For example, it may require several meetings with your Chair or committee to refine your topic. Data collection may take longer than anticipated due to circumstances out of your control. In addition, writing the thesis usually takes longer than any student anticipates. All of these factors must be carefully considered when planning your timeline. It is recommended that all thesis students plan to enroll and graduate the summer after their second year of graduate study.
A general guide to the time course for the thesis follows:
- A research topic and faculty mentor should be selected by the close of the second semester of graduate study. Initial discussions of topic and research design should have been occurring prior to this time. The Human Subjects proposal can be developed and sent for review.
- The summer months can be spent on development of Chapter 1 of the thesis, "Review of the Literature and Statement of the Problem" and Chapter 2 "Methods." The Committee can then be selected.
- Chapters 1 and 2 can be sent to the Committee at the beginning of Fall term (Year 2) with the Prospectus meeting following a minimum of 2 weeks later (but not before approval of Human Subjects).
- It is generally thought that at least a full semester should be spent on data collection, and a full term on final analyses and writing. NOTE: Any student choosing the thesis option may need to enroll in a second summer of graduate work and must assure a) the faculty mentor agrees to continue supervising the completion of the thesis and b) the Committee is willing to meet for final defense during the summer session.
- Making revisions
Unlike most class papers, the thesis goes through many revisions and drafts with the Chair and then with the committee following their feedback before a final product is approved. Modifications may occur in any portion of the thesis document including the research design, the focus of the thesis, and the discussion section of the document. It should be anticipated by the student that several rounds of editing are likely to occur in the writing of the text. Final approval of the thesis is made by the Graduate Division.
- Setting realistic goals
Remember that a thesis can contribute significant knowledge to your professional field; however, it is helpful to consider the process as an opportunity to begin investigation of an issue rather than as a mandate to write a definitive work in the field. Even seasoned researchers do not view a single study, or even a set of studies on a single topic, as the definitive work in the field! Your Chair and committee will help you to keep the scope of your thesis within reasonable boundaries.
- Supporting your own competence
There are times you may feel overwhelmed or that your committee is "talking over your head." Remember that you are not expected to have all the experience and knowledge needed for this endeavor. In fact, part of why you have chosen to do a thesis is because you want to get experience conducting research and to expand your knowledge in your field of study. Never hesitate to tell your committee when you are confused or overwhelmed.
- Desiring connectedness
Pursuing the thesis option can be a lonely experience. Even though your committee may try to be regularly available to you, you will be working independently for a significant part of the time. There are times you may be immersed in the pleasures of the work. There are times you may feel isolated and directionless. You should initiate contact with your Chair for support as needed.
last updated: June 2009