History majors have to write a Senior Thesis on some historical topic (duh, what else would we write it on?) , many of us are finding it difficult to pin down a topic. Our topics need to be something unique, of timely interest, and we need many primary sources (first person accounts of events surrounding our topic which can be letters, journals, court proceedings and various other things that are directly related to what happened WHEN it happened).
As you may have guessed, we can’t just pick a topic out of the air because it interests us and run with it. We have to be able to BUILD a factual story using reasonably reliable evidence. This can be quite difficult. We may be interested in something but there simply may not be the material we need to research it.
I have been grappling with this for the past month. Each class has a time period that we must stay within, our time period is from 1492 – 1865. That IS a long time but remember we have to find primary sources–SO, it is a long time in which folks were NOT doing a lot of reading and/or writing.
I found some amazing primary sources that fit well within the time period but now I do not know what to do with them. What do I want to form them into? What kind of story do I want to tell?
What am I going to do about my dilemma? I am going to spend a lot of time reading the primary sources. I am going to create a list of questions I want to answer as I read. I am going to create a list of possible ways I may go with my ideas and see if any of those ways will fit within the parameters of a well written , unique and informative yet interesting paper. I will create a sort of if/then statement for each idea, “If I go in this direction THEN this may happen/readers will think this”. I am also going to block out some time in my schedule every day to devote to just working towards this paper.
Although, I have not yet written one (another duh statement), I feel sure that writing one’s Senior Thesis need not be a stressful and arduous process. Surely, time and planning are the keys to stress free success. But, as I’ve mentioned before, time tends to be a big issue for a non-traditional student. I will have to add extra time for this research — which (duh again) will mean I have to take time away from something else. How can one do this, you may be wondering. Time is already at a premium, where does one find a little extra? Well, start by taking a hard look at what you are already doing, —this will probably sound silly but write down what you do on an average day and see how you can manage your time better. We often waste more time than we realize. Look at the big picture, is there somewhere you can cut a few minutes or is there something you could be doing differently until you can tackle this big and important project?
ALWAYS talk to your professor if you are having trouble with a project. They can look objectively at your work and tell you what direction you need to take next and give you ideas for things to add or subtract from your papers.
Since we are talking about decisions, I’ve noticed that it is time once again to start looking at the course catalog for Spring Semester. This is my last Semester so those are decisions I won’t have to be making this time around. However, I would like to suggest that if you haven’t taken a History or English course just for fun, you might want to try one or both if you have room in your schedule to do so.
United States History courses can be a lot of fun. Very often one of your assignments will be to visit a museum or historical site and write about your experience. This can be a pleasant break from the usual grind of endless reading and group projects. You get to choose where you want to go in most cases, which will give you an excellent opportunity to get out and do something a little different while still doing your class work.
English classes will let you read something you might otherwise not have thought of reading. Or perhaps WRITE something just for fun–even though it is an assignment it will be fun if you are taking a creative writing type of course! Or maybe you have heard a lot of quotes from Shakespeare and wonder what it would be like to actually read one of his plays. A class in Shakespeare MIGHT also give you a chance to go see a play on campus and get credit for it or maybe do a little acting of a scene from one of his plays yourself. Do you like Science Fiction or wonder about what folks wrote like before the Civil War? There are English classes for those topics and many more. You might want to think about taking one.
Well, it is time to feed the cats and then get back to work on my research! Enjoy your day, evening, morning, afternoon, week etc!
Phoebe E. Class of 2016 Major: History Minor: English Blog Theme: Trials and Triumphs of a Non-Traditional Student...
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