In my mind, I’ve always have divided seniors I know into two categories: ones who are writing a thesis and ones who are not. These are not hierarchical categories. Instead, to me, they have often helped to explain the schedules, availability, and moods of these seniors. I do not believe that a student who writes a thesis is any more intelligent or hard-working than those who do not. Many of my friends made their decision to write or forgo writing a thesis for a wide variety of reasons. However, I do consider writing a thesis a great honor. I guess I always have had it in my mind that I would write a thesis- not because I felt that I had to but because I knew that I would love to find a topic that I could become so involved with and too see what this thesis business was all about. I feel as if I am embarking on a quest to immerse myself in a great intellectual discourse on a topic of my own choosing- but one that is relevant and currently being debated in the world of academia. I also feel, however, that the library will soon become my second home and that I will spend more time there than any other place on campus.
Before this Fall, I’ve often tried to check books out of the library only to find that they would not be returned for months- the return date would suggest that they might not be due back technically until the end of the year or later. How could that be? I soon realized that these books had been currently in use by students writing a thesis through their senior year. With about eight full bags of books from Frost Library already, I’m beginning to understand. While I may return many of these books in the next couple of weeks, others will become essential to my thesis work.
I often see on people facebook status’s statements that describe their thesis work as a relationship- either good or bad depending on where they are in their process. Some want a divorce; some think they’ve “found the one”. I think my thesis and I are presently in the “honeymoon” stage. After considerable back and forth, I’ve finally found a topic that feels both comfortable (in that it is something that genuinely interests my deepest intellectual passions) and challenging as it pushes my abilities and interests to a new intellectual level. Already, I have revealed in several “ah ha!” moments where my research seems to come together to form a tangible discourse where my thesis could insert itself to say something exciting. Not long ago I was sitting at a table, books scattered all around. Suddenly, I realized that in one hand I had an essay that responded to one of the books to my side, which was also written by the same scholar that wrote an essay in another book I had. I realized that the scholars I was reading were actually “talking” to each other. I had around me, an enormous, yet tangible, conversation. I was right in the middle of it. I started exclaiming to my friends about my recent discoveries- whenever I saw reoccurring name in various texts I would get excited. If they weren’t writing a thesis or very interested in this type of research, it would be difficult for them to understand.
Writing a thesis is not necessarily about discovering something completely new that no one has heard or thought of before. As my advisor suggested, “you don’t have to reinvent the wheel”. The goal is to discover a conversation on an issue and respond to an aspect of that conversation. You’re finding a question that has been asked but only asked in certain ways and finding a way to approach the question from a slightly different angle to see what you come up with. Or perhaps you’re look at an answer to a question and wondering if it’s valid according to another perspective or even deepening the answer itself.
My goal is to continue to be excited about the research I am conducting. My hope is that I will be able to find an appropriate balance between my thesis and enjoying the remainder of my time at Amherst. At the moment, I am very excited about my thesis. This is my “chance to be intellectually interesting on paper”, as my thesis advisor often reminds me. This will be the largest intellectual endeavor that I have ever taken on. It is a daunting task that will demand a lot of patience and persistence. Already I feel like if I survive my thesis, I’ll be able to accomplish anything. Like any good and healthy relationship, it will help me to grow and further develop my confidence and abilities.