Elaine Vilorio ’17 gives thesis advice to current students writing or considering a thesis. Elaine was a Black Studies/ Latin American/Latino Studies major and wrote her thesis on the Dominican Republic.

Getting a Summertime Jump on Your Thesis

A lot of planning goes into the crafting of a successful thesis, and some Amherst students have been getting a head start, weeks ahead of the start of classes.

For eight weeks this summer, students are gathering weekly for the Thesis Research Table. Following a light lunch at the Frost Library’s cafe, the group of about 20 students sets out to develop their skills as thesis writers.

Each week focuses on a different aspect of the research and writing process, m, with the thesis writers helping to set the agenda, says Blake Doherty, Frost’s research, instruction and outreach librarian. She manages the group with Jessica Kem, associate director of the College’s Writing Center.

Sessions may cover how to take notes during the research process, how to manage a heavy reading load or how to read more strategically,” Doherty said.

Such lessons take the form of presentations from faculty, staff and peers, as well as open discussions and workshops.

On a recent Thursday, the rising seniors in the group met with very recent thesis writers—members of the class of 2017—to get pointers on how to best put their projects together.

“We don’t need to be here over the summer, but it's very useful,” said Trevor Wright ’18, a physics major. He’s been using July to get better acquainted with the machinery involved in his studies, and he has already started in on data collection. He said the meetings in Frost have given him valuable tips on time management and organizing his work.

Robert Kwark ‘17 talks about the ups and down of writing a physics thesis.

Robert Kwark ’17, a fellow physics major, happily shared his advice with Wright and the other rising seniors in the sciences: get in background reading over the summer, as it quickly becomes a challenge in the fall to balance regular course work and thesis research.

Madeline Ruoff ’18 had a pressing question for the humanities majors among the new alumni: “It’s really hard to start writing. How do you get over perfectionism?”

Amir Hall ‘17 advises students on tips for writing a creative arts/English thesis.

“External pressure helps,” replied English major Amir Hall ’17. “With your adviser, set realistic expectations. Once another person is involved, it compels me to do it more.”

“In my spring semester,” he recalled, “my professor said, ‘You have to stop reading now.’”

And as European Studies and Psychology major Katerina Von Campe ’17, offered, “No writing is ever wasted. You have it down, you can edit it, you can refer to it.”

The Thesis Research Table is just one in a series of support programs offered by the library, Academic Technology Services and the Writing Center for students and others who are doing research on campus during the summer.

Such programs aim to boost research, analysis and communications skills, and also include gatherings to build community among scholars studying diverse subjects. Workshops cover everything from graphic design, to research ethics, to writing basics.

Madeline K. Ruoff ’18 asks Amanda Tobin '17 for tips for crafting a creative thesis.