Friday, February 26, 2016

Write Place, Write Time

Guest Blog -- Connections Matter

Part of the mission of Project Thesis is to update you on valuable information relating to the researching, organizing, writing, documenting, revising, defending, and publishing of a thesis or dissertation.

At the same time, 
the blog was designed to describe the experiences of graduate students, traditional and non-traditional, struggling with starting and completing their thesis or dissertation. We want you to realize that many of your peers across departments are dealing with similar issues, and, most importantly, that you are not alone in this. 

In an effort to bolster this sense of community, from time to time 
our office will be asking guest bloggers to contribute to Project Thesis on a number of topics relevant to graduate students today. 

It is our hope that 
you, too, will contribute to this ongoing discussion by posting questions and comments to the blog or on our office Facebook group. 

And with that, the NIU Thesis and Dissertation office is proud to present our inaugural guest blog by Paula Howard.

What do I wish I had known when I started writing my thesis? Connections matter. 

As part of my degree requirements I wrote a thesis titled 
The Use of Facebook by Older Adults. I learned a lot in the process, about the subject and about myself. One crucial lesson, which I wish I had learned early on, was that I made it harder for myself by going it alone. I had no idea how vital connections are. 

Not just connections to various university personnel who shepherded me and my paperwork through the system. I mean connections to people like my professors, advisors, and colleagues. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of my family and friends throughout the process. They all cheered me on faithfully and put up with a fair amount of flakiness on my part. But when it came to writing my thesis, I would have benefitted from being connected to more people who understood what I was going through. And that’s on me.

I’ve always had a tendency to assume I have to do things myself, but I should have abandoned that conceit early on. Meeting with my thesis advisor or committee would tie me up in anxious knots. What I can see now is that I didn’t need to dread those meetings. I always came away from those encounters feeling better about my research, my thesis, and my ability to get it all done. I would have been much better off embracing them as a chance to have in-depth conversations about my research, to get feedback and advice, to gather up words of encouragement for those dark nights of a grad student’s soul. 

I also wish I had sought out the camaraderie of my fellow thesis writers. While I was completing my coursework I enjoyed hanging out with other grad students, but once I finished my classes I saw them very little. Working with a writing buddy, or buddies, would have given me the connection I missed. Going to the University Writing Center or attending a Graduate School workshop or presentation would have helped, too.

Don’t get me wrong. Writing my thesis was a very positive experience, and I’m proud of that accomplishment. But take my word for it: Connection helps. Reading a blog about getting through your thesis can cheer you up for a while, but it’s no substitute for real-world connections. 

-- Paula Howard completed her M.A. in English in December 2015

Friday, February 12, 2016

Who is ProQuest?

So just who is this ProQuest? And why should I care?

Well the short answer to the first question is that ProQuest is NIU’s publication partner for all theses and dissertations approved for graduate degrees. As for the second question, you should care because ProQuest provides NIU with the platform for submitting theses and dissertations to the Graduate School for review and ultimate approval. After that, ProQuest preserves and distributes your thesis or dissertation forever, within certain parameters over which you have some control.

ProQuest is an international, for-profit corporation headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It started out as R.R. Bowker, but its rise to fame really came under the name of University Microfilms International (UMI). From the development of microfilm in the 1930s to the construction of 21st-century digital repositories, ProQuest (under several different names over the years) has been a consistent leader in the technology of document preservation, including historical newspapers, archives and libraries, and (of course) theses and dissertations.

Now for the “why should I care” part. Well, first . . . because ProQuest supplies and maintains the infrastructure of NIU’s submission platform. When you click the SUBMIT NOW button on the Thesis Office website, you will be magically transported to the land of ProQuest, called the ETD Administrator. Rest assured, however, that the NIU Thesis Office is the custodian and administrator of that platform and your work remains in the secure, trustworthy hands of NIU (Carolyn Law, to be precise) until the very end.

The second reason you should care is because you’ll be asked up front to make some decisions about the eventual availability of your work after you graduate. You would be well advised to do some homework about these decisions before you start. THE SUBMISSION PROCESS – linked to the Thesis Office website – covers the most frequently asked questions.

Then a few weeks after each graduation term, the Thesis Office sends the electronic files of all the approved theses and dissertations (now called ETDs) to ProQuest, where they are ingested into massive databases, deposited in NIU’s Huskie Commons (our institutional repository), and tagged and indexed for online search engines.

To learn more about ProQuest in the big-picture sense, you might want to explore their website, It’s really quite an interesting enterprise for any scholar, academic writer, or researcher.

Closer to home, the Thesis and Dissertation Office offers a special presentation called Demystifying the Submission Process for graduate students preparing to submit. This 2-hour program walks graduate students through the specific steps of the process and answers all of your questions about publication options, Open Access, copyright, and more. This semester, Demystifying the Submission Process will be offered on Wednesday, March 9, 4:00 – 6:00 pm in Wirtz Hall 104. Advance registration is appreciated. To register, send an email to with Submission Process in the subject line.