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.