Friday, February 24, 2017

A Thesis Office with a Mission

The Thesis and Dissertation Office at Northern Illinois University is focused on student success, offering resources at every stage of the thesis or dissertation writing process, and operating on a unique peer-advocate model for informing and motivating graduate students.

Comprehensive, service-oriented thesis offices exist at a few grad-degree granting institutions throughout the nation, it’s true. But they are not common, and at many schools the thesis office is focused only on guidance through red tape and the managing of documents.  While NIU’s Thesis and Dissertation Advisor, Carolyn Law, can help students navigate the most tangled red tape the graduate school can dish out, we like to think that our holistic approach to thesis and dissertation assistance is a unique one!

Not Just Information

The Thesis Office is the definitive source of information on how to get through the process of finalizing a thesis. But we are not just here to inform. We are here to help.

Some services we proudly offer:

  • One-on-one formatting and documentation assistance
  • Workshops on tricky thesis issues, such as page numbers, tables, and citations
  • Brown Bags and social media for meeting (online or IRL) other grad students and maintaining contact with people who understand your life situation
  • Writers’ meet-ups to help you hold yourself accountable for getting the writing done
  • Presentations on how to do the things we explain on the website (in case you need to see it and not just read it!)
  • And coming soon: Instructional videos on the toughest formatting bugbears 

So, as you can see, we offer a lot more than just telling you what to do!  We believe that this holistic, student-centered approach to guidance throughout the entire thesis process (you can visit us whether you’ve never written a word, or if you’ve written “AAAAALL THE WORDS!”) will help graduate students complete their goals in a timely manner, saving them money, headache, life crises, and preparing them for the job market. (In fact, as a department of the NIU Graduate School, we are committed to the Graduate School’s express mission of student professionalization.)

Another key to our approach is, as I mentioned above, our peer advisors.  Two graduate assistants are always employed by the office, to help you help yourself. I am one of them! (Robyn) The other is Fred. But whether you meet me and Fred this year, or Bob and Joe two years down the road (because Fred and I plan to finish our dissertations and get out of town…), you will come into contact with graduate assistants who know your struggle, and share in it every day.  We are living through the thesis process with all its highs and lows, and we also happen to be experts on how to get it done. (As well as on formatting, grammar, documentation, and everything else you would expect from English majors). In fact, part of our job requirement is that we get it done! So, the graduate student advisor helps students feel like they are not alone and provides a great connection for networking, as well as being an approachable authority in the Graduate School.

We do think we are special. While comparable missions are expressed by the thesis offices at Purdue and UT Knoxville to name a couple, we think we are hitting it out of the park.  Indeed, we would like to see this type of thesis office mission become a ubiquitous goal, especially among state institutions that often grant degrees to students of diverse and non-traditional backgrounds, while operating on limited funding… and working with students who may have limited funds themselves!

In fact, that is certainly one font from which we draw inspiration for the mission of the Thesis Office: our diverse student body of international, non-traditional, low-income, and returning students. That said, we are here for every grad student.

As you can see, we are a Thesis Office with a mission. We want graduate students to succeed, so our goal is your goal. We want to provide you with every resource (or at least refer you to one if we don’t have it) so that you can finish your thesis or dissertation with confidence and expedience.

Come see us in beautiful Adams Hall during the week, or call or email anytime!
M-Th, 10-2

Happy working!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thesis Office Outreach: Presentations, Workshops, Brown Bags

Two weeks into February, and here at the Thesis Office we’re ready to deliver our spring presentations, workshops, and brown bag sessions for writers at any stage of the thesis or dissertation process.  Below we give a rundown of what’s on offer over the next several weeks.  We look forward to seeing you!

Basic Info
Our programs are free.  Brown bags meet Wednesdays from 12 to 1 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103.  Workshops and most presentations will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. in the same location on Tuesdays or Thursdays, but note that two presentations (Writing a Dissertation in Education and Demystifying the Submission Process) will take place on different days and at different times and locations—see below. 

No registration required for brown bags.  Registration is required for a presentation or workshop.  Register via email at  Include the name of the presentation or workshop you want to attend in the subject line or message.  We do have space limitations.  Register early! 

What to Expect
Plenty of important information.  Many who experience these events walk away a bit surprised at the intricacies behind things like meeting various deadlines, submitting the proper paperwork to the proper place, or formatting the long document.  Expect thorough coverage of common concerns as well as ample time to address individual questions.   

Thesis Essentials
Tuesday, February 21 (2 to 4 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103)
Designed for all master’s students enrolled in 699 in any department.  Staff will walk students through the Graduate School’s specific requirements for theses and cover a wide range of the most troublesome issues thesis writers frequently encounter.
Dissertation Essentials
Wednesday, February 22 (2 to 4 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103)
Designed for all doctoral students enrolled in 799 in any department.  Staff will walk students through the Graduate School’s specific requirements for dissertations and cover a wide range of the most troublesome issues dissertation writers frequently encounter.

Writing a Thesis in Engineering
Thursday, February 23 (2 to 4 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103)
Designed specifically for thesis writers enrolled in thesis-credit hours in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.  Staff will walk students through the Graduate School’s specific requirements for theses and cover a range of issues that students in engineering fields often find troublesome.

Writing a Dissertation in Education
Saturday, February 25 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at NIU Naperville, Room 162)
This one-day program is designed specifically for dissertation writers enrolled in 799 in the College of Education.  Staff will walk students through the Graduate School’s specific requirements for dissertations and cover a wide range of the most troublesome issues dissertation writers in Education frequently encounter.

Demystifying the Submission Process
Wednesday, March 8 (5 to 7 p.m. in Wirtz Hall, Room 104)
This presentation is for graduate students preparing to submit a thesis or dissertation to the Graduate School for May 2017 graduation.  Carolyn Law, Thesis/Dissertation Advisor, will walk students through the steps of the process: defense, electronic submission, and final approval.

ASME Documentation
Tuesday, February 28 (2 to 4 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103)
This hand-on workshop will teach the documentation style of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, known as ASME journal style.  Using real-word examples, students will apply the principles in real time to their own writing.  ASME journal style is ideal for research documentation in all departments of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

Problems in Theses/Dissertations: Tables/Figures/Pagination
Wednesday, March 1 (2 to 4 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103)
This hands-on workshop is designed to help writers comply with the Graduate School’s requirements for tables, figures, and pagination.  Students should bring their work in progress on their own laptops.  Staff will cover the specific format requirements, demonstrate helpful techniques and short-cuts in Microsoft Word, and allow generous time for individual troubleshooting and one-on-one consultation.

Brown Bag Sessions 
Committee Relations
Wednesday, February 15 (12 to 1 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103)
Informal discussion on choosing committee members, creating productive working relationships with them, maintaining good communications, and managing feedback throughout the process.  Graduate School policies regarding committees will be reviewed.  Faculty and students welcome.

Breaking Through Writer's Block (and Other Obstacles)
Wednesday, February 22
(12 to 1 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103)
Informal discussion on common obstacles that slow or entirely halt progress on one’s thesis or dissertation.  Carolyn Law, Thesis/Dissertation Advisor, will facilitate the discussion and offer practical strategies.  Students only, please.

The Balancing Act: A Life in Grad School
Wednesday, March 1
(12 to 1 p.m. in Adams Hall, Room 103)
Informal discussion on the complexities of managing life as a graduate student, balancing family responsibilities, personal health, outside work, and the pressures of a dissertation or thesis.  Session will be facilitated by Thesis Office GA Robyn Byrd, doctoral candidate and mother of two.  Students only, please.