This past January I celebrated my five year research anniversary *does a happy dance*. Since 2012, I conducted research on the Flowers family and continued my research into graduate school. I had a small advantage–I completed the majority of my research over the years. At this point, I simply needed to write. It was impossible to write of three generations of this family history; therefore, I needed a theme to focus on which spoke to the family’s accomplishments and resilience. After meeting with my advisor, we chose the theme of educational activism and education as a “weapon of the weak”–a tool of resilience.
First presentation on Rachel Flowers, October 2012
I organized my thesis into three chapters with of course an introduction and conclusion. Each chapter studied the educational activism of grandfather Reverend Joseph J. Sawyer, his granddaughter Rachel H. Flowers, and his great-granddaughter Geraldine L. Wilson. Three biographies equaled three historiographies and three vast histories to share. With a theme and a thesis, I began and confronted my biggest fear head on–writing.
I am sensitive about my writing. Let me clarify, I am sensitive about writing for academic audiences, creative writing is more of my area. Because of this, I must leave myself time to proofread, edit, and deal with passive voice. And that my folks is how you cure procrastination. Now, the thesis process requires extensive editing from thesis readers and this process was humbling to say the least. I wanted to cry because of minor mistakes I made, I wanted to yell because I failed to grasp a full understanding of passive voice, and I wanted to quit because honestly at times I felt inadequate. One thesis reader in particular left no page of my research without comments. It took time for me to remember that one I am learning; two, my committee offered this criticism to prepare me for my next endeavors; and three, they were looking out for a sista.
Overall, the process was nothing to dread and far from those horror stories you hear from other graduate students. Once you find your research topic and become passionate about your work, the words flow right into the page. My advisor made it clear in the beginning that as long as I do the research and the work, I had little to worry about. You as a student must do the work on your end to get the paper done. Oh, and my first chapter won the departmental award. So confront your thesis head on and your fears:)
Now that I shared a piece of my thesis story. Let’s discuss some thesis tips.
- Set a timeline and stay in communication with your committee. The timeline helps you stay on track as you are completing your thesis hours independently. No professor has time to ensure you are on track and coming unprepared to schedule meetings is a big no-no. It can be interpreted the wrong way.
- Establish your own personal thesis goals. How much time a day are you devoting to research and how much time are you devoting to writing? What do you want your communication with your advisor to look like? Have you all discuss this?
- Set one or two break days. This gives you time to focus on PhD applications, other coursework, and hobbies. This gives you time to “break-up” with your research and to reunite with your research with fresh eyes.
- Edit in sections. I realized editing 45 pages over a few days was too much. Edit per section.
- Zotero! Zotero! Zotero! Zotero is a lifesaver. Simply download the standalone and Google extension to pull articles and books citations. After you save each one of your references, you can pull an extensive list in the citation style of your choice in seconds.
Hope this helps. Until the next post,