Hey Party People,
As the end of the quarter looms, some MAPHers have been starting to think about what they should be doing about their thesis…..
Slow it down, everyone. Relax.
Do you need to start writing your thesis now? No.
Are there some constructive thesis-y things you can do to prepare? Yes.
Finding an Advisor
By this time maybe you have an idea of who you would like to work with. You won’t need to make it official until the end of January, but there are some steps you could take before the end of the quarter.
Have you gone to some office hours with them? It doesn’t necessarily matter if you are in a class with them right now, you could schedule some time and talk about how you’ve been wondering about something (specific) they did/wrote about. Go with specific questions. Don’t mention your thesis. Establish a relationship.
If you have already established a relationship, now could be a good time to bring up the fact that you are really interested in this subject (and something specific the faculty member has done) and are thinking about possibly working on this subject next quarter when you begin writing your MA thesis. See if that doesn’t draw out an offer from the faculty member. If not, just be a little awkward and ask….
“I know you’re busy next quarter…do you have any extra time to advise my thesis work?”
“Would it be possible for you to advise my thesis work? I would really appreciate it.”
“I would love to talk more about this with you, maybe you could help me by advising my thesis next quarter”
Use your best judgement, and don’t be afraid to wait until winter quarter to actually ask. When in doubt, talk to the MAPH staff
Don’t stake your emotional sanity on whether one rando says yes about something. They might have already agreed to advise too many folks, they may be on sabbatical next quarter, they might not be that interested in your awesome subject. Someone will advise you.
Out of 87 MAPHers last year, 87 MAPHers found advisors.
Over break you will be required to put together a tentative bibliography. Remember, with your work you are entering a conversation. You are joining a discourse community, and your work will take meaning from that discourse. Will you be responding to a commonly-held belief in your field? Will you be arguing that someone does not go far enough in their explanations? That some important facet of a text is being ignored? In order to join the conversation, you have to have a sense of what people are talking about.
Don’t freak out about this–you are not yet a professional academic. You don’t need to know everything that anyone has ever said about your subject. If you were working on your dissertation, you would need to have a much more comprehensive approach to this lit review, but for now, you just need to build a little bit of a discourse.
N.B–you are building the conversation. This is a construction. The idea is not that you accurately record everything that’s happening in the conversation around your subject. The idea is that you construct a part of that conversation that you can use to springboard into your own argument. Find something people believe, illustrate that to your reader, then tell the reader why that belief is wrong. Tell ’em what they should believe.
OK so how is I do the research? Check out this helpful video guide!
(In our heads that was more helpful. But JSTOR is definitely a good place to begin)
Seek out academic journals in your field. This is your new jam.
This is important! If you are doing a philosophy thesis and you are looking at a study from an Anthropology journal, BACK IT UP. Stick to the conversation going on in your discipline. Don’t cross streams, unless you are very careful about it. Like, Oregon Trail-style-careful-stream-crossing.
Remember that you should try to work with more recent sources–if you create a 40 year-old conversation and it turns out that 10 years ago someone solved the problem you are working on, then your work is just repeating what’s out there. Your thesis could be a footnote. You can specify the date of the articles you are looking at to make sure.
Non-JSTOR research options
JSTOR is probably the easiest way to browse articles, but it’s not the only way. If you want to get out of the house (this is actually a very good idea now that the cold is setting in), head over to the Reg. They have hard-copies of recent academic journals. Oh, and THEY HAVE SUBJECT LIBRARIANS WHOSE EXACT JOB IS TO DO YOUR RESEARCH FOR YOU.
No joke. You tell them what you are working on, they go find a bunch of books/articles that you can use for your thesis. USE THE SUBJECT LIBRARIANS.
If you find stuff from a book that the library has, they will scan big chunks of the book and have it waiting for you. Go for a little walk, clear your head, develop mild frostbite, and pick up another chapter to read.
Another massive database is MLA (EBSCO). You can get to it by searching MLA in the ‘databases’ search on the Reg’s website. Also maybe click here and it will work?
Also, it’s not exactly research, but if you want to see the kind of project’s MAPHers have done in the past, there are a couple boxes of old theses in the MAPH lounge. Ask someone from the office if you can’t find em. They are to STAY IN THE LOUNGE.
There are tons of other ways to do research. If you are having trouble feel free to shoot us an email. Probably better to email a librarian though.
OK that’s about it for now.
In case you missed it, check out the trailer for the upcoming feature film “The Researching”:
Also, check out this fully completed video thesis to get an example of what really well researched argumentative work looks like:
Much Love and Warmth,
Coming soon….Fun (read ‘free’) Things to do over Winter Break