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Tackling Your Independent Research

Before discussing internship opportunities, study abroad plans, and even job interviews, we have to discuss the only thing that really stands in our way of even graduating. Can you take a guess? —Independent research. The words, “junior paper”–or JP for short, or “senior thesis” causes students to roll their eyes, groan, or even ask the other person to please not bring it up those words again. Honestly, these reactions are justifiable. Most of us have never written upwards 30-100 pages of pure academic research that is the product of months and months of work–or sometimes weeks for other people. But this project does not have to be so intimidating! Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction and most of all, encourage you.

1. Contact your advisor (like now): Sometimes you might be hesitant to contact your advisor because he or she is a world-renowned scholar and must be entirely too busy to deal with an undergraduate student. But seriously, that advisor knows about you. Once the head of your department sent you the letter about who you were assigned to in order to complete your project, you better believe that the advisor received a similar email. Don’t be afraid. Think about it this way—your grade doesn’t entirely depend on their guidance but if you have a specific advisor, usually it’s because that person is extremely knowledgeable in whatever interest that you are pursuing. That’s not to say that you should cold call, stalk the advisor’s house, or send the person countless emails a day. However, think of that person as an invaluable resource who is there to steer you in the right direction. After all, the advisor is the one who will be grading your paper.

2. Attend Writing Sessions: Usually your department or even the Writing Center will host events for students writing their JPs and senior theses–take advantage of them! In addition, these events generally have food so you can boost your productivity while eating. The best thing about these sessions is that there is a collective sense of diligence during these events. Sometimes when you try to host sessions with your friends, you can become easily distracted. But at writing sessions, the rooms are extremely quiet and you can naturally churn out more pages than you think.

3. Don’t Procrastinate: This is an obvious one but it needs to be reiterated: don’t be procrastinate. Even though December or the end of April seems like such a long time for now, it’s actually closer than you think if you add in the amount of breaks that we have. Time goes fast in general. Personally, I can’t even believe I’m a junior; I still stutter when someone asks what year am I in, thinking that I’m a sophomore. Plan ahead because you might hit a few bumps along the way and you’ll be more apt to tackle them if you have a sufficient amount of time to do so. For juniors, maybe for the first month or so, gather your materials, then the second month, begin analyze your texts, and then the third month, you can develop your argument. For seniors, each month would be extended to a couple.

4. Believe In Yourself: Sometimes we feel like we have writer’s block before we’ve even written anything at all. The idea of a topic that we have to elaborate upon for pages and pages seems so realistic, doesn’t it? But don’t fret. You understand yourself more than you think. As far as thinking about a topic, think about what makes you happy–what you can go on and on talking about to someone else. Passion, in my opinion, is the key factor in crafting a successful paper. Don’t be afraid to do something different and allow your mind to naturally go to uncharted territories. And last but not least, don’t force yourself to be creative. Even though we should ask seek resources from advisors, professors, and student centers, sometimes your mind will inexplicably fill the gaps in your seemingly disconnected ideas if you just relax.

Well, that’s all for now, Princetonettes. Until next time!

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