As I am halfway through working on my own honors thesis, I thought it would be helpful to share my advice with others who are struggling through this work, and for those who will soon be proposing their own theses for the new school year. So far, it has been a series of ups and downs for me, as I have struggled to finish work on deadlines or find a source. I have, however, finished a personal goal (40 pages!) and received amazing help from my advisors. It is one of the toughest things I have done in college, and I hope this short list of tips helps at least a few students who are and will be facing the same challenges.
1. Do some work every day.
When writing a paper that will end with a grand total of up to 60 pages, there is absolutely no way that procrastinating on this project will go well for you. Strive to work every day on your thesis in order to finish without feeling too exhausted, although it seems as though exhaustion is sometimes necessary for a well-done project. Whether you research some new sources, create a rough draft, or write just 300 words daily, by doing just a little work every day, you will create a good work ethic. After just a month, your progress will astonish you!
2. Find a suitable work location.
Some people have no problem working in their dorms or apartments, but other people (like me) can barely get anything done in the same place where sleep and Netflix happens. Pick a new location where you can focus solely on your work with little-to-no interruption. The best places I have found would be the Du Bois library or some type of café. Other people dedicated to their work also find themselves studying in the library, where the collective energy encourages others to focus and write. The atmosphere of a café can also help many people focus as well, especially if you have a coffee to motivate you. Whichever one you like best, make that location your “thesis” place, and let the writing happen.
3. Keep in contact with advisors.
Your advisors will help you so much in your efforts to create the best thesis possible. Be open to their criticism and welcome any advice they give you. Their goal is the same as yours; they want you to produce an amazing thesis, one that shows a strong argument, excellent writing, and has amazing, credible sources. Always contact them with any questions you have about any section of your project. Be honest if you are having struggles or have no clue how to proceed to the next step. They are more than happy to help you succeed and make you a stronger student in every way.
4. Be motivated to find your sources.
For some, finding resources for your thesis can prove to be the most challenging part, since you will need to find the best critics and writing that matches up with what you want to argue. Do no procrastinate in researching sources that you will need and finding a way to obtain them. Du Bois’ research database(s), most of the time, will always be able to get you a source, but if you are unsuccessful, you may have to rent or call a library farther away to find a specific book or article. If the latter happens, additional time is needed in order to get your source, and you certainly want this happening earlier in your thesis work, not later.
5. Just write!
One problem I have had — and others face, too — is the need to be perfect in your writing on the first try. You can stare at a Word document for an hour just trying to form the best introduction ever, wasting so much precious time drafting your ideas out. Know that just putting down your ideas on the paper (even with horrible grammar) is still better in the end than trying to achieve perfection the first time in. You will have to go back and edit your work consistently anyway, so do not fret too much in the beginning. Worry about the ideas and just getting them down. Edit and perfect later.
6. Always save!
This seems obvious, but please, please, please save your research and your writing on as many spaces as you can. Word documents on your laptop, various emails, Google drive, and/or a USB are all perfect places to protect your work and in case something breaks. As for a sad precautionary tale, my laptop did end up breaking mid-semester, but my thesis and my research still existed on these three other locations. If the worst should happen, you want to be safe.
Good luck with your future thesis, and if you are halfway through writing yours for this year, continue to do the hard work!