How to write Thesis Statement in Research paper

how to write thesis statement examples and how to make thesis statement for a research paper and how to write thesis statement for argumentative essay
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A H A n d b o o k f o r Senior Thesis Writers in History 20010–2011Introduction Table of Contents Table of Contents o verview of the Thesis Process Timetable for Thesis Writers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Syllabus for the Senior Thesis Seminar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Monitoring Thesis Progress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 r esources for Thesis Writers Launching the Thesis Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 r efining the Thesis Topic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Maintaining Momentum while r esearching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Presenting Your Work to an Audience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Getting r eady to Write . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Maintaining Momentum while Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Learning from Model Theses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Exercises for Thesis Writers Writing a Prospectus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Critiquing a Sample Thesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Preparing an Annotated bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Conducting Peer r eviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 Introducing Your Thesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 Appendices Appendix A: Instructions r egarding Theses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Appendix b: Sample Title Page, Table of Contents, and body Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Appendix C: List of r ecent Theses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 3 Overview of the Thesis Process our senior thesis will hopefully become the most memorable experience Y of your academic career at Harvard. Over the course of several months, you will work in a one-on-one relationship with an adviser and participate in an ongoing seminar with other thesis writers. Near the mid-point of the thesis process, you will present your work-in-progress to the History Department’s community of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. Though the focus of the thesis experience should be the investigation of a historical subject and composition of an authoritative essay, there are also some practical considerations to keep in mind. All senior theses are due on the same day in March; however, until then, progress on each thesis will vary depending on a number of factors. Two of those factors are the personal schedules of your adviser and you. The Timetable for Thesis Writers provides a framework for organizing your time during the thesis process. You and your adviser are responsible for adapting the pace of your particular thesis project—which depends on your research agenda and both of your schedules—to the general departmental timetable. If you and your adviser can adhere to the timetable, then you will have nearly one full month to revise your thesis before submitting the final version—an advantage that is often the difference between a merely completed thesis and a good or excellent one. The syllabus of the Senior Thesis Seminar reflects the community element of the thesis experience. While the student-adviser relationship is fundamental, the seminar offers you an opportunity to benefit from the collective wisdom, best practices, and detached objectivity of your peers. You should report on seminar discussions to your adviser as you chart your individual course through the thesis process. The check-in sheets that cover September through March will help you and your adviser identify options before windows of opportunity close on topic development, follow-up research, and thesis composition. Embarking on a senior thesis is exciting—and at times daunting. The exercises that follow break the process down into manageable steps and will help you make the most of your experience.o verview of the Thesis Process Timetable for Thesis Writers Timetable for Thesis Writers 2010-2011 Assignments marked with an asterisk () are due to the Undergraduate o ffice (r obinson 101) by 5:00 PM on the date specified, unless in-class submission is noted in the parentheses . All other assignments should be handed in to your adviser . note r egarding Chapter drafts: There is no standard structure for senior theses . f or the purposes of the timetable below, a chapter draft is meant to be a substantial and coherent block of writing . The subject and scope of a thesis will dictate how many chapters are included and how long each chapter will be . Also, the nature and schedule of the research phase may influence the order in which chapters are written . Thesis writers and advisers should discuss plans and expectations for these drafts . date Material due 1 September 2010 Thesis Prospectus due (in class) Week of 20 September 2010 Annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources prefaced by provisional interpretation 4 o ctober 2010 Historiographical Essay due to Undergraduate o ffice, 5:00 PM (drafts available for pickup on Tuesday, 5 o ctober at noon) Week of 18 o ctober 2010 o utline of conference presentation due 25 o ctober 2010 Title of conference presentation due to Undergraduate o ffice, 5:00 PM 18-19 november 2010 Senior Thesis Writers Conference Week of 29 november 2010 draft of first chapter due 10 december 2010 25-35-pp paper due (only students dividing History 99 for half-course credit) Week of 17 January 2011 draft of second chapter due 26 January 2011 draft of peer-review chapter due to the Undergraduate o ffice, 5:00 PM (drafts aailable for pickup on Thursday, 27 January at noon) 1 f ebruary 2011 f inalized thesis title due to Undergraduate o ffice, 5:00 PM Week of 7 f ebruary 2011 draft of third chapter due 16 f ebruary 2011 draft of introduction due to the Undergraduate o ffice, 5:00 PM (drafts available for pickup on Thursday, 17 f ebruary at noon) 10 March 2011 Theses due to r obinson 101 by 5:00 PM 11 April 2011 Theses and readers’ comments returned to students 27 April 2011 45-50-page paper due (only students moving to basic program and taking History 99 for full-course credit) A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 7 o verview of the Thesis Process History 99: Senior Thesis Seminar History 99: Senior Thesis Seminar Wednesdays, 6–8 PM http://isites . harvard . edu/k73288 Trygve Throntveit Jakub kabala r obinson 102 r obinson L-23 throntvfas . harvard . edu jkabalafas . harvard . edu o ffice Hours: W 1–5 o ffice Hours: W 10-12 (Sign up online: http://isites . harvard . edu/historyba) This seminar will also prepare you for the Senior Course o bjectives Thesis Writers Conference, which is attended by The Senior Thesis Writers’ Seminar has a twofold History department faculty, graduate students, purpose . The first is to provide you with practi- and undergraduates . At the conference, each thesis cal guidance and writing advice as you complete a writer will explain his or her thesis project during a senior thesis in History . We will discuss many of the 15-minute presentation . The audience will be given common hurdles and pitfalls that past students have 15 minutes to ask questions of and provide feedback encountered . o ver the course of the year, we will to each presenter . This feedback often proves invalu- cover a variety of issues from macro-organization to able in sharpening the argument of the thesis . formatting and polishing the final draft . The second purpose of this seminar is to bring you together with Course r equirements other thesis writers to share experiences, interests, successes, and techniques . Writing a senior thesis can Attendance at seminars is mandatory . You must have be an isolating experience; comparing approaches, a valid excuse for missing a meeting and notification exchanging advice, and simply staying current with must be given in advance for any absence not due to the work of colleagues helps to dispel the confusion health problems . In the event of an absence, be pre- and frustration often encountered by writers at any pared to provide documentation from your Allston level . Indeed, collegiality and intellectual exchange burr r esident dean or a clinician from Harvard are at the heart of any academic seminar, and those University Health Services . Unexcused absences may can be the most rewarding aspects of History 99 . prompt an UnSAT for the fall term and/or exclusion The senior thesis should be the culmination of from the spring term of History 99; this could jeop- your academic experience at Harvard . It will also ardize your ability to complete your degree require- be the longest and most complex piece of writing ments and effectively move you to the basic program that most of you have ever developed, and you will in History . face a number of new challenges along the way . At some point during fall r eading Period, you Consequently, we will focus much of our attention must schedule a meeting with your seminar leader to on the process of writing an extended, multi-chapter discuss the progress of your thesis . work . Critical thinking and self-aware writing are inherently linked, and as the seminar progresses we will address matters of style and language . A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 9 o verview of the Thesis Process History 99: Senior Thesis Seminar Schedule of Course Meetings • Seminar 1: Wednesdays, 6-7 PM, r obinson Lower Library • Seminar 2: Wednesdays, 6-7 PM, r obinson basement Conference r oom • Seminar 3: Wednesdays, 7-8 PM, r obinson Lower Library • Seminar 4: Wednesdays, 7-8 PM, r obinson basement Conference r oom Sept. 1 Embarking on a Thesis How to begin your project. Sept. 8 Managing Your Research How to make the most of library resources and organizational techniques. Sept. 15 Critiquing a Sample Thesis Discussion of Elizabeth David’s “History for a Changed World” Sept. 22 Staking out Your Turf How to position your project in the relevant historiography. Oct. 6 Putting Pen to Paper: Escaping the Research-Writing Dichotomy Peer-review of historiographical essay. NB: Submit two copies of your historiographical essay to the Undergraduate Office by 5:00 PM on Monday, Oct. 5. Drafts will be available for pickup on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at noon. Oct. 20 Explaining Your Thesis How to structure your conference presentation. Nov. 8 Preparing for the Big Show NB: This meeting takes place on a Monday night. How to give an effective oral presentation and invite helpful feedback. Nov. 18-19 Senior Thesis Writers Conference Presentation of works-in-progress. Nov. 24 Taking the Next Step How to write your first chapter. Dec. 3-10 One-on-One Meeting with Seminar Leader Discussion of progress in fall and agenda for spring. Feb. 2 Chapter Workshop Peer review of a body chapter. NB: Submit two copies of your chapter draft to the Tutorial Office by 5:00 PM on Wednesday, Jan. 26. Drafts will be available for pickup on Thursday, Jan. 27 at noon. Feb. 9 Revision Workshop Refining your argument, writing your introduction, and packaging your thesis. Feb. 25 Finishing Touches Review, check, and double-check requirements, peer-review of introduction. NB: Submit two copies of your introduction draft to the Undergraduate Office by 5:00 PM on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Drafts will be available for pickup on Thursday, Feb. 17 at noon Mar. 10 Th ESES Du E TO ROBiNSON 101 BY 5:00PM Seminars 1 and 3, 2 and 4 meet together, 6 PM 10 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Monitoring Thesis Progress istory 99 has no formal course requirements of regu- • r eading secondary works . f amiliarize yourself with a couple of books or articles and then write summaries . H lar readings, response papers, and examinations . Such You do not necessarily need to read every page of a independence comes with a great deal of responsibil- secondary work to extract what you need from it . ity because you and your adviser must devise a plan that • r esearching primary sources . Set research goals based accounts for your research agenda, the Timetable for Thesis on estimates of what is achievable in a three to four hour Writers, and your individual schedules . As you and your block . f or example, if you plan to scan a certain periodical adviser set (and likely adjust) a calendar for thesis progress for your thesis, you might aim to get through a particular over the next several months, the following series of check- run of six months . ins will suggest ways to balance scholarly ambitions with during January and the spring term—if not earlier—you practical considerations as the latter change from week to should establish a consistent writing schedule . keep the week and month to month . The questions, timely remind- following points in mind: ers, and scheduling tips in these check-ins emerge from the • Write early and write often—no writing is wasted . don’t wait to “finish” your research before actual experiences of former thesis writers and their advis- you start processing it on paper, or you’ll never get ers . to the processing part . If you’re stuck, try writing out r ehearsing the Three Thesis Tricks the three thesis tricks above, or free-write for half an hour . Carry a notebook wherever you go and jot down Get into the habit of explaining your thesis project clearly thoughts, outlines, or questions whenever they enter and succinctly . This takes a lot of practice because you have your head . There is no requirement that everything you to be able to explain it to various audiences . As you and your write ends up in the thesis, no guarantee you’ll remem- adviser meet, you will likely focus your attention on specific ber an idea an hour after you have it, and no writing issues, such as the books you just read or documents you just that doesn’t refine your thinking . gathered . o ften, there is little time to discuss the big picture so do the following (in conversation or by e-mail) for other thesis • Schedules work over time—if they are followed . writers, roommates, and family members: state three sentences deviate as little as possible from your schedule . Theses about your historical topic; raise three analytical or historio- are not written in a day, or a week, or even a month, graphical questions about your topic; and describe three collec- but emerge from many individual hours of sometimes tions of primary sources you intend to investigate . prolific, sometimes apparently futile writing . If you write regularly, preferably a few hours every day, the Setting Weekly Thesis Goals law of averages will work in your favor . during the fall term, you should set two to three weekly thesis • You’re writing your thesis, not reinventing goals in consultation with your adviser—discrete tasks that yourself . Productive scholarship depends on regu- require three to four hours of sustained focus: lar habits that work for you . now is not the time to become a morning person if you do your best writing at midnight, or to take notes on your laptop if your longhand is faster and just as precise . Experiment with new techniques if you like, but remember that the finished project alone is graded; no style points are awarded for the work that goes into it . A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 11 o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Progress Check-In September Establishing the Advising r elationship As soon as the semester starts, make sure that you and your adviser share the same expecta- tions for your working relationship . This relationship will evolve over time and depend on your personal styles, but it is worth trying to establish some basic parameters so there is no confusion or frustration for either party: • How often will you meet during the fall term? Weekly? Twice per month? Whenever you have findings to report? • What does your adviser expect you to do in preparation for your meetings? E-mail ahead of time with notes on the latest sources you have consulted or writing you have done? Merely come to meetings prepared to discuss these things? Choosing Courses As a thesis writer, you have many factors to consider when shopping for courses . While your thesis should not dictate every choice you make, keep the following in mind: • Assignment Schedule . When deciding between equally appealing courses, consider picking the one with paper and exam dates that fit well with the Timetable for Thesis Writers (e . g . , avoid major assignments due at the time of the Senior Thesis Writers Conference) . • Synergy with the Thesis . Will taking the course help you with your thesis? A course in History might provide you with helpful background for the specific subject of your thesis, while a course in another department could provide you with method- ological tools for the analysis you hope to perform in your thesis . • d egree r equirements . Avoid taking extra unnecessary courses in the spring as you complete your thesis . Every year, students misunderstand their degree require- ments and are forced to take certain courses to graduate . Consult your House Adviser, to confirm your remaining concentration requirements . Also, consult your r esident dean and/or online student record to confirm your remaining core and overall requirements . Meeting with a r esearch Librarian If you and your adviser find that your research agenda is a bit unfocused, make before scheduling an appointment with a librarian . f red burchsted (burchstfas, 5-4093) is the a meeting, read department’s liaison to the Harvard College Libraries . He is an excellent resource for Launching the Thesis Project, page 29— finding sources (physical and electronic) . In addition, f red can refer you to librarians especially the that oversee special collections around the University, such as at Harvard Law School, section on librarians . Harvard Medical School, and the r adcliffe Institute for Advanced Study . 12 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Proposal Annotated bibliography Presentation o utline Thesis Conference f irst Chapter Second Chapter Third Chapter f ourth Chapter Completed Thesis Considering Models for Your Thesis While your thesis will be a unique product of your research and insights, there is value in studying the work of other thesis writers . The broad guidelines for theses give you a lot of flexibility, but this means you have to come up with a way to organize your browse Learning from thoughts and sources . doing so now will make your research more time-efficient . Model Theses, page 49, f or example, if you plan to offer three case studies, then be careful about immersing for useful examples of yourself in research for the first without leaving time for the third . Such an imbalance strong thesis work . in the early stages will affect your analysis and writing . Talk to your adviser about this before preparing your annotated bibliography . Compiling the Annotated bibliography See Situating the Thesis Confirm with your adviser a list of must-read secondary sources (e . g . , books, articles, Topic, page 33 dissertations) to include in your annotated bibliography . f or practice, write a sum- and mary of a secondary source in relation to your thesis proposal, latest thesis tricks, or Preparing an Annotated provisional argument . Show it to your adviser and confirm that you are on the right bibliography, page 61 . track before completing the rest of your bibliographic entries . September 2010 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday f riday Saturday Sunday 1 2 3 4 5 Embarking on a Thesis How to begin your project. 6 7 8 Managing 9 10 11 12 Your Research How to make the most of library resources and organi- zational techniques . 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Critiquing a Sample Discussion of Bicky David’s “History for a Changed World” . 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Staking Out Your Turf How to position your Annotated project in Bibliography the relevant historiography. 27 28 29 30 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 13 o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Progress Check-In o ctober Making the Most of Your o ff Weeks beginning in late September, the Senior Thesis Seminar meets only biweekly through the first third of november . This series of “off weeks” is not a license to loaf, but is timed to maximize progress on your thesis . The first four seminars prepared you to turn your topic into a thesis . now, in early- and mid-o ctober, you need to produce two substantial docu- ments (the historiographical essay and an outline of your conference presentation) that demonstrate real steps forward . You and your adviser should make a concrete plan for See Maintaining this period in the semester, because mid-term assignments in other course can make it Momentum while r esearching, page 37 . tempting to postpone thesis exercises with flexible deadlines . The seminars that follow, on o ctober 20 and november 8, will focus on refining your presentation outline and skills for the Senior Thesis Writers Conference . You must have made sufficient progress in your research to take full advantage of these sessions and deliver a presentation polished and substantive enough to elicit useful feedback . The conference presentation and the first draft you deliver in november will be the basis for deciding whether you can continue History 99 in the spring . Writing the Historiographical Essay r eview the entries in your annotated bibliography . Which secondary works seem to agree with or complement one another? Which differ strongly, and how? Is the difference one of focus, methodology, choice and interpretation of evidence, or a combination? Create a list of four to six authors that, based on your reading, would have a particularly lively conversation about your general topic . What are the basic arguments, the major strengths, and the signal weaknesses of each participant’s contribution? What do we learn from the conversation you construct among them that we would not learn by reading each author in isolation? Finally, what remains unexplained, unexplored, or under-appreciated—that is, how might other historians enhance the conversation? Write out answers to all these questions, and use them as the basic building blocks of your essay . Planning Your Thesis Presentation f our main objectives should guide you as you plan your presentation at the Thesis Writers Conference: • Explain your basic topic and convince your audience of its importance • Explain the contribution you hope to make to the scholarship on that topic, by 1) pos- ing the question or questions you intend to answer and 2) articulating the argument you will advance to answer it • Explain the means by which you will make your contribution, including the order in which you will present your main questions and ideas, the evidence you plan to marshal, and the methods you plan to employ in analyzing it • Elicit specific and constructive feedback that will help you refine your argument and methods and boost your momentum 14 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Proposal Annotated bibliography Presentation o utline Thesis Conference f irst Chapter Second Chapter Third Chapter f ourth Chapter Completed Thesis o utlining Your Thesis Presentation begin outlining your presentation by tackling the four presentation objectives, one at a time and in whatever order seems easiest, and then arranging the results . Some hints: • When trying to explain your topic and its importance, review your annotated bibliography and historiographical essay—you wrote them for a reason • The same documents will help you explain your contribution to the field, as will a review of your notes on primary sources . While you may not have a stable argument by conference time, you will be expected to state the questions you seek to answer and the patterns in the evidence you have found thus far . Explain those questions and patterns to a listener, and write down the results . • Similarly, few will have all their evidence analyzed and organized to reflect the extended argument that will ultimately emerge . The conference is a chance to begin systematizing your work . Consider what you have found and how you think it all fits together, and plan to share with your audience any continuing struggles to find sources, interpret evi- dence, or organize your thoughts . • The best way to elicit useful feedback is to put maximum thought and effort into achieving the other three objectives. The clearer your presentation, the more time your audience will spend engaging with rather than deciphering your ideas . o ctober 2010 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday f riday Saturday Sunday 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 h istorio- Putting Pen graphical to Paper Essay Due Peer-revisions of histo- riographical essay 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Explaining Outline of Your Thesis Conference How to structure your Presentation conference presen- tation. 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 Title of Conference Presentation A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 15 o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Progress Check-In n ovember r ehearsing for the Senior Thesis Writers Conference In the past, thesis writers have found various ways to practice their presentation and get feedback . Consider relying on the following audiences: yourself (with a mirror or recorder); your thesis adviser; your roommates; your family members (by phone if necessary); or, your House Adviser . If there are multiple thesis writers at your House, talk to your House Adviser about scheduling a group practice session with as many tutors as possible . not only will you receive feedback from people with different specialties, you will also be able to learn how your peers are approaching their presentations in terms of content, structure, and style . Preparing for the Q&A at the Senior Thesis Writers Conference As you work on your presentation and practice it, try to anticipate some potential scenarios that might arise during the Q&A session: • Given your subject, what historical and thematic tangents might audience members pursue with their questions? • If questions seem to imply that you are overreaching, how can you draw boundaries around your project to make clear to the audience what you are not purporting to accomplish in your thesis? • If someone bluntly asks “so what?”—or some polite variation of this ques- tion—after your presentation, what talking points will you have ready for your response? See Presenting Your Work to an Audience, page 39 . Talk to your adviser about these scenarios . You will be more relaxed if you have answers in mind (or, even better, on a page of notes) when you are in front of the audience . r eflecting on the Senior Thesis Writers Conference What questions were you asked at the conference? This will tell you how an audi- ence of historians reacted to your subject, research, and argument as you presented See Getting r eady to Write, it . You and your adviser should determine which questions (if any) require follow-up page 43 . research or adjustment of your arguments, and which questions can be chalked up to the constraints of an oral presentation relative to a written thesis . Talk to your adviser about how to address the audience’s questions as you move into the writing phase . 16 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Proposal Annotated bibliography Presentation o utline Thesis Conference f irst Chapter Second Chapter Third Chapter f ourth Chapter Completed Thesis Writing Your f irst Chapter draft discuss the following questions with your adviser before sitting down to write your first draft chapter: • Which chapter to write? Starting with the introduction can build your momentum because by now you can eas- ily explain your topic, provide historical background, review the historiography, and outline the rest of your thesis . However, introductions often require heavy revision to fit the final thesis . Starting with a body chapter may seem daunting, but you might feel better after writing up one of three case studies or covering a third of your narrative . Just be sure to outline what will come before and after . • How long should the draft be? This depends on the likely length of your entire thesis . Can your argument be made in 70-75 pages? 90-95? 110-115? After working out an estimate, decide how long each chapter should be. f or example, a 70-page thesis likely does not need a 20-page introduction, unless you and your adviser think extensive historical and theoretical background is critical for readers to appreciate the focused analysis to follow . • How polished should the draft be? Have a very explicit discussion with your adviser about his or her expectations . If your adviser is the type of reader who is distracted by sentence fragments or missing citations, you may not get the feedback you need . november 2010 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday f riday Saturday Sunday 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Preparing 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 for the Big Show How to give an effective oral presentation and invite helpful feedback. 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Senior Thesis Writers Conference Presentation of works-in-progress. 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Taking the Next Step How to Write Your First Chapter. 29 30 Draft of First Chapter A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 17 o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Progress Check-In d ecember Meeting with Your Seminar Leader Schedule a meeting with your seminar leader in during r eading Period . This meeting is an opportunity to review your progress to date, and talk about your plans for the rest of the way . In particular it will help you plan how best to use Winter r ecess and the open month of January to recharge and then get deep into the writing process . Setting Thesis Goals for Winter r ecess It’s okay to take a break after finals if you’re feeling ahead of the game, or even a little burnt out . but remember that momentum can take a while to rebuild, and be careful not to let your break slide into January, which is prime thesis writing time . before you decide how much thesis work you should try to accomplish over winter recess, take stock of what you have achieved so far: • Did you keep up with your weekly thesis goals during the term? • How much research do you have left? • How polished was your first chapter draft? Set reasonable goals and do not pack more books and papers than you need to accomplish those specific goals . This way, you can come back to campus in January with a sense of momentum as you continue with writing and conducting follow-up research . Planning Your January With finals over and an entire month free of coursework, you can live a thesis writer’s dream: four full weeks of concentrated thesis work . As you plan how best to use this time, whether to make up ground or save yourself anxiety come f ebruary, ask your- self the following: • Where will I be, in terms of thesis progress, in January? Consider the goals you and your adviser have set, review your meeting with your seminar leader, and look ahead to the check-ins on pages 20-21 . Think about your pace of work thus far and plan your January accordingly . How much time will you need to travel and complete your research? How many hours a day must you write to complete the drafts due in January and February? Do you have extra time, and can you use it to maximize time for revisions later? Draft a schedule reflecting your answers . • Where will I be, physically, in January? Will you be in Cambridge to access the resources you need, or do you need to collect materials before you head elsewhere? Are there libraries or other institutions where you plan to be that have some or all of the resources you need? (Hint: Check the WorldCat system through the Harvard College Libraries website . ) Your January schedule should advance your thesis while reflecting the physically possible . 18 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Proposal Annotated bibliography Presentation o utline Thesis Conference f irst Chapter Second Chapter Third Chapter f ourth Chapter Completed Thesis december 2009 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday f riday Saturday Sunday 1 2 3 4 5 One-on-One Meeting with Seminar Leader 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 25-30 page Paper Due (Only for students dividing History 99) 13 14 15 16 17 18 191 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 19 o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Progress Check-In January Completing Essential r esearch You should finish all of your critical research before f ebruary . This category of research includes sources that cannot be ignored without requiring you to narrow your thesis or add significant caveats to your current claims . The period from the first day of the spring term See Maintaining through the thesis deadline has the feel of a sprint and there is little time to gather sources, Momentum while r esearching, page 37 . analyze them carefully, and incorporate them into your writing . The beginning of reading period is a good moment to prioritize research tasks left over from the term . o nce you have made your list, explain your choices to your adviser and/or seminar leader and see if they have ideas for additions, subtractions, or reordering . keeping a Writing Timesheet keep track of how much time you spend writing each day by maintaining a daily timesheet, which is a simple tool for letting you know whether you are successfully making the transition from the research to the writing stage . With reading and exam periods followed by intersession, January can slip away with little progress made on See Maintaining Momentum chapter drafts . Since peer reviews are scheduled for f ebruary’s seminars, you need while to have two presentable body chapters ready to share with fellow thesis writers . Set Writing, page 47 . aside at least one hour per day for writing so you can revise your first chapter draft, finish your second, and start your third . Preparing body Chapters for Peer r eview Even if your adviser does not mind very rough chapter drafts, you should do at least one round of revisions based on your adviser’s feedback before the peer reviews in seminar . by incorporating those comments, you allow your peers to react to a chap- ter that is one step closer to completion . Thus, they will be able to give you a clearer sense of how much more work you have left to do on that chapter . f or example, if your adviser recommended including more direct quotations from sources to illustrate your points, you can find out from your peers if you have added enough by making changes in advance of the chapter exchange . 20 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Proposal Annotated bibliography Presentation o utline Thesis Conference f irst Chapter Second Chapter Third Chapter f ourth Chapter Completed Thesis Choosing Courses The most important consideration when choosing courses for the spring term is the fulfillment of your degree requirements so you can graduate in June . The next—and perhaps more immediate—issue is whether an instructor makes accommodations for thesis writers . Every year, some thesis writers are horrified to learn that they cannot defer a midterm exam or paper until after the thesis due date . Many instructors state their policies regarding theses very clearly at the first class or on the syllabus; however, some do not and you should ask, rather than make assumptions, about course policies . January 2011 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday f riday Saturday Sunday 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Draft of Second Chapter 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Draft Chapter for Peer Review 31 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 21 o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Progress Check-In f ebruary r evise, r evise, r evise Mid-thesis students often fail to recognize the vast difference between the 30-page seminar paper they successfully executed in the waning days of reading period, and a 70-120-page thesis held to higher standards of argumentation and presentation . but any good writer will tell you that revision is the key to success: r evision can salvage a foundering project or turn a good thesis into a fantastic one . There is no exact for- mula for revising, but you can take your cues from your peers and adviser . Sharing Peer r eviews with Your Adviser What were the top three pieces of feedback from your peer reviewers? Talk to your adviser about how to address this feedback: • Is last-minute research necessary? This might mean mustering more evi- dence to bolster your argument, or more background information for readers See Conducting Peer unfamiliar with your subject . In either case, avoid open-ended research: Compile r eviews, page 67 . a narrow list of sources that will serve particular and limited goals agreed by you and your adviser . • Should you adjust your presentation? by f ebruary, you and your adviser may be so immersed in the thesis that you take for granted the connections between the events described or arguments made . You may need to insert more robust transitions between sections of chapters, and make certain points more explicit so readers can follow your argument . Local versus Global r evision Whatever the revisions you and your adviser decide are necessary, they will fall into two categories: local and global . • Local revision tackles problems like mechanical errors, awkward word choices, or confusing transitions . Local revisions are important: Small mistakes distract the reader’s attention and call the writer’s other skills into question . but the best the- ses also get the global treatment . • Global revision requires stepping back from the entire project and often rewriting or rearranging substantial parts of it . It means more than responding to marginal comments by your peer reviewers . It involves reassessing the ways you have stat- ed and restated your thesis, structured your argument, organized your chapters, and used your sources . It does not, however, require changing all these things or rewriting the whole thesis . r evise to clarify and strengthen your argument . Change is not an end in itself . Setting a Calendar for Submission and r eturn of Writing You and your adviser should agree on a schedule for submission and return of drafts and revisions . This schedule will depend on how closely you have adhered to the Timetable for Thesis Writers, and on your adviser’s schedule . do not assume your adviser will read and return chapters with comments in 24-48 hours . Collaborate on a calendar of writing and meetings that accounts for your goals and reflects your adviser’s availability to help . 22 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Proposal Annotated bibliography Presentation o utline Thesis Conference f irst Chapter Second Chapter Third Chapter f ourth Chapter Completed Thesis drafting Your Introduction The Introduction may be the most important part of your thesis . Many readers will judge your topic, argument, and method based on the summaries you provide at the start, and even based on your style . Above all, readers will expect to be told what the thesis is about, why you chose to write it, and what you hope they take from it . o therwise, they may be frustrated and suspicious of your work even before reading the majority of it . If this is your first draft of an Introduction you may spend most of your time answering the “So what?” question. As was true when compiling your Annotated Bibliography, your answer will likely resemble one of the fol- lowing three scenarios: • Scenario 1: No one has written about my topic. My thesis explains the significance of this neglected topic and offers a provisional interpretation of this new material . • Scenario 2: A few scholars have written about my topic, but gaps and deficiencies in the literature exist. My thesis examines new or different evidence to correct these shortcomings . • Scenario 3: Many scholars have written about my topic. While its importance is established, my thesis calls for a reas- sessment of the existing literature based on recent findings, new methodologies, or original questions . f ebruary 2011 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday f riday Saturday Sunday 1 2 3 4 5 6 Chapter Workshop Final Peer review Thesis of a body Title chapter. Revision 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Workshop Refine your Draft of argument, write your Third introduction, Chapter and package your thesis 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Draft of introduction 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 Finishing Touches Peer review of introduction 28 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History 23 o verview of the Thesis Process Monitoring Thesis Progress Thesis Progress Check-In March Assessing Your Introduction now that you have body chapters for the thesis you provisionally introduced, use this checklist to make sure the introductory chapter fits the actual thesis written: Does your thesis start with a hook that captures the reader’s attention? Is the opening of the thesis engaging overall? does the introduction provide a basic idea of the historical context of the argu- ment? Are all of the most significant characters and issues introduced? Is the argument situated within a historiographical context? Is the argument’s relationship to other bodies of scholarship made clear? See Getting r eady to Write, page 43 . Does the introduction succinctly spell out the argument of the thesis? Does it make clear the historical questions from which the argument arises? d oes the introduction indicate which primary sources form the basis of your anal- See Situating the ysis? Does it explain why this set of sources best allows you to answer the central Thesis Topic, page 33 . historical and historiographical questions posed? Have you answered the dreaded “so what?” question? That is, have you made a good case for the project’s significance? Does the introduction give the reader a sense of the layout of the entire thesis? Is there a “road map” that walks the reader through the thesis, quickly summarizing the content and argument of each chapter? Assessing Your Conclusion The conclusion is often the last thing a thesis writer drafts . Since time and energy may be in short supply, use this checklist to make sure your conclusion serves its basic functions: Is there a clear and thorough summary of the argument outlined in the introduction and elaborated upon in each body chapter? d oes the conclusion reinforce the fact that you have delivered what you promised at the outset of the thesis? Is the reader reminded that the thesis engaged a significant and interesting topic? How so? Does the thesis challenge some aspect of the historiography? Does it provide seeds for further research? Does it shed light on contemporary issues? f ormatting f ootnotes and bibliographic Entries Citations are essential elements of good historical writing . If you have not produced formal footnotes or bibliographic entries along the way, start doing so as soon as possible . Incomplete or irregular citations may cause readers to question the thoroughness of your research and analysis . r emember that your readers will have only your final thesis to understand the year-long process that produced it . do a read- ing of your thesis in which you think carefully about whether passages need citations . Also, reflect on the sources that informed your thinking, but were not discussed in the body of the thesis . These sources belong in your bibliography so that readers can appreciate the scope of your research and how it led to your final thesis . 24 A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History