Oct 9, 2020 | LIFE | By Kara Thomas | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
Senior thesis can be a daunting task. I remember when I was a first-year, having come to college with no clear idea of what I wanted to major in, realizing that in three years I would have to write what I thought at the time would be the most important assignment of my college career.
Now, as a senior, I have realized that senior thesis, or capstone, is not as daunting as I originally predicted. My previous three years at Colorado College have prepared me extensively for completing a full research project in a short period of time (seven weeks), as well as pushed me in the right direction towards what I wanted to study.
As a sociology major and environmental issues minor, I have decided to write my thesis on food deserts in the urban area of Chicago. My goal is to understand whether urban gardens/agriculture have a mitigating effect on food deserts in the city.
Starting thesis in second block was not an easy choice — most seniors pursuing a thesis do not start until later in the year. However, after much debate, I decided to start my thesis right after completing Quantitative Research in Block 1, in order to make use of all the vital information from that class that would be essential to my thesis.
Doug Norberg ’21, an econ major, chose to start his thesis in Block 2 for similar reasons.
“I took econometrics first block. Econometrics is recommended to be taken before thesis for economics majors, so I wanted to ensure it was fresh before I started thesis, ” Norberg said.
Some students start their thesis early due to how their blocks line up for the rest of the year.
“I had to do my senior capstone Block 2 because I have other required classes for my major every other block,” Fisher Gates ’21 said.
Gates, a philosophy major, is only required to do one block of senior capstone. However, he must complete a 15-page paper during those three and a half weeks. When I inquired whether he felt he could complete his best work on his capstone during one block, Gates replied, “one block feels rushed to do my ‘perfect’ work.”
Personally, I am finding that because I am passionate about my thesis topic, I do not feel overburdened with work. However, I am mostly performing research right now, and will be completing most of the data analysis during my second block of thesis. Thus, I am worried my second block will end up being a lot more stressful than this block.
A senior thesis, also known as independent study, is meant to test students on how well they can complete research on their own – hence, “independent” study. It is a true test of time-management, focus, and truthful work.
Norberg touched upon how his skillset has changed within just a few weeks of starting his thesis. “I found I wasn’t very productive and just working when I wanted to,” he said. “When I made a more structured schedule for myself, I found that doing a little bit a day at least has made me be more on top of my work.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also played an interesting role in thesis work. Living off-campus, I had to email about 10 different CC admin to ask how to get access to the library, just so I could have a quiet place to do my research. I was pinballed back and forth, from admin to admin, not one of them knowing the true policies for off-campus students being granted access to campus.
Eventually, during the first week of Block 2, the school sent out an official memo detailing how students living off-campus can get access to on-campus resources. This memo included tasks students had to complete, including a survey, a Canvas course, and receiving a negative COVID-19 test.
Although I work best in a quiet, secluded space, such as the library, other students have no problem working from the comfort of their home.
“Sometimes I go to coffee shops [to do my work], but mostly I just sit on my porch for six hours at a time … I feel as if I have way more time to do my work [due to no required Zoom classes every day]” Gates said.
The pandemic has shifted many aspects of schooling; however, senior theses seem to potentially be the one academic assignment that may have benefitted from the closure of universities. Students are no longer bound to extracurriculars, dining schedules, or in-person, lengthy meetings, giving them ample time to hone in on their topic of interest.
If you are still nervous about starting your thesis, try to pick a topic that really sparks your interest. Norberg recommended “coming into thesis with an idea” in order to hit the ground running and not get behind on deadlines.