Friday, June 26, 2009

A Thesis by Any Other Name

Will Shakespeare who said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." In my case, it's "A thesis by any other name would generate just as much stress."

I am spending this summer researching for my senior thesis. I will spend fall semester of 2009 refining my research and spring semester of 2010 writing my thesis. I anticipate this will be the highlight of my college career because the senior thesis can be a springboard for grad school, a Master's thesis, scholarships, a book, etc.

However, formulating a thesis and actually getting down to the nitty-grtty of writing a thesis are two totally different things! I had lunch this past Tuesday with the professor who is supervising the History Honors program here at UT. She ripped my research idea apart. At first, I was a tad dismayed, but then realized there was truth to her words. I was going about this whole thing totally backwards. Dr. Sacco said that with a senior thesis, one explores the records first, then asks the question as opposed to asking the question first and finding the records to back up that question.

That has given me a whole different perspective on my research. As I read through different records and articles, I make notes of little things that "pop out". For example, I discovered that the four German POW camps in Tennessee each started out with their own unique purpose. I discovered that there was not a precedent in the US for taking care of foreign prisoners of war. The War Department took the Geneva Convention Accord's stipulations for caring for prisoners of war and played the rest of it by ear. I discovered that the question was raised regarding the US's encouragement of Nazism by allowing the camps to be run by the prisoners themselves. The list goes on and on.

It's a good thing I am taking this summer to do a little exploration. I'd hate to reach mid-term next semester and discover I have to start all over with a completely different topic and subsequent research. It's better to wade through possible thesis topics now as opposed to the week before Thanksgiving. However, I'm sure Dr. Sacco would be on my case about my topic long before then.

I am discovering the subtle and not so subtle nuances of thesis topicing. Even though I am a strong advocate of "Don't sweat the small stuff", I am still a tad apprehensive about my thesis topic. I am excited about the German POW camps, just not sure yet what aspect of that topic I will be writing about.

Mr. Shakespeare was right when he said that it doesn't matter what we name, or call, something. It is still that thing. And a thesis is still lots of work. (sigh) Stay tuned . . .

1 comment:

mwgass said...

I have recently applied to return to college at 41. I've been following your blog over recent days and have enjoyed your stories and perspective.

I am in Tennessee as well, hopeful I can get into Tennessee Tech in Cookeville this fall.

If that works out, I am considering keeping a blog/journal of my experience, much like you are doing.

Thank you for the inspiration.