I briefly talked to Rebecca about her thesis during the poster celebration, but I’ve been in contact with her throughout the process so it was interesting to hear her thoughts and advice about writing a thesis. I can say I saw her in the highs and lows of the process, which was nice to experience from outside of ENVS 400. I know it will be difficult, but in the end she produced a great thesis on sense of place, and did research on how biophysical environments affect college students’ transitions to a new place.
Rebecca completed an honors thesis, which has a different timeline and different set of expectations than a capstone. Initially I was interested in pursuing an honors thesis, but after observing the process first hand I’m not sure what the benefits of it really are besides finishing early, getting more individualized feedback, and (potentially) receiving honors.
Her research was driven by an experience she had while studying abroad in Chile, which I think will happen with me in some ways as well with my experiences in New Zealand. She began thinking about her thesis in July before the school year, and initially wanted to survey students who lived in Chile. After that fell through, she revised her questions and decided to conduct a study at Lewis & Clark instead. She said she read extensively about all realms of the subject and produced a five page bibliography, and after reading her thesis and hearing her practice her defense, I know how much work she did fleshing out all aspects of this idea.
Her advice to me was to make my thesis topic enjoyable and something that I care about. That made a lot of sense to me, because I know I will be spending a lot of time learning about that topic! She said to be flexible during the entire process since many times plans change, survey results don’t match expectations, or research questions need to be changed. It will be important to constantly re-evaluate and adapt to new findings and availabilities. Rebecca didn’t find it difficult to stay on top of work and deadlines, but Rebecca is a rare breed. I know that is something I’ll have to hold myself accountable for. Another suggestion she had was to use the resources around you, like consulting with Jim (in our case Liz) and getting feedback from classmates as well as outside sources, since ENVS students can get so used to our own big words that we don’t even notice the problems with them.
I think her advice was really sound, and I will take it to heart next semester. I’ve already gotten a taste of thesis next year by working on my SAAB grant research project, so I definitely know the importance of flexibility, people as resources, and getting non-ENVS opinions.