Tips on Writing Your Honors Thesis
By Nushrat Rahman
I’m currently in the process of writing my Honors Thesis, as a senior set to graduate next semester. My project is an interdisciplinary endeavor meshing my English major and Sociology minor. It’s a joint effort—combining my humanities and social sciences training thus far—to explore topics of gender, immigration, and urban space in my very own community in Detroit. In many ways, this project has taken a lot of initiative, self-motivation, and dedication. It’s been a tough journey, but I’m lucky enough to have chosen a research topic that I’m passionate about and to be working with a supportive professor. I have the help of instructors, advisors, librarians, and other mentors who are just one email away. Although I’m nowhere near finishing my project and am very much so in the beginning phases of research and writing, I’ve learned a few pointers as I journey through this oftentimes arduous and nerve-wracking process:
- Identify a topic/faculty member early
I can’t stress how important it is to know your topic of interest in advance! I would go so far as to say that thinking about your research interest as a sophomore, and especially as a junior, is a wise decision. My topic was informed by my background as an English major and Sociology minor. It was also impacted by the community organizing work that I do outside of school and a desire to understand my immediate environment. Do a bit of digging and identify where your mind wants to take you! Next, make sure you’re establishing relationships with faculty members and professors. Choose who you’d like to work with on your project and let them know well in advance.
- Make a schedule and pace yourself
All of these tips are important but this one has special precedence because, as I’ve learned, research requires discipline and a schedule facilitates a sense of accountability. I researched writing schedules and mapped mine out based on my own preferences and needs. Set time aside each week to research and write. I think it’s important to have time to regularly dedicate brain energy and mental space to your thesis. Also give the professor who you’re working with an ample amount of time to give you feedback on your progress; schedule this in. Just as how you’d plug in essay due dates and final exams into your planner, make sure to do the same with your thesis. It keeps you accountable! But also don’t forget to give yourself breathing room because you don’t want to set an unrealistic and unmanageable standard for yourself.
- Get research assistance
Research is an invaluable component of your thesis. It’s important to do individual research but I find that it’s so easy to get lost. The best tip I have is to meet with your professor, but also to meet with a librarian. They know everything. The help you’ll get from just 10-15 minutes with a librarian is astounding, and I would say, incredibly instrumental. Have an idea about why you want to meet with them and some questions you have, fill out this form, and you’re good to go! The Ask A Librarian website is an excellent resource for you in this journey.