The Essential Thesis Experience Playlist

In my first few weeks of formal thesis research, I’ve just started to figure out what thesis-ing feels like. I’m not talking about developing a step-by-step plan for data collection and write up (two things that will come later). Instead, I’m talking about the feeling of knowing you have to complete a 75ish page independent project — and wanting it to be great.

It took everything in me *not* to fill this post with Hamilton songs… but one may have slipped in.

While I could describe this feeling with a series of adjectives, I’d much rather capture its essence with a list of songs. Yes, a thesis experience playlist — because all of us can relate to good songs, and most of us have no problem playing them over and over again (which means their message will last as long as it takes to get your work done). So if you want to know what thesis-ing feels like and stay motivated to actually do some of it, create a new playlist with these four jams:

  1. “This Is What You Came For” – Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna

This dance song is probably not where you thought I’d start. But think back to when you applied to Princeton: You knew a senior thesis would be the capstone of your Princeton experience, and the admissions office could tell you’d rise to the challenge. This is, quite literally, what you came for.

Essential thesis lyric: “This is what you came for / … and everybody’s watching”


  1. “Square Pegs” – Kelsea Ballerini

Sitting at the intersection of country and pop, this feel-good song is all about staying true to your interests and remaining positive when things get tough. It’s a great reminder that your thesis can, and should, be a reflection of you — even if it takes a little while to figure out how.

Essential thesis lyric: “There’s a lot of open doors you can go and explore / You can always open more if you’re hitting a wall”


  1. “Tearin’ Up My Heart” – NSync

NSync’s second (!) single is both a welcome throwback for ’90s kids and an accurate representation of thesis-related work. After working for several hours, you might feel like you need a break. Upon taking that break, however, you might feel like your thesis isn’t getting the attention it deserves. In the midst of this ambivalence, remember that breaks can be healthy, and that your instincts are the best indicator of how you should spend your time.

Essential thesis lyric: “It’s tearin’ up my heart when I’m with you / and when we are apart I feel it, too”


  1. “My Shot” – Lin-Manuel Miranda

“My Shot” is just one of many masterpieces on the Hamilton soundtrack that underscore how “readin’ and writin’ ” can change history. That’s the most exciting thing about a thesis: It’s your shot to make an incredible impact on your field of study. Once you find a group of friends who support you and encourage your work — like Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan do in the song — you’ll have a surge of confidence to not throw away your shot. Just don’t get too close to that Burr fellow. 

Essential thesis lyric: “I’m passionately smashing every expectation / Every action’s an act of creation”


From genre to genre, the message is clear: Writing a senior thesis sparks a lot of different emotions. Music is just one way to make sense of them. If you’re starting your thesis  — or any long research project — don’t be afraid to turn up the volume.

— Melissa Parnagian, Social Sciences Correspondent

(P.S. Click here and tells us what songs are on your thesis playlist… We’ll share them in a future post!)