Amanda Blanco is a senior in the Sociology Department. Having taken several journalism courses and being an avid news reader, she was inspired by current events to write a thesis pertaining to the effects of today’s political climate on college campuses. Amanda recently finished her thesis and is in the midst of preparing for her defense. This process of reviewing her research in order to share it with a larger audience has led her to reflect on what the senior thesis experience has been like and what she has learned from the process. Luckily, Amanda had time in her busy schedule to share some of her end-of-year reflections:
What was your senior thesis about?
For my senior thesis, I wanted to better understand why people vote the way they do and what factors of their identity impact their voting decisions, such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, family influence, etc. As a result, I sent a survey to 100 Princeton undergraduates and I interviewed a few students about their political identities and backgrounds. I was surprised to see that the sum of my findings go against present stereotypes about liberal and conservative young Americans. For example, several students who come from first or second generation immigrant families didn’t necessarily support more open policies on immigration. On the contrary, they felt that due to the struggle their families went through to gain legal citizenship, undocumented immigrants should go through the same process.
Did your independent work experience meet your expectations?
For the most part, yes. The primary challenge I encountered was difficulty getting in touch with students for interviews. Thankfully, my adviser helped me brainstorm and we came up with the solution that student-written op-eds could provide me with the personal information and viewpoints I needed for my research.
Now that you’ve completed your thesis, is there anything you would have done differently?
Despite planning and reading sources for an extended period of time, I honestly wish I had started writing earlier so that I didn’t feel as much pressure to finish compiling my work in the end. Likewise, I think I would have benefited more from organizing my time better. That said, I appreciate that my adviser was readily available by email and worked with me at my pace.
What advice do you have for the rising seniors who will be starting their independent research soon?
Definitely start early, because you never know what unanticipated complications your research may yield. But also, when challenges arise, try not to panic. You can work with your adviser to figure things out and there are other resources on campus (e.g. your departmental rep, writing center workshops, librarians, etc.) that can support you.
I think both Amanda and I agree that despite its challenges, we learned a lot from conducting independent research. There are going to be ups and there are going to be downs, but you’re going to get through the process. In fact, you may even discover a new passion for a project you’ll continue to work on post-undergrad. To learn about other’s experiences with senior theses, you can read PCUR’s Winter 2017 Seasonal Series.
–Taylor Griffith, Social Sciences Correspondent