The saying goes that “March comes in like a lion…” and March certainly is one of the most difficult months at Princeton. Here are some of the things that get me down in March when it comes in like a lion…
independent work crunch-time
springtime seems out of reach
…BUT the saying also goes, “…it also goes out like a lamb.” Which means we can look forward to:
warmer weather, sunshine, and melting snow
independent work deadlines (consequently, submissions!)
This week’s post is a photographical account of the three main things I never really write my thesis without – the things getting me through the next month and a half, the things that are the only reasons I have any words on a page at all, etc.
Dean’s Dates can undoubtedly be daunting, especially if you are enrolled in one of the departments where the primary form of assessment is essay writing, rather than exams. For me, the most difficult step of completing Dean’s Date assignments is the very beginning—choosing a topic. I often struggle with the decision of whether to focus on something I know nothing about, or something I know a little bit about, and want to explore further. This is never an easy choice. Often, however, I find that the latter makes for a more thoroughly-developed question, as it offers a pre-existing lens through which to view an issue, and then formulate specific inquiries about it.
When I finally walk out of the Fitz-Randolph gates on June 3, 2015, after years of careful avoidance, I will no longer be able to list “student” as occupation on forms. Naturally, this thought ignites internal panic—with only a few short weeks and a semester left of my college experience, I only have a few short weeks plus one semester left to complete my senior thesis, and conclude my formal academic career.
I would love for my thesis to be the greatest piece of written work I’ve ever composed, while simultaneously reflecting the type of student and learner I was at Princeton. I want it to inform, entertain, and, perhaps above all, make readers wonder, “Wow, who was the girl that wrote this? I definitely want to know her.” I will put all my might into making these three things happen, but I’ve come to realize that, realistically, the thesis will not be perfect. There are going to be sentences that I think are wonderful, but, to an outside reader, will make about 4% sense. I am going to make arguments that have readers saying, “Wow, who was the girl that wrote this? I completely disagree.” But though my thesis cannot and will not be flawless, my career as a student isn’t coming to an end upon graduation. And I think this former misconception was part of the reason my thesis’s perfection carried so much weight in my mind. Continue reading “You learn something new everyday”: A Cliché Your Mother Was Definitely Right About
For me personally, the hardest part of writing any paper is writing the first few paragraphs. I get caught up in trying to find a starting place—do I start with an anecdote that somehow displays the significance of my research topic? Do I jump right in to findings of the research, and work my way backwards to how I got there in the rest of the paper? Do I give general background information, and move forward from there? There are a million and one ways to begin a writing piece, which is why, for many, choosing one that is appropriate for any given topic can be difficult.
Finding the right way to start can be especially difficult for independent work. I sat in front of my Junior Paper staring at a blank document, with only a title page and the honor code written out for days before writing a single word. Continue reading Reversing to the Start
I will candidly admit that I was, for a long time, one motivated by fast approaching deadlines. In other words, I was known to occasionally procrastinate. Okay, I used to have a chronic procrastination problem. During my time at Princeton, I’ve had to abandon my favorite work-deferment method, which I’ve historically called “the thrill of the last minute,” because, after one (or six) too many all-nighters early on in my college career, I’ve come to realize I am just getting too old for that type of adrenaline rush on a semi-regular basis. My realization may have also had something to do with the infamous Princeton workload consisting of term papers, Dean’s date essays, and independent research that Princeton typically presents to students. I guess it doesn’t so much matter why I finally decided to change my habits, just that I did get there eventually? Better late than never, I suppose.
My new approach to handling large writing assignments still involves using deadlines as motivation to produce pages. These deadlines, however, are no longer the ones given to me by my professors and advisers, but ones I set for myself upon receiving my syllabi. For example, if I know I have three Dean’s Date papers, I set different personal due dates for each in the weeks leading up to their actual deadline. Continue reading The Thrill of the Last Minute
Ah, the Institutional Review Board. Set up to protect the rights of human subjects in research projects, it has an extremely integral role in upholding the standards of research ethics and morality. I’ll be the first to admit that the IRB application is nit-picky, especially for the low-risk research that most students will do. However, I then read about human experiments of years prior to the IRB’s establishment—like Tuskegee—and realize how truly important the IRB is and feel less like wanting to pull my hair out. If you don’t know what Tuskegee is, I suggest Googling it and you will have a new-found appreciation for the Institutional Review Board. You’ll finally understand exactly why the application is a gazillion pages long when all you’re really trying to do is send out an anonymous survey to a group of 35 kids. BUT, I digress.
If your independent research involves humans as experimental subjects in any way, including interviews and surveys, you will have to fill out an application to get IRB approval. The purpose of the review board serves to make sure that all of your methods are ethical and do not pose harm to the people with whom you are working. It seems long and arduous, but I promise you’ll survive. Continue reading The I-R-What?