My most recent post focused on gearing up towards your senior year and finding a thesis adviser. I decided to continue this mini “preparing for your senior thesis” series by providing some tips on funding your research! The infamous senior thesis is such a daunting thing to think about as a junior because it is not always clear how early you should begin to plan for it and what steps you should take. At the beginning of the year, I attended an information session through the Woodrow Wilson School regarding thesis research funding. During that meeting, the speakers told students that they should start working on applications for funding as soon as possible if they wanted to receive money for their endeavors.
The infamous Senior Thesis is a source of stress and anxiety for many students. Although there are information sessions galore for juniors, I didn’t feel like I actually understood the process until I started it. This summer, I began my thesis research process by traveling to Norway to collect observational data on the country’s prison system.
Don’t tell your mom I told you this, but the Funding Fairy isn’t real. And it took me until this week to realize it.
Since before even arriving on campus, I’ve heard story after story of Princeton’s generosity: the fully-funded research project, the all-expenses-paid trip to Cuba, the paid summer fellowship. Dazzled by these stories, I pictured the University as a Funding Fairy with a magic wand (or a pushover parent in a toy store – ready to pull out their wallet whenever I pointed at something I wanted). Unfortunately, however, this Funding Fairy is not real; funding is not awarded nearly as liberally as I imagined.
Earlier this week, I decided I wanted to spend winter break translating Yiddish poetry in archives in New York City. I’ve been itching to study Yiddish for months, but, because Princeton doesn’t offer a Yiddish program (yet), I’ve had to limit my Yiddish projects to vacations. Shortly after thinking of my poetry translation idea, I shot an email to the Lewis Center for the Arts asking for a small bit of funding for the project. A few hours later, I received the response: “We don’t have winter funding.” And like a child discovering the coin under her pillow was no fairy gift, I realized securing funding is more complicated than just asking for it. And I’m actually grateful for that.
If you are an upperclassman, at this point in the semester, you’ve probably met with your adviser, decided on your research topic, and come up with a game plan for beginning your independent work. That said, you may still need to figure out one final detail: getting research funding. Not only does the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) now have several applications open for Winter and Intersession research, but applications for spring funding will also be opening relatively soon. Even if you aren’t in the midst of writing a thesis, SAFE also lists opportunities for students who need funding for internships, summer study abroad programs, and independent projects. If this is your first time applying for funding and you’re worried about writing a convincing proposal, you’re not the only one. That’s why PCUR attended the Writing Program’s “Crafting Your Research Proposal” workshop to bring back some pointers. If you weren’t able to make it, here are the fundamental guiding questions to help make your research statement as clear and effective as possible: Continue reading Need Funding? Tips for Writing a Convincing Proposal
This is how I respond to a non-senior who asks about my senior thesis:
“I love my topic and my adviser is amazing; I can’t wait to start my research!”
& THIS is how I respond when a fellow senior asks about my thesis:
” OMG I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING; WHY DO I FEEL SO LOST??!”
Despite the great deal of resources departments provide to help seniors with their independent work, feeling overwhelmed appears to be inevitable at the start of senior year. This seems to hold true no matter how many times you emailed your adviser over the summer or how much time you spent writing (and rewriting) your IRB proposal. If you’re anything like me, your natural reaction to stress is to seek seclusion; you’ve probably thought to yourself, “Senior year, I’m going into isolation in order to finish this thesis- it’s the only way it can be done!”
The name “independent work” promotes this same idea, that your thesis must be your own work and therefore requires you to independently figure everything out. However, it’s possible that by reframing the way we think about independent work, we can actually succeed in completing our senior theses and save ourselves a lot of stress along the way.