Monday, 20 July 2015

SURVIVING YOUR THESIS: TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS

RESEARCH COLUMN

BY: JANINE ZYLSTRA

Have you decided to take the thesis option for the MMSt program? Or are you in the midst of your thesis and wondering how you are going to make it through? Fear not! Three MMSt students completing their thesis as we speak have six wonderful pieces of advice to help you on your way. 

Take it one step at a time.

It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all the steps involved in a thesis, and rightly so! There is A LOT of work involved. Finding your topic, conducting research, finding an advisor, applying for grants … and oh yah! Actually writing it … The best thing to remember is to take each stage as it comes. Focus on one task at a time and it will seem far more manageable. I suggest putting each step in your calendar along with your other courses and assignments to help you stay organized. Doing your thesis is marathon, not a sprint! – Mary Simonds

Leave yourself a paper trail.

Every so often you’ll find yourself trying to explain your thesis only to realize that none of it makes any sense. At times like these it helps to have copies of your work in different stages to refer back to. Make a folder on your desktop and fill it with the research and writing you’ve done so far. This will help keep track of sources and ideas and will also remind you that no, you are not crazy and yes, your research is worthwhile. Remember that these times of doubt will come and keep your paper trail handy so that you can find it before you decide to set your laptop on fire and quit museums entirely. – Emily Meikle


Source.
Allow yourself the luxury of fun.

Whatever it is that you love to do during your down time – do it! It sounds simple, but often when I have a project I feel bad for every minute that I'm not working on it. I love to play video games and I find that, instead of being a gaping void of procrastination, they actually help me focus and get my work done. If I know I want to grind out some levels I'll schedule my day so that I finish whatever I have to do first. Or if I'm really stuck, I'll play a game where I can zone out and let the ideas percolate whilst I am raiding tombs, exploring Tamriel, or fighting for the Alliance in Azeroth. – Lindsay Small

Oh Elder Scrolls Online, how I love you. Source: Lindsay Small.
Just do it.

When first getting the thesis ball rolling, I kept waiting around for some official signal that it was okay to actually start researching or that my thesis had begun. Writing a thesis feels like such a big thing that it’s easy to forget that it’s just research and that no one’s going to do it if you don’t. Realizing that no one is going to wave their wand and make you into a “Real Scholar” is both scary and liberating. YOU are the primary investigator, so get down to work and start investigating! – Emily Meikle 

Source.
Have a little help from your friends.

Talk to anyone and everyone about your research. I am lucky to have one of the best friends in the history of time and he keeps himself up to date on new and interesting stories which happen in the field of my research. He comes at these topics with a different perspective than my anthropology/museum studies brain. This makes me think about things from other angles which provides a more holistic way to do research. Research can be very isolating and it's tremendously valuable to have people who you can talk to about why you're sitting alone in Robarts with a stack of books crying for most of your waking hours. – Lindsay Small 

Besties for life! Source.
Enjoy Yourself!

There will be times when you question why you decided to do this (many, many times...). Things will not go as planned; sources will not pan out like you thought they would, you’ll get frustrated by the theory, and a number of other equally exasperating things. Just remember that this is supposed to be a fun and interesting experience! This is your opportunity to really delve into a topic that is important to you, and it is a time for you to focus on something that you find truly interesting. – Mary Simonds

There you have it! Now get out there and start researching! On behalf of the Musings team I would like to thank these three amazing ladies for sharing their research and advice with us over the summer. Below you can find brief bios from each of them and links to their past posts about their research. 

Emily Meikle is an MMSt candidate with a background in archaeology and English literature. Her thesis research explores accessibility in indigenous archaeological collections with specific attention to the use of radio as an interpretive tool. Find out more about her research here.

Mary Simonds is a second year MMSt student. She has her Honors Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and Classical Studies. Her thesis, entitled Becoming Antiquities: how museum artifacts gain educational and heritage value, focuses on the “value” of archaeological objects as defined by their institutions as either educational or heritage objects, and how this value can evolve over the course of an objects “life”.  Find out how her thesis research began here.

Lindsay Small is an MMSt student with a master’s degree in Science and Technology Studies from York University. Her thesis is on cultural heritage management in outer space. Lindsay's interest in outer space began as a young child, but her proclivity for motion sickness and a fondness for gravity supersede any ambition to actually go there. She will be giving a paper on this topic (space museums, not motion sickness) at the Ontario Museum Association conference in November. Follow her on twitter at @lindsaymarlies, and check out the latest Musings post about her research here.

1 comment:

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