Students who have written a thesis would shout loudly:
“Start early! Start early!” Not just at IUP, but nationally, one reason many
students do not write a thesis is that they wait too long to start thinking
about it, and when they finally do there is simply not enough time left to pick
a topic, find a professor, get the necessary approvals, and do the work. Sadly,
they are left out by default. Don’t let that happen to you.
Ideally, you want to have all the plans and approvals
completed by the time you register
for your thesis credits, and this is three to five months earlier than the
start of the semester when you begin work. This means deadlines will come up
faster than you expect. It will take you
some time to settle on a topic, find a professor to direct your thesis, and get
the necessary approvals. This isn’t something you can do in last one or two
days before registration. So this is the
bottom line advice: “Start early!”
Yes, it is usually—although not always—possible for you to
register at the last minute. You can
sometimes add thesis credits to your schedule as late as the “drop-add” period
at the beginning of a semester, but the more you try to do at the last minute,
the more chance of something going wrong. Don’t procrastinate! Be smart,
and be early!
Even as first-year
students, it is not too early to talk with your academic adviser about a
thesis. Obviously, you are nowhere near ready to pick a topic or decide which
faculty member you want to work with. In fact, you probably aren’t sure if you
even want to do a thesis or if it’s the best path to take. You may not even be
certain about your career choice or your major.
But, you can tell your adviser
that a thesis is something you are considering. You can try putting a thesis
into your tentative four-year plan and see how well it fits with the other
things you want to do.
This isn’t a time to make a decision one way or another.
It’s certainly not a time to reject a thesis out-of-hand as something
impossible. It’s a time to keep your
eyes open and explore possibilities. In some cases, thesis research might be
done during a study abroad semester. If you are thinking of doing that, you need
to plan well in advance.
During your sophomore
year, you will want to continue thinking seriously, and perhaps make some
specific plans. Your four-year plan should be taking a more definite shape now.
If you are thinking about spending part or all of your junior year aboard, or
if student teaching or an internship is going to be part of your senior year,
you will need to think about when you want to schedule your thesis.
sophomore year is when you sign up for the department’s Asian Studies Honors
Program. If your thesis is going to be a senior-year activity, you still have
some time, but if your four-year plan calls for you to start as a junior (see
the next paragraph for some reasons why it might), you need to begin serious
planning as a sophomore.
Remember that you register for courses well ahead of
time. You select second-semester junior courses in October of your junior year.
That’s not very long after you return next fall, so it’s wise to talk with your
adviser about possibilities before you leave for the summer.
During your junior
year, you finalize your plans if you have not already done so, and may
begin actual work on the thesis. There are good reasons that your thesis
advisor might recommend starting a thesis work in your junior year. An obvious
one is that some students are away from campus for an internship or student
teaching during their last year. Either of these activities will take your full
attention, and it is not advisable to try to do a thesis at the same time. Even
if you are going to be on campus for your entire senior year, you will find
other demands on your time, such as job searches and interviews or complicated
applications for graduate and professional schools.
If your thesis is relatively far along during
the fall of your senior year rather than just being started, your professors
can write stronger and more detailed letters of reference explaining what you
have accomplished. You can also schedule a conference presentation in time to
include it on your resume, and you might be able to submit a section of your
thesis as a writing sample to accompany your applications.
As your plans begin to take shape, you will want to consider
whether your research will involve unusually high costs for items such as
equipment, supplies, or travel. If these expenses are significantly beyond what
an undergraduate might ordinarily be expected to provide in course supplies,
you might be able to apply for funding. (Alternately, you might need to modify
your plan to meet your budget.)
Your senior year
will be occupied with completing your thesis. Since your work is in the final
stages, you are also in a good position to answer questions from students in
the classes behind you. Finally, you will want to take time to thank those who
helped you with your thesis, and to take some well-deserved pride in what you