The one thing I’ve dreaded throughout my academic career is writing a thesis. As an English major, there were very few limits on potential topics. The broad range of options made selecting a topic incredibly stressful for me. I wanted to pick something that I would enjoy spending a semester researching and writing about. For me, that was a big challenge because when writing research papers, I burn out fairly quickly and get bored of my topic. After I finally made my decision, it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.

Before you read on to see my practical advice, take a deep breath. I know the magnitude of a thesis can be daunting, but it’s just another assignment. Remember this: You are capable. You have had more difficult experiences and assignments than this and you can do it.

Here is my advice for you future seniors:

  • Choosing a topic
    • Make a list of all of the academic topics you’ve enjoyed throughout your college career. The items on your list can include things you’ve learned about, courses that you’ve enjoyed, or anything in your field that you’re interested in learning more about.
    • Try to avoid selecting something you’ve already researched. It’s best to enter the thesis process with a new topic to allow you to explore with a fresh perspective. One of my original thesis topic ideas was gender and communication, but I had previously written a research paper on the topic, therefore had already established my own viewpoint and argument. However, if you have previously researched a topic and feel like there is more work that you are willing to put into it, then at least try to resume with an open mind.
    • Find something you enjoy. You will most likely be working on the project throughout the course of the semester. You want to choose a topic that you will continue to research and, ideally, become an expert on. If you choose something that only partially interests you or if you choose something for the wrong reasons, you may burn out and dread working on your project. So, take your time to find something that you can see yourself enjoying throughout the coming months.
    • Finally, think outside the box. Depending on your program, you may have the ability to get really creative with your topic. As an English major, there weren’t many limiting criteria for my thesis, so I was able to create my own topic that wasn’t limited to a research paper. Talk to your academic advisor, your thesis professor, or anyone that you feel could help you to narrow-down the details of your project.
  • Selecting a board
    • Many boards consist of a chairperson and two readers. When selecting your chairperson, consider the following:
      • Which professors on campus would provide the best advice and guidance throughout your project? Is his/her area of expertise relevant to your topic? In other words, do they have extensive knowledge in the field in which your topic relates?
    • When selecting your readers, there may be some leniency, depending on your program. For my thesis, one reader must be a Gannon faculty member, but there are no limits on the second reader. For the sake of convenience, I decided to select a second reader who is also a faculty member and who is knowledgeable of the field of my research. However, if I wanted to select a local business owner, for example, I would have the freedom to do so.
    • Make sure you ask your selections to sit on your board in a timely and professional fashion. You don’t want to ask them last minute via text message.

Once you get your topic and board selected, going through the motions should be fairly easy. If you come across a hiccup in your research, there are plenty of resources on campus to help you work through it. Just believe in yourself.