THESISCRAZY 2015 (PART 1): “Can You Help Me Write My Thesis?”

aren't you excited for this to happen in LESS THAN A WEEK

aren’t you excited for this to happen in LESS THAN A WEEK

Welcome to the first installment of THESISCRAZY 2015, in which Wesleying interviews thesis writers in various states of instability, horror, and sleep deprivation during the two weeks before theses are due. Check out THESISCRAZY features from previous years here.

Are you a senior thesis writer who wants to procrastinate by having us interview you? Email staff[at]wesleying[dot]org!

Sophia Franchi ’15, English/French Major (English thesis), carrel #___    image2

Working title: “I don’t [have one]. It’s one of my biggest stressors right now. I don’t have a working title.”

On her topic: “My topic is postcolonial female Gothic literature, which is a really hefty string of words but basically I’m writing about these three Caribbean writers, all women, who adopt and adapt Gothic conventions. You can probably think of a bunch.. like, haunted castles, zombies, all that spooky stuff. Writing about why they would choose to do that [and] what it means in larger Caribbean debates about identity and history. In a nutshell.”

How she thought of it: “I really wanted to write about another Gothic writer, this woman named Isak Dinesen, and then I was reading a lot of Caribbean fiction, and I noticed that they were using a lot of Gothic themes too. When I found my advisor, her specialty is postcolonial fiction, so I had to like.. meet her halfway to her specialty, and it just all worked out really well.”

On her progress: “Um, I think it’s okay. It’s definitely going to be down to the wire, but I”m feeling good about it, it’s mostly a question of smoothing. I have all the chapters, just smoothing everything out, making them actually make sense [as] a body of work. I’m regretting my introduction right now, [and trying to] make it more coherent.”

On her mental state: “I’m doing well today — yesterday I had a bit of a panic attack, but I think I’ll be fine. That’s kind of how it goes, it comes in waves of panic and calm.”

How do you get over the panic attacks? “You just have to like.. work through it. And really just keep working through it, ‘cause like, from what I find, if I dwell on it for too long, then it’s a huge mental block. And just like, tell yourself it’ll be okay, it’s not the end of the world. But yeah, it’s definitely stressful.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Well, I had a bit of a hard time finding an advisor. Last semester, I was abroad and I kept emailing all my professors and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, I’d love to! Except that I’m gonna be on leave,’ or, ‘Except that I’m doing a semester elsewhere.’ And finally, my current advisor, who I love, said, “Well, I’m going to be gone on maternity leave,” but she offered to supervise from afar, remotely, which worked out really well, but it was a very stressful process just ‘cause I was constantly emailing, and like, it was very frustrating to be abroad, and to not be able to just go to office hours, and like, talk to people face to face.

“Equally traumatic was when I decided that I didn’t like my second chapter, and had to rewrite it, but that was.. That was 20 pages. Out of about 80 right now, so I decided I had to rewrite all of that [in February]. But I’m glad it worked out. [It was] a stressful couple of weeks.”

Are you happy with your second chapter now? “I’m happier with it now!”

On procrastination: “I’m a big fan of the Weshop snack run that turns into a leisurely half-hour, pondering my snack choices. I discovered these really good macaroon cookies they have, I’m a big fan of the chocolate bark.. really anything chocolatey.”

Is there anything you haven’t tried there? “I’m gonna venture a guess and say no..”

On her plans for April 10th: “Oh my gosh! I can’t even let myself think about it too much, ‘cause I just get too emotional. I’ll be on the steps of Olin, and I’ll celebrate with everybody, and then I’m going to do nothing, I think for an entire week. Just solid doing nothing. And just actually enjoy being able to see my friends and have a life outside of Olin once again. It is very.. intense right now, but it’ll be worth it once it’s over.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Um.. I feel like this is what everyone always says, but there’s a reason — really pick a topic that you’re interested in. You have to be really enthusiastic about it even at this point, like, even with ten days left and it being really scary and stressful. Don’t just do it because you just think you should write a thesis! Like, there’s no point in that. What else..

“Start reading as early as you can, start reading over the summer.. it feels like you’re going to have all the time in the world [during your] fall semester, but that is incorrect. You do not. It’s actually a much tighter schedule than it seems like. And also everyone always talks about how stressful it is, but if you really want to do it and if you think that it’s worth it to you, then you should! I’ve had a good experience, I’ve talked to people who have had good experiences..”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “Well, I love the writers that i’m working on — they’re just books I really enjoy. It’s been really nice having or creating an actual rapport with my advisor. It’s enjoyable to get to know a professor that way, and to have someone look at your work develop over a longer period of time, and in bigger chunks than you would get in class.”

If her thesis was a tv show/movie/song: “I really want to think of something witty, but I can’t. It’s just not coming to me.. It would be something that, like.. is going on for slightly too long, but then the last couple seasons surprisingly get really good again? [laughs] And so like, I’m currently working on getting rid of the filler, the buffer seasons that nobody watches. Gimme a show that does, that, what’s a show that.. It’s like.. okay. Like Buffy, but if you could get rid of the fourth season.”

Most used word/phrase: “I get to talk about subjectivity a lot. That’s a big word that gets thrown around. Or, just the word ‘postcolonial.’ Like, how many times can you throw around ‘postcolonial?'”

Theses Feces (Tell me about your thesis. Tell me about your poop.): “This is way too visceral. No, I’m comfortable, ask me the question! I’d say my bowel movements have been regular; I wouldn’t say it’s anything that has been uncommon, out of the ordinary.. I would say that the metaphor of constipation for writing a thesis is.. fairly accurate. I support your editor, that’s good. Did not see that one coming.”


Eliza Loomis ’15,  Gov/Econ Major (Gov thesis), carrel-lessphoto-2

Working title: “Oh! I knew you would ask that but I have not thought of an answer at all! I guess I’ll just make one up now, so I guess it would be… Ok something witty and then colon partisan politics through a gendered lens.”

On her topic: “Basically I’m sort of developing and testing a theory on the Republican and Democratic parties being gendered organizations where the Republicans are sort of more masculine, men tend to prefer to vote for the Republicans, while the Democrats are seen as more feminine: they have stronger stances on women’s rights issues, women prefer to vote for Democrats. Basically that motivates how the parties sort of maneuver because they both want to appeal across that gender gap. I’m doing a few empirical tests to look at how Republicans appeal to women specifically.”

Was this something you’ve always been interested in? “I think I’ve always, as a woman and a gov major, sort of been naturally interested in the collision of women and politics, but I think that this specific thing is definitely more new.”

On her progress: “It’s been good. I was really stressed for the first 95% of the year and now I’m finally feeling like I’m in a little bit of a better place. The next two weeks are going to suck but they’re not going to be like existential, crisis-inducing weeks hopefully.”

Mental state in one word: “Teetering.”

On the trauma of not getting a carrel: “I didn’t get one and I thought that it was like a higher power telling me not to do a thesis. I low-key cried in WesWings which I think terrified my friends, but then one of my housemates let me share her carrel with her and it’s actually been such a non-issue.”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “This is very embarrassing but basically writing parody lyrics to pop songs that are about theses. They’re so bad! There are horrible sentences in my thesis but I can assure you that every parody song I have written is worse than any sentence in my thesis.”

On her plans for April 10th: “I’m doing Terp so basically getting as drunk as possible on the steps, such that I can recover in time to do a dub step dance about Harry Potter. (EVERYONE GO TO THIS, think about how awesome that sounds).”

On her favorite part: “Hmmm. I like… So I still have a lot of doubts that it’ll actually turn out to be good, but I do photo 1-3like the feeling of editing and revising and being like ‘Ok I’m actually turning this into something that I’d be less embarrassed to give to a professor.'”

Advice for future thesis writers: “… I feel so unqualified giving advice. I guess it would just be like: ‘Don’t let your thesis affect your self worth too much, you are not your thesis.'”

If her thesis was a tv show/movie/song: “Oooo um ok! I would say that it would be a character on a tv show. It would be Ainsley Hayes from the West Wing who is just like a badass Republican woman and is very interesting and paradoxical as such.”

Most used phrase: “Gender territory.”


Veronica Birdsall ’15, NB&B/Molecular Bio Major, Lab 155

Working title: “Characterizing IHF binding to DNA 4 Way Junctions and Double Stranded Forks”

On what that actually means: “It’s basically interesting to about four people in the world, but I’m basically studying the E.coli protein photo 2-3and how it binds DNA in the cell. A lot of what we know about DNA recognition of specific DNA segments via protein, which is like necessary for any genetic/biological process to happen, you need proteins to bind specific portions of your genome at the right time and a lot the research that’s been done is focused on sequence based recognition. A lot of the proteins that bind to DNA find where they’re supposed to bind based on sequence but what we’re interested in is structure based recognition; looking at DNA structures and how this specific binding protein interacts with them.”

On her progress: “It’s all right. Science theses are different in that the bulk of the work is lab research. So I’ve actually been working on this research for two years since I started in this lab as a sophomore. Most of the work was spread out over the time trying to do experiments and trying to generate data. So the actual writing I haven’t been that considered about, which is maybe not that good, but I’m almost done with my draft. I just have to write my discussion portion. For the science thesis it’s basically like a 70 page giant lab report so it’s a little easier because there’s a pre-existing structure that I can follow. A lot of it is just figures that take up a great amount of space. Most of the work was just getting this data, so I’m hoping to have a full draft by the end of this week.”

On picking her topic: “When I came into the lab there was a pre-existing project that I took on. What’s cool about it is when you come in there had been a lot of ground work done but then you can take it in your own direction, so it was definitely build upon existing work that people did previously. When I read more and did experiments I kind of decided which direction to take the project in. It’s very collaborative.  It’s a very specific topic. I didn’t even know what a DNA 4 way junction is until I came into this lab, but once I got involved in it, it really grew on me.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience:  “Well like the first year that I worked in this lab, nothing would work ever. I would try to do the simplest experiment and there would be nothing on the gel that I would try to run or something and I wouldn’t know why. We had to grow e coli cells and purify the protein out of them and one time I had to grow 6 liters of ecoli cells which is absolutely disgusting, and I went through the whole process and got no protein so we just had to do it again. Oh! One time I spilled e. coli on myself. That was a really dark day.”

On procrastination: “Well the great thing about lab is you have somewhere to go, and even the act of going to lab makes me feel really productive so sometimes I’ll just get here and sit at this desk and be like “yeah! I did it!” and then I’ll just go on Facebook for like 2 hours. So I guess just sitting in lab, being on the Internet, and feeling productive about myself.”

On her plans for April 10th: “Oh my God. I’m just going to get so drunk and not going to go anywhere near this building for like at least a week. It’s going to be so crazy.”

On her favorite part: “Probably just looking at my thesis and seeing all my work there. It’s not like an earth-shattering contribution to science but it is a little contribution that I made, and it’s been such a long process that just seeing that I did something that isn’t that terrible is great.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Definitely just start working in a lab as soon as possible, because it takes forever to generate enough data to write a thesis. It’s definitely a very different process from social sciences theses, but you just really have to think ahead about it”

If her thesis was a tv show/movie/song: “I think it would like a really boring discovery channel show that no one would watch except for me. It would have a name that makes it sound really interesting but then its like nothing.”

On her most used phrase: “Dissociation constant of binding.”



Emma Rothberg ’15, History Major

Working title: “I just came up with my title, so I’m going to try to remember it: ‘The Real War Never Got in the Books: How Veterans and Publishers Created The Civil War.'”

On her topic: “Basically looking at how the American Civil War came to be defined as a fraternal conflict, and the “brother against brother” which we associate with it, and how that narrative was really created by veterans, mostly during the 1870s through the 1890s as a way to preserve their legacy and make sure that they were still important in that redefining of postwar Americanism. That’s as succinctly and eloquently as I could explain it right now!”

On her progress: “Just editing — I’ve been editing since before spring break, because I’m one of those crazy people… I mean, I started over the summer. I forced myself to have a draft done by spring break. Still have to write the conclusion though. But I’m not thinking about it right now.

On her current mental state: “It’s been better. It’s certainly panicked. I’m currently working on editing chapters that I basically haven’t looked at since last semester, so there is certainly panic, because the actual argument has changed since then. There’s just a lot of reading what I wrote before and putting giant Xs through it and going, ‘This is not right anymore.’ And having my roommates look at me like I’m crazy because I’m telling them that I can’t do anything and I’m just constantly sitting in front of my computer. So. It’s been better.”

On choosing her topic: “I knew I wanted to do something on the Civil War, and after doing Contemporary Historiography 362, which all History majors have to take, we had a lot of discussions about memory and memory studies, and how history is a crafted narrative. It’s not empirical. So, it’s kind of combining those two. I knew I wanted to do something with how privates wrote about the war. Everyone knows about the generals. No one cares about the little guy. And from there, [my thesis] more specifically focused on how they codified fraternity.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I don’t really have a super traumatic one right now. I mean, maybe just having my advisor recently looking over stuff and being like, ‘You’ve got a lot of redundancy here that you need to take out.’ And then I’m kind of freaking out about how much is there, actually, that’s redundant? Do I actually have an argument? Of course, this was last week, so… I guess it was pretty traumatic. But it’s okay. It was just bad writing more than an actual analytical issue. I haven’t had anything super traumatic, though, which I guess is a good thing. It’s not fun for you guys, with ThesisCrazy, but it’s a good thing for me, being able to function.”

On her plans for April 10th“Popping champagne on the steps of Olin, and — right now — still trying to figure out if I can get to the Yankees-Red Sox game that Saturday. That would be wonderful. If not, probably just passing out. Yeah, I will get to the game somehow. It’s a question of am I paying for the ticket, or are my lovely parents going to take me to the game in celebration? It’s also going to be a really great way to end Passover, which is all of next week, which is driving me crazy because I can’t actually stress eat on whatever I want to eat… but I can have a pretzel at the game because Passover will be over.”

On her favorite part: “It sounds kind of silly, but that there really is no page count. I tend to be a verbose writer, so it’s nice to not have to fit everything in in seven pages. You can just write whatever you want and then deal with it later. It’s really freeing in a way. And then, also, feeling like you’re actually writing something and contributing to scholarly work, whereas when you write a general paper for a class, you’re like, ‘My professor’s going to read this. And that’s about it.’ With a thesis, you know, at least the department’s going to read it. And that’s fun.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “It sounds really basic, but make an outline and make it early. Like, actually know what you’re writing, where you’re going, what each chapter’s going to cover. Because if you do change your mind later, at least you know what you were thinking. It’s going to help with the redundancy issue so you aren’t going to just repeat yourself. And also, remember that it’s really okay to take breaks. Lying on the floor of your carrel is a really good use of your time if you’re really stressing.

How frequently do you lie on the floor of your carrel? “Oh, yesterday, it was like four times. For twenty minutes at a time. I just would kind of lie there diagonally across the floor. It’s not very comfortable and the chair gets in the way, but you make it work.”

If her thesis was a tv show/movie/song: “I was actually thinking about this when I went to go get coffee [earlier]. If you can’t tell, I was looking at ThesisCrazy from last year before you guys came over. Probably, just because of the title, the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, because I’m trying to figure out where this brotherhood came from, and trying to talk about how veterans theorize fraternities. It seems like a fitting title for my thesis. I mean, the movie’s also great, but the actual content has nothing to do with what I’m talking about.”

On her most used phrase: “Right now, ‘narrative of fraternity,’ which I’m trying to define. It’s getting replaced with other words, like ‘fraternal narrative,’ but yeah.”

On poop: “Normal? I don’t, like, compare it with other people. I honestly don’t think about it. It’s a thing that happens. It’s necessary biology. I mean, I don’t do science. But it happens. Shit happens.”

“I mean, I guess there’re sometimes aspects that feel like a bowel movement, but more just figuring out what the hell just came out of my body. There’s some stuff there, and I’m sure it’s all supposed to be there, but I don’t know how it’s supposed to work.”



Eriq Robinson ’15, Music Major

Working title: “My working title is “Reality Ends Here: The Beginning of the End.”

NO. It’s “The Beginning of the End: Reality Ends Here.”
I’m a colon boy.”
On his topic: “Since I’m a music major, my thesis is a two-part thing: a performance and my topic itself—which doesn’t have a title yet. The written portion is about Afro-futurism, which is a lineage of music—it’s hard to describe—and the thesis is whether or not I’m in that lineage.”

On his progress: “I was stupid and pushed off a lot of shit until the last minute, and now I’m paying for it. But it’ll all be cool.”

On his current mental state: “Very stressed. Scared. Worried. I want to sleep more but I can’t. That’s the general gist of it.”

On his most traumatic thesis experience: “Probably two days ago, when my thesis advisor, he emailed me. He was like ‘Hey Eriq, I would love to see some notes or maybe a chapter or two on this paper.’ And I had to email him back saying ‘Hey, haven’t started yet. Maybe I’ll give you a first draft by Wednesday.’ Who knows? Hopefully that works out.”

On his favorite form of procrastination: “So many of them involve things I don’t want on record… Yeah.”

On his plans for April 10th“Saturday, I’m going to clean my room. Because I haven’t cleaned my room almost all semester, and it’s really starting to be bad. But I just don’t have time right now.”

On his favorite part: “It’s really nice to have a personal project that is my own, that I’m giving full reign to do whatever I want with. And it’s a large scale project, so it’s really cool to have that power. Especially as a music major, since I have an actual show I get to put on. It’s all my creative stuff.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Start early. Don’t do what I did. Start early. Please.

First semester, if you have an idea, go ahead and run with it. I for some reason didn’t start the written portion until second semester.”

If his thesis was a tv show/movie/song: “That’s so funny, because my thesis is actually a collection of songs. So it will be exactly what my thesis is. Which is April 9th, 7pm at Beckham Hall.”

How he thought of his topic: “I’m very interested in religions and strange music and combining the two, I was able to make my own cosmology with things that I’ve picked up around Wes and life in general.”

Question he wished we asked: “‘Can we help you write your thesis?’ That’d be great. I’m in need of some interns. I can even credit you guys as thesis writers. You guys can have a little thing in my thing if you help write this paper. That would be really nice.”

Most used word/phrase: “Okay, most of the words are not in English—and this is the performance piece, since I haven’t started the written part. The word that comes up most is either ‘tal’ or “marijuana.'”

How is your poop?: “Hilariously, I have been noticing that my poop is surprisingly firm recently. Not surprising like ‘Wow, this is difficult to pass,’ but like… I don’t know, I feel like last semester, I don’t know what role stress might be playing in this, but I feel like it was looser. You know, smaller chunks. But now I have that snake that goes around the bowl, and I’m like ‘What happened?’ I don’t know. I appreciate it because it looks much better, but the change is weird. Who knows. I think that’s what poop’s supposed to look like anyway, so maybe this is better. I have no idea. As long as it’s a nice, healthy snake.”

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