Monday, 3 October 2016

5 Tips from a(n) [Graduated] Honors Student to Honors Students

5 Tips for Starting an Honours Thesis

So you’ve decided to apply to the honors program of your choice. You got in (yay!). Congratulations!

It is now October (time flies, eh?) and midterms, papers, presentations, and assignments are starting to stress you out. And yes, time to apply for that ethics approval, write the honors proposal, and start filling in that annotated bibliography for your honors research. Don’t fret! I am here to share some tips to help you through this very challenging yet super fulfilling year of your undergraduate career.

“Who are you?” you might ask. Well, I am a graduated honors student and I want you to succeed and make the most out of your honors program! (Uh-ah, yep, been there, done that!)

 Let’s start, shall we?

Tip #1: You need to REALLY want it.

Writing an honours thesis is no easy task. I suggest you try to pick a topic that interests you. You will spend a lot of time writing and researching on that topic, and the more invested you are in your chosen topic, the easier it will be to stay motivated and focused (throughout the project). If you’re still looking for a topic, it can be helpful to revisit your previous papers (especially if you found one of them really engaging!).  You can always ask your supervisor for help or suggestions, too. FYI, Honors Programs are always open to new ideas!

Reality bites: 

The Honors Program is not the only way to do research. Research opportunities are everywhere – go to URI, ask your professors if they’re looking for research or lab assistants, or better yet, devise your own research!

Tip #2: Your supervisor is an important resource.

Your supervisor is primarily someone who helps you write a good honors thesis. Yes, emphasis on helping. First and foremost, you will have to do the work yourself. However, you have a supervisor for a reason! Your supervisor is here to provide you appropriate advice and guidance. It is very crucial that you make use of your supervisor’s advice and feedback!

Reality bites: 

The honors thesis is your project (but you are never alone in it). It is important to keep your supervisor informed about your progress. Your supervisor also expects you to be dependable, so manage your time effectively and meet agreed deadlines!

Tip #3: Be confident.

Know that your work is important and show a positive approach to it. Be confident but keep everything in perspective. Learn to accept feedback from your supervisor and your peers. One of the best things that I learned from my honors seminar class was how to properly listen to others – it also taught me about the importance of having a thick-skin when accepting feedback. Be flexible as much as you can.

Reality bites: 

There may be times when you don’t need actual criticisms but hearing what others think is always helpful. Sometimes, negative feedback hurts productivity. But don’t mope around focusing on the negativity but instead, learn from it. If you need someone to say “Good job!”/ “You’re doing great!”/ “You’re awesome!” to you, find someone to say that to you. It helps!

Tip #4: Start writing early. Keep writing.

This is probably the most important tip that I can give you. Write sooner. Just start. You might be worried that you do not have enough material (hint, hint: more reading!) and your argument may be weak – you will be able to determine these problems when you start writing. Just start and don’t stop writing. Enough said.

Reality bites: 

Strive for excellence but avoid perfectionism at all cost. Not only it will hurt your productivity but it will also affect your morale and mindset. There is nothing more self-crippling than perfectionism.

Tip #5: You’re only human. Take a break. Stay healthy.

If you don’t make space for a little self-care, you will burn out and just procrastinate more. Eat well and drink lots of fluids. Exercise. This will boost your energy and productivity.

Reality bites: 

It is okay to grab some drinks with your friends in the nearest pub (or maybe Dewey’s). Sometimes saying yes (finally) to your friends’ invite and just closing your laptop for a quick break is good for you. But remember hangovers should be avoided whenever possible - you still need to write the next day. Stay focused on the task at hand (while still allowing yourself time for a break).

Most of my tips are common sense, however, it is sometimes nice to be reminded of the obvious. And one final note: Know that you can do it. If I can do it, you can do it, too! You’ll be great!

Good luck on your best year ever!

I’m rooting for you,

* P.S., I did my BA Honors in Anthropology. The title of my honors thesis is “Transgender Cross-cultural Variations in Indonesia and the Philippines.” 

Kevin - YouAlberta Contributor

Kevin is a 1st year MA (Thesis) Anthropology student. A research nerd, his interests include topics on gender/sexuality, food, and anything Southeast Asia. Kevin prefer cats over dogs and just like everyone else, he always skip ads when watching YouTube videos. A self-confessed TV buff, he will watch teen or any slice-of-life dramas with no shame. His favourite candy is Starburst. The lemon Starburst to be exact.


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