A year and a half ago, fellow OnlinePlus blog contributor, Teddy Parker-Renga, and I began pursuing our Master of Science in Public Communication and Technology degrees from Colorado State University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication. Prior to beginning, I knew that I would have to complete a thesis, but honestly, I didn’t really know what that would entail. Since then, we’ve both learned a lot, and, over the next few weeks, plan to share some tips we’ve gleaned along the way.
Both of us are feeling our way through this process currently, so we would also appreciate any feedback you have, as well. That being said, Tip #1 can’t be stressed enough:
Pick a topic you are interested in!
After going through this process, I believe this is one of the most important issues to consider. You are going to be spending a lot of time with whatever you choose to study. And by that, I mean… a lot of time. I’m about half done with my thesis, and I’m already at 50 pages and more than 12,000 words. That’s before my research, analysis, and conclusion. While mileage may vary in that regard, and yes, I have been accused of being wordy at times, I haven’t heard of many people going below that general guideline.
With that in mind, you may as well enjoy and be interested in your topic. I can’t imagine writing 12,000 words about something that wasn’t at least mildly interesting to me. It’s hard enough when I’m not only interested, but passionate, about my particular study.
Before the end of each class, our basic methodology teacher would always look us over and ask intently, “What’s your question?” She wanted us to seriously consider what the question we wanted to answer was. Was there something we’d always wanted to know? Something that had always piqued our interest? And beyond that, what specifically did we want to know about that topic? What about it made us interested in it?
She impressed this on us because that question, the itch begging you to scratch it, is going to consume the next few years of your life. It will drive methodology choices. Whether the answer to the question will be found quantitatively or qualitatively – it will drive where you spend your time looking into literature. It’ going to help you select a theory to work with, he committee you choose to support your efforts – in essence, everything comes back to that question.
And the cool thing about picking something you are interested in is that, hopefully, at the end of the time you invest, you will answer it. That, in and of itself, is exciting for people like Teddy and myself, and any other junior researchers out there.
So, as you start to think about your thesis, start thinking through the questions that excite you. The ones that you really want to find answers to.
That’s a great first step!