Why Write a Thesis?

(I found some very insightful and enlightening words about why we should write a thesis.)

The answer “Because it’s required” is not good enough. In fact, the question “Why write a thesis?” is itself misleading, because it implies that what’s most important is the final product: an object that you will print out on acid-free paper, pinch into a spring binder, and hand in.

The more useful question is, “What am I going to get out of this experience?” This question foregrounds the fact that thesis-writing is a process, and that the purpose of that process is not only to produce a great thesis, but even more importantly, to transform you into a better writer, researcher, and most of all, thinker.

As you envision, research, structure, write, and rewrite your thesis, you will encounter complex and important questions, grapple with unwieldy and sometimes overwhelming data, listen in new ways to ongoing
scholarly conversations, confront challenging intellectual puzzles, and struggle to form and articulate your own thoughts. These trials will change you. If you trust and commit to the process, you will emerge at the end of your senior year with new skills and a better sense of your own voice. And as a more powerful writer and thinker, you will be more effective in all your post-graduation pursuits.

In order to achieve the most important goal of self-transformation, a student must aim, paradoxically, for another goal: creating new scholarly knowledge. Imagine that you are trying to spear a fish in a pond.
If you aim your spear at the spot where you see the fish, you will miss, because the surface of the water refracts light. Similarly, if you aim only to transform yourself into a better writer, researcher, and thinker,
you will miss both that goal and the goal of producing high-quality scholarship. You must endeavor, with every ounce of intelligence and strength you have, to produce an original and valuable academic
argument. As you do so, you will transform—inevitably. Aim for the tangible goal of writing a superb thesis, and you will reach the more important but elusive objective beyond it.

The process of writing a thesis can be a glorious adventure. I hope that you will experience the exhilaration of watching your ideas emerge, the astonishment of discovering newly developed abilities, and the satisfaction of completing an arduous but important journey. Now is the time to take your first step.

–Robin Bernstein, Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and of History and Literature

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