What if I don't feel totally prepared for my topic?

Contributor: B. Zakarin, Office of Fellowships, b-zakarin@northwestern.edu
Posted: 2011

Discussions of preparation tend to focus on courses already taken and language skills already developed; however, you have time to expand your knowledge base and/or strengthen skills to carry out the thesis you envision.  In proposals for a summer grant or admission to the Senior Thesis Program, acknowledge any weaknesses and explain your plans to address them between now and September: 

  • For a highly specialized thesis topic, arrange an Independent Study in spring quarter if there are no courses that will give you necessary background knowledge or familiarity with relevant scholarship.  The supervisor of that Independent Study may be your preferred thesis advisor.  Developing your own reading list will give you a head start on the thesis—and a valuable appendix for your proposal(s).
  • ·Think broadly about your thesis topic and what more you can learn about it or the scholarship about it.  Look for a seminar inside (such as a Hist 395) or outside of the History major that may give you a more textured understanding of the place, period, or people you want to study in your thesis.
  • If you want to work with foreign-language sources, perform quantitative analysis, or conduct interviews, then take a skills or methods course that will prepare you.  In your proposal(s), you can explain how an upcoming course in statistics, economics, sociology, or a foreign language will enhance your thesis.  (Note that you can apply for funding for summer language programs if increasing proficiency for later research is a priority.)