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History 400

Thesis Research!

You've made it to History 400 and your senior thesis!  History 400 gives you an opportunity to define a research topic of particular interest to you (and us!).  Research for your senior thesis can be a quite intense process--simultaneously exciting, daunting, frustrating, and exhilarating.  This is normal!

Some Advice from Your History Liaison Librarian

Please DO:

  • Contact the librarian or archivist whenever questions arise.  Quick questions can be answered via email; more in-depth questions can be handled best with an appointment.
  • Work on your project consistently each and every week, so that materials have time to arrive from other libraries and we can answer your questions when you still have sufficient time to thoughtfully revise your work.
  • Listen to and consider carefully our suggestions about the availability (or not) of sources, especially primary sources. 
  • Keep careful notes on all of your sources.  If an online knowledge management tool like Zotero or RefWorks is not for you, make sure that any system that you do use is thorough.

Please DON'T:

  • Procrastinate. We all procrastinate, but when you find yourself stuck, that's usually a sign to seek out conversation--with your professor, a librarian, your peers, or your friends.  
  • Stick to a research question or idea long after it's become obvious that either you don't have access to the primary sources you need or the available evidence isn't leading you down the path you expected.  Be willing to adjust your focus.
  • Select a research question for which the primary sources are in a language you cannot read; in a government document that remains classified; or in a distant and/or understaffed archive to which access is tightly controlled or to which access is otherwise impossible within the next three months. 

Help with Productivity

Researching and writing a thesis is a different kind of experience.  You will need to work on your thesis on a regular basis over a couple of months. How do you remain productive, day in and day out?

  • Research and writing can and should take place simultaneously.  Writing while researching helps you master the material and discover holes in your research or interesting avenues to pursue.
  • "Something is always better than nothing."  Suppose you set yourself a goal of writing five pages by Friday of this week.  It's Thursday evening and you've not written a sentence and are not feeling the motivation.  In truth, you feel overwhelmed.  Rather than trying to stick with the original five-page goal, give yourself a new goal that is ridiculously easy to achieve, like writing two or three sentences.  

Need some extra help?

The Panda Planner is a productivity planner that helps you prioritize your work and balance your work with the rest of your life.  You can try out the planner before purchase by sending an email to receive sample pages.

Trello or KanbanFlow offer free versions of a board and card system that lets you visually track your progress and keep track of where you are on your project.

Habitica is an online tool (including an app) that let's you gamify your work as a way to increase motivation to be more productive.