Senior Research Guidelines
This is meant to serve as a guideline to facilitate your work on a Women's Studies senior research project.
Purpose: Senior Women's Studies majors complete a research project during their final year in order to demonstrate their depth of knowledge and ability to do independent work which adds to the field of Women's Studies. Your project should build on your work in Women's Studies. Some course projects become the basis for a senior thesis.
Registering for Senior Thesis: At the time your register for this course, you need to ask someone from the program to serve as your advisor and someone to serve as your reader. When you have found faculty to serve in these two ways, notify the Women's Studies director whom you have chosen. This should be done the semester before the project begins. Meet briefly with both of these faculty members before you leave for the semester so that you can work over the break. Please examine the time schedule that follows to see what needs to be done before the research semester.
Primary Adviser: You need to designate one person as your Primary Advisor. This person will assign the grade and be the primary adviser for your project. Usually, this is the person who has the most expertise in your area of interest. It should be someone who works in Women's Studies so that the material will draw on feminist scholarship and connect your thesis to your course work.
As Primary Advisor, she or he will share with you the protocol of research in his or her area of expertise. She will help you with the research protocol so that it will fit with your chosen research method. Students usually meet once a week with their Primary Advisor.
Second Reader: You should select someone who is familiar with Women's Studies. Your Second Reader provides another guide. This is a person who chooses to play this role. You need to meet with both of these people on a regular basis. The role of the Second Reader includes the following:
- Regular meetings with the student throughout the semester, probably weekly or bi weekly; a minimum of two scheduled meetings with the student and the advisor: one at the time that the student presents the introduction (probably at the fourth week of the semester), and at the time when the student has completed the first draft of the paper (probably during the seventh week).
- The Second Reader and Primary Advisor will consult in evaluating the thesis.
Researcher/Student Role: It is up to you to arrange meetings. Sometimes your two guides will differ. That is fine. Let them know about the differences that you perceive and then work it out. That is part of the learning process. You become the coordinator of your project. Disagreement is healthy and helpful. It also allows you to choose among a variety-at least two-positions.
It is not a good idea to wait and give the material to your Second Reader after everything is completed. While this is simple, it deprives you of valuable advice and deprives the reader from working with you. Part of the benefit to faculty is working with different ideas and with you.
What happens if my advisors disagree? Conflicts in interpretations: You will work with an advisor and a reader. At times they will have different points of view and make different types of comments. This is an advantage to you. You are not the agent of your teachers, but they are a source of knowledge to you. It is your paper and they are giving you feed back to make it better. You will want to be guided by their judgment so that your project will work. It is important in your conversations that you identify with each person where there are points of disagreement between them and that will help refine your paper and create a constructive dialogue.
What about changes? Your project will grow and change as it develops; this is normal and you should be ready to take advantage of new insights as your paper develops. This means rewriting old work. Some students have said that one of the most important parts of the learning comes in making changes in the draft. Be ready and willing to do this as it is part of the process.
How long should your project be? It is difficult to say how many pages a project must be, but most projects fall between 40 and 100 pages. Projects that are one semester are closer to the 40 page or less mark, while projects that span two semesters tend to be longer.
How do I begin? You need to think about what types of methods of analysis you know. You will want to have a selection that describes how you research will proceed which includes:
- what your research questions are,
- what you wish to learn through your research,
- what the goal is of your research and your primary thesis or hypothesis,
- what types of problems you anticipate,
- why this is an important project and how you got involved in it,
- how this project will contribute to our understanding or why it is valuable,
- what type of information you wish to collect,
- what methods you will use to collect your information or to perform your analysis, and
- what texts you will examine, persons you will survey or interview, and other sources of information.
Something else to keep in mind is that, at the end of the spring semester, you will also present your project to faculty and students at the closing celebration.