Friday, December 12, 2008

Self Efficacy and Thesis Writing

I was wandering around the departmental building looking for a book on American history the other day. Professors and other grad students often discard books that they do not use anymore and leave the scraps for us enterprising and starving first-years. Under a panic over being a historian and not knowing anything about American history, I dug through every book in the pile. While I didn't find anything to help me with my upcoming Americanist history seminar, I did find a book called Writing and Publishing Your Thesis, Dissertation, and Research: A guide for students in the helping professions.

The Americanist seminar panic hasn't yet subsided, but my nascent fear of not-being-able-to-finish-a-thesis, or thesis-phobia, has already started to subside. I've realized that the project, while very large, can be broken down into smaller pieces. On top of that, I've been giving undergraduates advice on how to write more effectively for a whole quarter now and I feel like it's increased my confidece in my own ability to formulate a logical and persuasive idea. One of my now-graduated, doctoral friends came up to me right before he moved and thanked me, "I would have never built an effective time management system for writing my thesis if you hadn't introduced me to your egg-timer trick."

In fact, I have so many of the needed skills to tackle this whole thesis thing... well, except the knowledge required to actually write novel research and analysis. Still, I can work on that in the next couple years. I love what I study and I think it's incredibly important. I've got time, yo.

My growing feeling of self-efficacy is such a good thing. During my research on science students of color, someone pointed out that self-efficacy, or the firm knowledge that you are capable of completing a task, is what keeps endangered students from dropping out. I completely agree.

I just want to write this down for historical reasons. Perhaps, when I am close to crying because I'm not making progress on my thesis, I will see my youthful optimism and it will remind me to reduce my obstacles, cut the project into smaller pieces, and keep doing what you love... because you're capable. A person that I respect quite a bit told me to never turn something in that I wasn't proud of. What I research is definitely something worth doing and worth doing well.

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