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Senior Thesis Essentials

October 9, 2010

Kevin Burke
Senior Thesis Essentials

By this point, we seniors have proposed a laughably broad topic to our thesis advisers, and had our topic narrowed down (or totally changed) by that adviser to something manageable in a semester or two. Now you have to do the research and analyze it in time for champagne in the fountain. Here are six tools that'll help you get the job done.

Noise Canceling Headphones. You need to get work done, but the computer labs turn into zoos. Slip these over your ears and enter your own world. After the first few times people try to ask you things and you say "What?" they'll stop talking to you, letting you focus on your work. BOSE and Monsters can cost you over $300; instead pick up a pair of Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B's, which give you the same quality but cost less than half as much.

Knowing how to use the library. I haven't bought books in two years; I get them all from the library for free. As an added bonus, seniors get to check out books until the end of the semester. You can get any book you want out of the library; if you can't find it in the library catalog, search on LINK+, the network of over 100 California libraries. And if they don't have it, submit a request for a librarian to get it through Interlibrary Loan, which basically means they'll scour the country to get the book for you. You can get any academic paper you want through the library too. Enter the article title, author or journal on this page. If they don't have it, you can also use InterLibrary Loan, who will purchase a copy of the paper for you.

Scheduling thesis like a class. One of the toughest parts about getting hard work done is actually sitting down to do it, especially when your thesis isn't due for another two months and you have a bunch of things to do this week. If you never give yourself time to do it, you'll bury yourself in other work. Automate that decision by setting aside time in your calendar every week that's simply "thesis time." Go to a quiet place and work.

Binders. I keep one for my thesis and my research seminar. I keep dividers for Thesis Lit Review Papers, Lit Review Paper Notes, Thesis Documents (IRB application, a copy of the thesis topic form, etc), Advisor Discussion Notes, Seminar Notes, Seminar Handouts, and Seminar Coursework.

Dropbox. Sometimes you'll be working on your laptop and sometimes in the computer lab; it's important to keep your files sync'ed between the two computers. Dropbox keeps your files synchronized between all of the computers you work on. With Dropbox you can store up to 2 GB of files for free, and their software syncs everything in the background.

Productivity software. Your computer is a mean temptress. Try to eliminate distractions by handicapping your computer. I like WriteRoom for Mac, which blocks out your whole screen and gives you a place to enter in text. Other apps to try are Freedom, which blocks the Internet, and your ability to turn it on again for up to eight hours, for both Macs and PCs, and the NoMoreTabs extension for Google Chrome, which limits you to 5 tabs at a time (if you open more tabs, it closes old ones).

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