Eastern Region Writing

“I Survived”: Overcoming the Undergraduate Senior Thesis

Morgan Mandriotaby Morgan Mandriota
Alpha Iota Omicron Chapter, St. Joseph’s College, NY

“Welcome to Senior Thesis! ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here.'”

This was the first slide of the PowerPoint presentation welcoming English majors into our first meeting of the dreaded senior thesis. “Cool,” I thought, “this dude is making a Dante reference.” Little did I understand the relevance of the Inferno quote until I found out that I needed to collect a working bibliography of 100 relevant sources, due two weeks later on a novel I hadn’t even read yet.

I silently debated: “Does my passion for studying literature outweigh the ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ I will undergo for the next eight months?” *sigh* “. . .yes.”

Frankenstein coverI passed the summer research phase by making an intensive annotated bibliography and outline, along with a collection of scribbles on what seemed like hundreds of multi-colored post-its dispersed throughout Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. How on Earth did I accomplish this? I hadn’t even read the book yet.

What I (miraculously) did was use my research and background knowledge of Frankenstein to come up with my thesis: Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s creature, or “monster,” as he is most often perceived, is actually the most “human” of the three main characters. I finished reading the novel and annotating my four page outline the day before the semester and the writing process started. “Phew!”

Four hectic and strenuous months later, my wonderful mentor informed me I had successfully completed my project with an “A.”

Thesis DeskNaturally, I cried like a baby. I am almost certain that I died and went to heaven. As disorganized as I was with my books and papers scattered across my desk, floor, and bed, I did it . . . I survived the undergraduate senior thesis!

So, my advice to any future thesis prospects is: 1) take constructive criticism and let it shape you into a better writer, researcher, and thinker, and 2) believe in yourself and your abilities. Your mind is either your best asset or your tragic flaw.

Yes, there is a light at the end of the seemingly infinite, dark thesis tunnel, and you, too, will come out on the other end feeling invincible. You will have completed possibly the greatest academic achievement of your undergraduate career (and believe me, the indescribable feeling upon completion is worth the struggle of the whole process).

Survival of the senior thesis is, indeed, possible – do not “abandon all hope.”