To Thesis or Not to Thesis

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To Thesis or Not to Thesis

Sheel S, Writer

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When I entered the second semester of my senior year, I was under the impression that I had already passed the hardest part of my academic career. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that from here on out, school would only become easier. But I soon learned I was in for a rude awakening. I was swamped with more work than I had ever had; sometimes I worked so long on weekends that I didn’t even have time for a lunch break. Granted, I take some difficult classes, but it really wasn’t the classes that had suddenly gotten extremely hard. By now, I have become accustomed to a larger workload from normal classes. Rather, what really killed me was the combination of the science fair project and the thesis. After realizing that the thesis was due the day before the science fair, I knew that taking on a combination of both projects constituted an inhuman workload. I honestly feel that I will have to choose which one I can do my best work on because there is no way I have time to do a good job on both.

Looking at college curriculums, I have found that almost no college would require students to do both a yearlong research project in conjunction with an extended research paper. My father and mother both teach at different colleges, Holy Cross and UMass respectively. Both of them agreed that none of their freshmen or sophomores have to write an extended paper between 12-15 pages. Even most juniors and seniors in college would probably not have two research papers in completely different subjects due in the same time frame. In fact, the only students who write papers of such length are those who choose to take high-level seminars in the humanities. Thus, most students who are interested in mostly scientific topics will never have to write a paper comparable to the thesis in college. However, they will have to perform research projects similar to the inquiry class here. In terms of the future then, it doesn’t make sense to force science students to write a thesis on a subject in the humanities. Instead, the Research and Inquiry Class should be allowed to substitute for the senior thesis, as that is the generally accepted practice at college. This approach would give the science students the best preparation for the future without giving them a ridiculous amount of work.

The counter argument I have heard to this idea is that people shouldn’t take the research class. To respond to this objection, we should see that there is an inherent bias towards the humanities in this statement. I want to major in physics and applied to many science schools to which a research project is almost a requirement to getting in. To be considered a serious applicant, research is basically mandatory. I also know I speak for myself and many other science students when I say research is my passion. It seems a little bit unfair that Bancroft makes it so hard for me to do that while it is quite easy for humanities students to pursue their research passions. For an English major, it is pretty easy to avoid science classes senior year and have only one research project. Clearly, under the Bancroft curriculum, there is an advantage to choose to specialize in humanities subject areas, and a definite disadvantage to choosing a science path.

I know that Bancroft is already supporting many STEM subjects and initiatives here. I also think that it is fair to say that there should be a balance in the curriculum such that every student learns good writing skills and becomes well versed in great works of art, literature and history.  However, I strongly believe that we can get this strong background without having to go through the senior thesis. At this point, I feel like the thesis is forcing me to choose between it and the science fair, no matter how well I manage my time. That is definitely a choice that I neither want to make, nor should be forced to make.

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