One of the major requirements of my graduate program is a 25-page critical paper. My teacher approved my topic, but pointed out I couldn’t write my paper yet because I didn’t have a thesis. She said the theses I kept proposing stated the obvious. She wanted me to push myself further.
Discovering my thesis required me to expand my mind and play with possibility. It took about two months of scouring library shelves and Google Scholar for resources outside my discipline. I needed the context of psychology, social movements, and history to better understand my topic. And I devoted a lot of time simply thinking about what I’d read. The search felt like finding my way through a dark labyrinth holding only a tiny thread. Sometimes I lost the thread and had to retrace my steps to find it again.
Along the way, I reached out to colleagues and friends in my program. Finally, a friend shared a resource that helped me realize what my teacher had been trying to share all along: writing a paper is not about proving what you know, but about contributing something meaningful to the conversation. This is particularly true at the graduate level, but it’s something I wish I’d learned to practice earlier on.
Eventually, I was able to draw out what it was about my topic that I believed to be true and important. Although at times I felt lost during the journey, it turned out all the research I’d compiled helped me write with authority and confidence. Finding my thesis felt like coming out of the labyrinth and into the light.
Graduate Assistant – Virtual Writing Center