December 9, 2008 In the psychology department, each student submits a senior project proposal at the end of his/her junior year. Students meet with professors to talk through project ideas, and then tentatively describe what they'll be looking at in a proposal. Everyone is assigned to a professor and put in thesis groups. We meet once a week, like a class, and talk through everyone's progress and ideas. Most of the people in my group are working on the subjects of adjustment to college or ADHD.
There are only eight of us, and most of us have gotten to know each other through our four years of Hamilton and ten required psychology classes. It was a little intimidating at first to take other people's ideas and critique them, but we've all realized how valuable the feedback is, and it's great to get another perspective on your work. My professor has been great for that - I'm pretty sure her patience is infinite for all the work we've given her to look over.
I think one of the things I've really appreciated about our thesis group is the structure. We're given more free range in our projects to investigate what we want, but we still manage to (metaphorically) stay on the same page with small due dates throughout the semester. I really don't know how I'd manage to get from point A (nothing) to point B (half my thesis) this semester without having some guidelines.
As I've said before, my thesis is about Adirondack Adventure. I'm looking at how the program impacts first-year students' adjustment to college. The way psychology papers work is that you start with an introduction, which is essentially a literature review of all the past research. It's usually about half of the paper, because you have to summarize the history of the subject, what everyone else has done, and what you're going to do. The introduction is followed by the methods section, which describes how you're going to conduct your research - who your participants will be, the procedure, and what kind of materials you'll use. That is followed by the results section, detailing the statistics of what you found. Lastly, you have the discussion, which ties in what you found with what anyone else has ever found, how it ties in to the real world, what could have gone better, and what you would do next if you had the chance to do more.
All in all it seems like a huge undertaking, but breaking the whole thing into chunks has worked well, and I'm excited to see what kind of results I get. I'm looking forward to reporting back to the college and giving them more information on Adirondack Adventure, which has had a huge effect on me throughout my time at Hamilton.