1. You can NEVER do enough research
No matter how obscure your topic is, there are countless articles, books, and narratives on the matter. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as original thought; anything *I* can think of, someone who is much smarter, more researched, and more ambitious has also thought of.
And they’ve probably written a book about it… So I should read that book. Because, you know, the more research the better. Next thing I know, I’m buried under a pile of 15 books on ‘religion in Japan.’ I can’t stop because each book has something new and unique to offer.
This is the curse of a graduation thesis. You want it to be a perfect analysis of the situation, so you don’t want to start writing it until you are finished with the research. But here’s the thing: You can never do enough research.
Two days before I turned in my first capstone paper, a nice 65 page explanation of sex trafficking and hostesses in Tokyo, my advisor was still sending me books to read, articles to analyze, and subjects to explore. In fact, the morning I turned in my paper, my advisor sent me an article with the note “have you thought about this author’s notes on S&M clubs in Tokyo?”
I was like “No, no I haven’t. And no I won’t.” Then I printed off my capstone, slipped it under his door, and ran back to my dorm and hid from my internet/email for the next couple days, in case he wanted me to change something.
You can never do enough research.
2. It’s supposed to be an accumulation of everything you’ve learned as a student
Talk about pressure.
3. Citations are a b*tch
Anyone who has written an extensive research paper knows what I am talking about. In my East Asian Studies Capstone about hostesses and sex trafficking in Tokyo, I had 71 sources. In my Political Philosophy Capstone on religious extremist groups (like the Aum Shinrikyo) in Japan, I used 56 sources.
My room is filled with stacks of books, printed PDFs, and sloppy notes. The worst feeling in the world is that moment when I KNEW I had read something on the subject, but couldn’t remember which of the seven books on my desk has the information.
Citations are a little b*tch
4. Your Graduation Thesis is probably the longest thing you’ve ever written
Do you even know how to write anything longer than 10 pages? Because five 10 page papers is a completely different boat than a fifty page paper.
5. Proof-reading can (and will) take an entire day
When friends ask me to proof-read their papers, I always say “no.” Not because I don’t like them, but because I don’t like reading dry academic papers any more than I like writing them.
And reading your own dry, academic research paper? That’s the worst.
The editing and proof-reading process took three days for each paper because each time I read through the “final” draft, I had to make some major additions. And I could only read the graduation thesis two or three times a day before I wanted to curl up into my bed and cry while watching the Mentalist, eating chocolate, and despairing over the fact that I write very boring and nonsensical papers.
I hate proof-reading
6. You might lose entire sections in the editing process
As much as I complain about writing my capstone(s), I actually had fun writing some of the parts. One of my favorite was a short-ish, 3,000 word section on the four stages religion goes through in Japan with relation to the media. Not to toot my own horn, but it was beautifully written, thoughtful, and had several “real life” examples.
But three weeks later, when I was doing some of the first edits for my thesis, I noticed it didn’t quite fit. So I cut it down to 2,200 words and stuck it between two sections. It STILL didn’t fit.
I was complaining to my fiance, Ryosuke, about it later. “Just cut that part out,” he suggested.
“NO!” I argued,” It’s too pretty. I worked too hard on it!”
I know the final result is all that matters, but gosh darnit, I worked so hard on that section!
EDIT: Before I turned in the capstone, I took that section out :(
7. You’re doing all that work for ONE person to read (who may or may not be watching Judge Judy and drinking cheap whisky while grading your paper)
I blog (surprise!). And for some reason, people (sometimes) read what I write. So when I have to put off blogging (which I like) for writing a very dry, non-sarcastic thesis with charts, quotes, citations, and a formalized outline (which I don’t like), I’m not happy.
Let me repeat:
- I blog four times a week.
- I also get about 2,000 – 3,000 pageviews and 1-3 comments a day.
- Each post is 500 ~ 1,000 words of short, sarcastic, and random writing that takes about an hour and a half to complete.
- I also get to use cute pictures.
- I worked on my Capstone four times a week for four months (technically I had to write two separate capstones since I’m one of those stupid double-majors).
- I wrote about 38,000 words.
- I kept about 33,000 words.
- I was not allowed to use cute pictures or sarcasm.
- I had to cite everything I wrote.
- A total of one person will read each capstone.
- The only feedback I will get is a letter grade.
Hands down, I would rather write 42 short blog posts than 38,000 words of a research paper.
8. Your Capstone is the FINAL showcase of you, as a student
Great, you’ve just spend tens of thousands of dollars in college because that’s supposed to “make you smarter.” Or maybe you’re lucky and got some great scholarships, so the only thing you paid was four years of your life. Which, you know, is still a lot. Considering the fact that most college graduates are around 22 years old, you just spent between 1/5 and 1/6 of your life becoming a better equipped individual.
A capstone is your chance to prove to the world that you did, in fact, becoming a “better person,” rather than wasting four years pursuing a degree in “East Asian Studies” so you can move back home and work a minimum wage job for the next ten years (I am an East Asian Studies major working a minimum wage job – I’m not hating on anyone).
That’s a lot of pressure for one paper that may or may not be written in the course of three stressful, alcohol-induced, and sleep deprived weeks.
9. Once you’re finished… you’re done…
It’s human nature to sabotage your own happiness. And even if it wasn’t, think about it. Your capstone / graduation thesis is, by definition, the last thing you will every write as a student. Once you turn it in, you’re kind of not a student anymore (emotionally. Physically you’re still a student until you get that pesky piece of paper).
Are you ready to be out there in the “real world?”
Because I’m not.
In the back of my mind, I knew that as soon as I turned in my capstone, I am no longer a student. In the next month, I’m getting married and moving to Japan with my new husband. And let me tell you, emotions aside, my bank account is not ready for that transition.
Transitions are scary.
Even if it is something you want 100%, it’s scary. It would be so much “easier” to just live forever in that college bubble where bills, jobs, and expectations can’t reach you.
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