• Bertrand

Thesis Retrospective

To all my hordes of loyal fans out there who can't get enough of me talking about independence referendums: I have some bad news. The thesis has ended, and so has my self-imposed obligation to write about independence referendums. But before moving onto other topics, I wanted to write one last post about my experience writing the thesis.

Overall I had a great experience writing this paper and I would recommend all undergraduates do a thesis at some point. Especially if they think they might want to continue onto graduate school. I'm planning on applying for political science PhD programs later this year. So this thesis has served as a good taste of what I think I will end up doing once I (hopefully) get in. Taking on such a large project like this has definitely improved my overall writing skills. It was also terrific working one-on-one with an adviser who gave me so much guidance and was not afraid to challenge my dumber ideas. When I finished my thesis I also felt such a strong sense of personal accomplishment. It was worth doing it for that feeling alone.

The final product came out to 68 pages and about 20,000 words. Most of the writing itself was not particularly arduous, despite the fact that I didn't make any sort of detailed outline before I started. I knew that basically I wanted a chapter for an Introduction, Theory/Hypothesis/Argument, 2-3 Case Studies, Quantitative (Data) Analysis, and a Conclusion, and so I just filled the sections in from there.

The hardest part, by far, was the Hypothesis section. There I had to do my best to come up with coherent and original arguments. It took many hours of reading, thinking, and staring at a blank Word document to come up with these. Unfortunately, the hypotheses formed the basis for all other sections—so I wanted to have them complete before moving on. For example, I analyzed both of my case studies and my data section based on whether the outcomes fit the predictions made by the hypotheses. During mid-to-late February I hit my biggest roadblock with this issue. But once I finally powered over it and got my four hypotheses broadly how I liked them, the rest of the chapters came together easily.

My biggest regret looking back (besides accidentally putting gleam instead of glean once) was an incomplete quantitative analysis chapter. The final paper includes four logit regressions, which I feel I adequately explained in my discussion section of that chapter. But there is a lot more I could have done. There were more sophisticated statistical models I could have used to do a more thorough job, and I regret not including a section on the flaws associated with the models I ended up choosing. Part of this was due to time constraints. I used STATA for my regressions and it was extremely tedious getting the results from there into tables that a normal human could read. I was also somewhat intimidated by the unfamiliar statistical techniques my adviser and other professors were suggesting I use. I'm working on fixing this math deficiency as I get ready to apply for graduate programs later this year.

I'm not sure I can stomach writing another paragraph on independence referendums at the moment so I'll cut things off here. If you're interested, you can check out my finished thesis in a link on the homepage of my site!

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