Seniors Reflect on Their Thesis Experiences

As thesis deadlines rapidly approach, Harvard seniors reflected on the intellectual challenges associated with tackling massive projects and the struggle to balance regular coursework and writing.

Megan M. Monteleone ’16, whose thesis focuses on the role culture plays in economic development for indigenous peoples in Ecuador, said her main “burden” has been managing additional classwork.

“As a Social Studies concentrator, I’m required to write a thesis, but it’s been a really enjoyable experience,” she said. “I just wish I didn’t have to put my writing on hold at times, but I have to since I have other classwork to finish.”

The thesis process can be difficult for a variety of reasons. Lisette A. Candia Diaz ’16 said she had relatively few secondary sources to complement her own research.

“I’m writing about immigration status changes within families. It was really hard finding previous academic research on my topic, because it has to do with President Obama’s executive action on immigration he initiated in 2012,” she said. “Since the topic is so recent, there has not been much research done on it, especially in terms of the family unit.”


For some, the thesis writing experience has provided an opportunity to form closer connections with advisers and peers alike.

John Y. C. Wang ’16 said he found an unexpected “new home” because of his thesis.

“I am in a suite of six people, and we all have our own singles. But four of us moved into the common room, so we can write our theses together,” he said.

Henry J. Li ’16, a joint concentrator in East Asian Studies and History and Literature, said he developed a deeper bond with his thesis adviser.

“My adviser and I have always been very close and I think we’ve gotten a lot closer during this time,” he said. “I’m glad I got to build this wonderful relationship with someone who truly cares about my writing.”

Caitlin T. Begg ’16 said her thesis experience took her to college campuses across the country.

“I ended up surveying over 1,000 students from across the country,” she said. “Fifty percent of my data comes from Harvard, but a large chunk comes from the University of Pennsylvania... the rest is from about a hundred other schools.”

After turning in her thesis on Monday, English concentrator Dianisbeth M. Acquie ’16 said, as did most others, that she was relieved to be done.

“I was so happy and excited to be finished. I’m really glad it’s over,” she said.