With Deadlines Looming, Thesis Writers Ready for Relief

As a batch of thesis deadlines rapidly approaches in the days before spring break, seniors who have spent the past year or more researching, writing, and revising expressed relief that they were close to finishing what is often a student’s most massive academic undertaking and said they look forward to enjoying their last few months at the College.

While some concentrations such as Social Studies and History and Literature require students to write a thesis in order to complete their degrees, other departments like English and Economics do not mandate that students write a thesis but ask that students who seek highest honors at the College complete one.

Theses range from economic analyses to dramatic performances to scientific experiments, and for some students, the process of constructing and completing their thesis can begin early in their college careers as they seek out advisors, begin field research, and apply for grants.

While the students interviewed for this article said they viewed their theses as a fundamental and formative part of their Harvard experience, most said they were excited to finally submit their work.


Matthew S. Ackerman ’14, whose economics thesis is due Thursday, said after he submits his paper it will be “weird to be normal again.”

[I’ve] gone out only a couple of times this semester,” Ackerman said, adding that he has stayed up until 3 a.m. most nights for the past six weeks to finish his thesis. “I ask myself, is it fun enough to warrant me not working tonight? And usually that answer is a depressing no.”

Rebecca E. Handlin ’14, who submitted her creative English thesis on March 3, said she had planned her daily schedule around writing her thesis, which was composed of five original short stories.

I live in the quad, so I would wake up and write, and I would stay in the quad and revise,” Handlin said. “I would need to choose between staying in the quad all day or going to the river all day.”

Handlin said she is still adjusting to having free time now that she has submitted her thesis.

When you aren't working on the thesis, you are wondering, ‘Why am I not working on my thesis?’” she said.