Not Writing a Thesis


So, last week in my blog post I talked about the decision to go back to get my MBA, in this post I’m going to write about how I FINISHED the process!

In my MBA program at SDSU we had the option of writing a thesis or partaking in a business consulting project coupled with an exam. Affectionately known as BA795, I chose to participate in the business consulting capstone project. My decision was partially based on:

  1. Unless you plan on going into academia, a thesis is seen as somewhat worthless to many in the business community.
  2. Hiring managers like to see “results,” a project was more likely to give me that over a theoretical research paper.
  3. I like to give my opinions (one reason a blog is a fantastic option for me) – I like it even better when people listen!
  4. I one day would love to pursue a career as a marketing consultant and this was a nice mini-start.

For BA795 all participants were given a list of participating companies and the help they needed. The companies and projects ranged from huge hotel corporations needing a diversified marketing strategy to start-ups needing to know if their idea would pan out in the marketplace.  Each member of the upcoming graduating class ranked which project they would like to participate in, we were then assigned a group and a company to consult with.

So, here lies the crux of the situation. As groups were announced we all sat around like elementary school kids getting picked for dodge ball, “Will I getting picked for the ‘cool’ project?” “Will my group be a bunch of slackers?”

Typical

It’s the risk you take when you opt in for a group project rather than a solo thesis!

I ended up being assigned to a client that needed help with developing a branding/rebranding analysis along with three other MBA candidates. I knew one of the girls, Kari, personally and as much as I hate to admit this to her I knew she would make a fantastic group member 😉 (I have to keep up the teasing relationship we developed – Kari is actually one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I have had the pleasure of working with).  I had not had the pleasure of working with Adam and Melissa in my MBA career but I am SOOOOO glad they were my other group members! The four of us never had any issues with each other and everyone produced spectacular work ON TIME!

Once we jumped through some hoops and touchy issues with our two assigned advisers (who I still refuse to accept we needed) we were on a roll. Unlike other groups that had issues with difficult clients, our client was FANTASTIC! We met with a representative for our client’s organization who was understanding, compassionate of our time restrictions, incredibly accessible to any questions that arose, and warned us up front that even if our suggestions were not acted upon they were appreciated – dare I say it, they were the perfect client we’ll probably never see again in our consulting careers.

On the client side, I believe most of the companies came out of the experience with applicable real-world direction and information they could use to enhance their business – at a great cost! I reached out to our client representative to see why they considered coming to SDSU MBA’s for help: “I went with the SDSU MBA student consultant group not only because I was familiar with the program as a past participant, but also because I would get a fresh perspective and analysis based on techniques and applications the group had learned during their time in the MBA program. I’ve found the group’s final product to be a great road map and guideline to what the tribal development can be.”

Basically, our group was able to help our client with a fresh perspective and apply the education we had received. Along with our 200+ page report (that cost about $100,000,000,000 to print at Kinkos) we left this experience with applied knowledge and a group bond that we still have (even if these guys blew me off for happy hour this week 😉 ).

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Writing a Thesis


Not all master’s programs require writing a thesis. In the Mass Communication and Media Studies program at San Diego State I was given a choice between writing a thesis and taking comprehensive exams. Most people choose comprehensive exams for various reasons, but a big part of it is that the commitment isn’t as long term. Yes, they are very intense and require studying for weeks, but a thesis is a more drawn-out process that can take a year or more of dedication. Despite this, I chose the thesis route. That choice is not for everyone, but based on my personal goals, made more sense. Here’s why:

  1. I had an area of research that I wanted to explore and become an “expert” in. For comprehensive exams you must have a solid understanding of a wide variety of topics. For a thesis, you choose one topic and dig deeper… and deeper…and deeper.
  2. I would like to pursue a Ph.D. at some point. Most doctoral programs want to see that a candidate has done their own research and has what it takes to see a project through from start to finish.
  3. Writing a thesis is part of the grad school experience that I wanted. I wanted to add to the body of knowledge in PR and have something that I could take with me forever.

Knowing I made the right decision about writing a thesis didn’t make the process easier. In fact, there were times where I was so overwhelmed I didn’t think I would ever get to where I am now (very close to done). It does NOT have to be that way though. If you’re writing a thesis, here are some tips that might help you out:

Faculty, students and alumni representing SDSU at the International Public Relations Research Conference where I presented my thesis as research in progress.

  1. Buy a book on thesis or dissertation writing and read it. Demystifying Dissertation Writing by Peg Single is a book my friend, Navy Cmdr. K.C. Marshall, bought for me and I should have read it cover to cover BEFORE starting my writing process. It is full of great tips about establishing a writing space, writing partner, routine and overcoming the many forms of writer’s block.
  2. Talk about your challenges! This is definitely discussed in Single’s book, but I still want to call this one out separately. Writing a thesis can feel isolating. It is by far the biggest project you have ever done and you are doing it by yourself. My thesis became a source of anxiety for me and it took me too long to speak up about it to my adviser. I eventually did and felt much better after venting. Maybe your adviser will be the best person to talk to or maybe you’d feel more comfortable with someone else. Talk to colleagues also writing a thesis or see a school therapist. Your university has resources to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. Use them!
  3. Think beyond “getting it done”. Of course you want to graduate, but if you look into conference and publication opportunities for your research, it will be far more rewarding.

Have any of you written a thesis? Any advice I’m missing?