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?

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Grad School for PR


Since a graduate degree is not required to have a successful career in PR, I have had many people call my education “pointless”, a “waste of time”, and a “waste of money”…and that’s what they say to my face! So, I feel that it is necessary to share a different perspective on the

Me with my buddies, Eric and Erika, at graduation.

topic.

First of all, it is true that grad school won’t help you pitch media, write press releases, create media lists, write web copy or draft tweets. Those are all things that entry-level practitioners should know after a Bachelor’s degree or their first internship. So, what are things that grad school WILL do? (Disclaimer: I am in no way saying that people that don’t go to grad school can’t develop any of these skills, I am simply saying these are areas that grad school can help you grow.)

  1. Improve your critical thinking skills. Grad school teaches you how to think in a different way. This is something I use from my education every single day without realizing it. In grad school you are expected to analyze complex situations, form opinions and defend them.
  2. Increase your knowledge of mass communication theory.  This is one that is often called “pointless”, but I disagree. Knowing the theoretical basis of what you do can help you make decisions about new situations as well as help you explain to your clients WHY you do what you do.
  3. Help you understand research and its application. Grad school is a great place to improve your research skills both to inform your strategies and evaluate them.
  4. Broaden your career opportunities. Interested in academia or applied research? Not everyone is, but if you are, grad school will help you get there.

Choosing to go to grad school is not for everyone and even after you make that decision, choosing the right program is very important. I personally have had a great experience at SDSU and would never consider any learning experience “pointless”. PRSA San Diego’s featured member of July also attended my program, for what he said about it, look at question five.

What are your opinions on grad school for industries where an advanced degree is not required?

Also, keep an eye out later this week for Blake’s thoughts on getting an MBA!