Finishing a Master’s Thesis

When I was a graduate student, I focused on the now and what was needed each day to feel that I was one step up the ladder.

So many times, we look at a certain task or project, and we are overwhelmed by the amount of work we need to put into it.  What has worked for me is that I break a project into pieces that are manageable.

I also find that the more you are passionate about a project, the more effort you are willing to put into it.  For my master’s thesis, I chose to write about the pattern of gender role inversion in James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.  I love watching classic films.  Double Indemnity is one of my favorite movies.  Another reason why I am attracted to these books and films is that they have powerful female characters.

Establishing short-term goals is a must when writing a literary thesis.  Having a specific task assigned to a particular day helped keep my mind organized and productive.  For example, on a certain day, I worked on one of the novels.  Selecting a chapter and a set of quotes that were essential to defending my thesis statement was a major step.  I dedicated myself towards writing notes and reflecting on these quotes.  These thoughts would lead to concise and comprehensible paragraphs that would turn into pages.  Ideally, I would write about two to three pages, which I would aim at accomplishing within the time span of four to five hours.  On a good day, I sometimes surpassed my ambitions and wrote five pages.  My good days consisted of a lot of passion and enthusiasm.  Somehow, the words would flow out of my mind and onto my computer screen.  When this type of inspiration dominated me, it was vital for me to take advantage of it and write.  These rare days would lead to restful nights.  Dedication is one of the keys to any positive outcome.

Since writing a thesis is not a simple assignment, I needed guidance.  Thankfully, one of the requirements is to have a thesis adviser.  Every minor detail of my drafts was reviewed and the criticism, although, constructive was excruciating.  There were occasions when I had to re-write a whole paragraph and this was just the introduction.  In another instance, it was an entire chapter on the films.  I am a literary analyst, and I did not have much experience in studying film so what I presented to my adviser did not meet his expectations.  I went to my writing tutor for advice, and she suggested that I look at each frame of film as if it were a piece from a novel.  I had to reflect on the lighting, the camera angles, and the facial expressions.  At that moment, it made sense, and I rushed home and wrote until I got it right.  The next time I showed her my chapter, she was thrilled to see that I had understood and delivered what was needed.  Re-writing was frustrating to the point of tears, but it ultimately taught me perseverance.

I had a deep trust in myself and in my work.  I knew what I wanted, and although questions about my ability to reach my ultimate goal would arise, deep down I had faith that things would turn out alright.  I have doubts on many things but in what I have complete certainty is that hard work and determination will always lead to success.  I will always value the road that led me to a Master’s Degree in Humanities.  The experience taught me dedication, perseverance, and trust.

-Stephanie Sandoval


Photograph by Natalie Collins (



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