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Reasons To Do A Thesis

08 June 2015

As our field is evolving into a more evidence-based discipline, universities are pushing for a more research-reliant curriculum. Students are required to read more scholarly articles and take classes on how to read research. With this piled on top of classes (and in the case of graduate school, clinic), why would a student opt to do an independent study or a full-on thesis?

Here are just a few things I have gained from writing an undergraduate thesis:
(You can check out my thesis here!)

-Gain confidence and public speaking abilities:
Despite being in a more people-focused field, I'm actually on the introverted side of things (but I do love being with people, promise!). By doing a thesis I learned to gain confidence in myself, in asking questions, bouncing ideas off of others and presenting in front of others. In fact, my thesis advisor encouraged me to ask questions on items I didn't understand in the research, which helped realize that it's okay not to know everything at first, and that over time you will be able to synthesize everything!
Why is this important? As a clinician, you will need to be able to describe things to a variety of people who fit along a spectrum of knowledge on the subject. It's also beneficial knowing that it's okay not knowing the answer to certain items clients and coworkers might ask... you just have to consult other sources!

-Realize you know more than you think when responding to questions:
You can never be quite sure of what you know until you have to explain your rationale. My thesis advisor made sure I knew the fundamentals and then explained new things to me. This provided me with the basis of being able to think things through when I had the question portion of my defense and when I explained my research to others. I also understood how other research I read related to what I studied and how those studies explained what was occurring in my research as well.
Why is this important? You can synthesize information from multiple sources and understand how these results can affect or relate to your client. 

-More knowledge in a specific area: 
Not sure what part of SLP or AuD you enjoy most? Or do you just want to learn more about a specific subfield? This is a great way to do that. You don't have to do a full-blown experiment; in fact,  you can do a small independent study that reviews current literature or even a survey to learn about something specific. Or, if you want to do an experiment, you can ask a professor for ideas or do an off-shoot of what he/she is researching (in fact, that's usually how things go. Most don't do their own experiement until the Master's or PhD level. So no pressure!)
Why is this important? Knowing how to read research is a good skill. By doing an independent study or thesis you will also gain more insight into a specific population, which you can use when treating clients with that disorder. It might also help you get a leg up against other people applying for a job if the place of employment focuses on that population! (ie. a thesis on pediatric dysphagia might be seen as very beneficial when applying to a pediatric outpatient clinic)

-Build writing and research skills:
Writing papers, literature reviews, reading other research, running subjects, etc ...all of these skills will improve in the process.
Why is this important? This will help you know how to critically read literature in the future so that you have up-to-date and reliable research for treating clients. You'll also learn how to write in a more professional and concise manner.

Have any questions on doing an undergraduate thesis or working in a lab? Feel free to contact me! You can also read my thesis here!