Breathe Easy, You've Found Me ((HUGS))

People will wonder why this blog is needed, why minority midwifery student? It's very simple actually; I was looking for this blog...but I couldn't find I created it. We all have unique experiences, and every experience, every story, can help someone else. I am a black girl from the hood at an ivy league professional school. That, alone, is reason enough to write. Somebody was looking for this blog. Someone wanted proof that what I'm doing can be done - even when you come from where we come from.

To that person especially, WELCOME.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On Writing a Thesis in Midwifery School

I had another interview this morning. I was encouraged by hearing this student's experiences in her program. She has faced a lot during her midwifery education but continues to push forward... quite amazingly. I can't wait to transcribe this interview and see it in print.

I don't write much about the process of writing a thesis. I had initially intended to write about it regularly so that people could see what the process (or at least my process) looks like. But I guess because I'm writing it while also taking a full course load (unlike how it is normally done in the humanities wherein you usually set out to write it after all of your classes are done and you can give it your full attention) and because it seems like a boring process, I haven't been writing about it at all. Collecting the data (interviewing) isn't boring- that's the exciting part, but writing down the methods and analyzing the process is all a little dry to me right now. However, I think it's really important for people who are considering taking on the task to have an idea of how it works, so I will start to write about it a little bit here.

First, in the beginning...

At our school, no one has to do a thesis. Everyone has to do something, but it does not have to be a thesis. You can do a literature review... a term paper... an artistic piece, etc. Actually, few students actually do a real thesis. I decided to do a thesis because I'm going to get a PhD after this and I didn't want to apply for a program without a thesis under my belt... I think it proves something. And for the last few weeks, I have been thinking that another plus to doing a thesis is that it may be easier to convince a program to let me do a secondary analysis for my dissertation since I have already learned/been through the whole primary data collection scenario. Also, I simply couldn't imagine leaving this institution without a hardbound thesis... I mean this is a research institution! How dare I not take full advantage?!?

So, I'm writing a thesis. The topic was a no brainer for me... I never found much about the experiences of black midwifery students, and according to my own experience I knew we had a story that needed to be told. Now, if I were just one year later coming into this program, my thesis could not have been done... the new rule is that you can only do a thesis that is a branch of a faculty member's larger ongoing research project. I take issue with that, but it doesn't affect me, so whatever! I'll let the next class fight the battle for why they can only research the stuff that's important to their professors... with very few faculty of color, there are bound to be some things (ie my topic) that no one is currently researching! I hope they find some topics that are at least close enough.

So you pick a topic, and a project type (thesis), and then you look for a (thesis) advisor. At my school, there isn't a whole committee, only one advisor. This is great because the fewer people who read it while it's being written, the fewer people you have critiquing it = the fewer changes you have to compromise on making. I suggest you look for an advisor as soon as you have an inkling of a topic. Don't wait to the last minute... each faculty member can only advise so many students, and you don't want to be stuck with whoever happens to be left. You can pick an advisor based on on many things:

  • 1) Topic match. You choose this person because they've researched something similar to your topic and will have a lot of info to share with you which will cut down on your leg work. They will be able to point you to seminal texts and authors which will save you precious time. You know they'll have passion for your topic because it is what they've decided to spend their career thinking/talking/writing about.
  • 2) Methodology match. This person may not know anything about your topic, but they might know a whole lot about the methodology you're using. For example, I'm doing qualitative work, specifically, interviewing people. It doesn't matter what I'm interviewing them about, what matters is that my advisor has spent years working with this type of methodology. So she knows how to conduct it, how to analyze it, and how to write it up. In this case, it isn't about the topic, it's about the method. (This is what I chose... and I had to make sure that she believed in my topic... I have no time to convince people that our voices are worth hearing... not right now!)
  • 3) Personality/needs match. This happens when the advisor is just a good advisor, period. It doesn't matter the topic or methodology, she knows how to get you through your project smoothly, and on time, based on her ability to motivate you and point you in the right direction. If you're a procrastinator you may choose someone who has very rigid deadlines who's going to push you to the finish line. If you're very hard on yourself/perfectionist, you may need little direction but choose someone who's a little more laid back and who encourages you that "yes, that chapter is complete, move on to the next one!"
The most important thing is that you finish the project. Yes, quality is important. But in a program where a thesis wasn't even required, and they make you write it with up to seven classes going on at the same time... quality is going to be subjective, ya know?

So the next step, for me, was a review of the literature. Go here to read all about that process. I suggest that you keep an annotated bib along the way, otherwise you'll be frustrated by not remembering if you've read stuff, or forgetting the point of what you read, or forgetting why you thought it was good in the first place!

So that's it for now. Next time I write about it, I'll be talking about the IRB process.

In other news, I've been studying for my midwifery midterm. It's a lot of information of course. I feel like I have a good handle on VBAC, shoulder dystocia, active management of labor, and antepartum bleeding. That leaves a lot left uncovered! I have study group from 6pm to midnight tonight... what a long night I'm in for.

I went to see The Secret Life of Bees yesterday. I was so distracted by the darkening makeup they used on Alicia Keys. Ugh. We come in maaaaaaany shades, why did they feel the need to darken her skin so much?!?

I'm going to see The Duchess today for my midday study break, hope I love it!


Anonymous said...

Glad to have seen your blog in my google alerts today! I think you have a great topic, and I applaud you for addressing the issue of underrepresentation in midwifery... and how it is often a barrier to quality non-interventive care.

I understand your frustration that research must fall under the advisor's research umbrella. On the other hand it ensures that they are well-versed in the independent research topic, and it supplements their research needs/goals as well. I myself don't get any teaching (faculty load) credit for guiding independent research or special topics...wonder if that's part of the problem where you are.

Best of luck to you, and I look forward to following your journey!

~ Kimberly

Loving Pecola said...

I think you're right about one of the many reasons they have changed protocol... I sympathize with nursing faculty everywhere; I feel they are overworked and underpaid. Another reason I think they've made this change is because I read somewhere that a thesis is not supposed to be used to discover completely new information- that is the work of a dissertation... yet, we have a lot of Downs' Fellows students at my school and wonder how this will affect that as well... this is a school full of "innovative" thinkers... and I think a lot of people agree to pay the price to come here because they know they will be free to research to their heart's content (I know I did :o) so I also wonder about that. But, honestly, with the ever increasing number of classes/credits required, fewer and fewer students want to take on such large projects anymore anyway. I don't sense any uprising coming, lol.

Thanks for stopping by, are you a midwife?

Ciarin said...

Hang in there girl! I think your are doing awesome things.

I plan to start my PhD in Naturopathy next year and will have to do a thesis...grrr...I'm so not a research kinda girl.