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Writing at last

I have eight pages so far, all part of the Introduction, which is normally the last thing people write. I was going to start with the middle, but it turned out to be easier to start with the overview. People normally start with the body, get down all the information that they know, write out their analysis and then decide how to summarize it for the intro.  It turns out that I know what I plan to say and writing the introduction was a way for me to finally get everything in order and decide how I want to focus my writing. Now I have to do the rest of it, which I’m not looking forward to since it’s just going to be so much writing, so much information.

Morbid Dispute

river view woods

A couple weeks ago, my roommate and I got into an argument over how morbid/strange my research topic is. I think this was in part brought on by my complaints of “Oh my God I don’t care about arrow heads or the stupid trash pits! Where are the bodies?”

Finding dead dogs can be difficult and I spent weeks looking through old records for them. I would tell her about other ridiculous things I found while looking, like the pages and pages of drawings of projectile points that somebody, somewhere, finds fascinating. But after a few too many demands for dead things to materialize on the pages before me, she told me that it sounded a bit strange. I mean, it was weird, wasn’t it, that I wanted to find dead people and their dead pets. At least she, with her more normal choice of topic was working with pottery and not ‘studying dead people.’ To which I replied that if she called herself an archaeologist, she was studying dead people.

Anthropology is the study of people; that’s about the only thing anthropologists can agree on, that people are a focus of their work. To be an anthropological archaeologist, and ‘not just one of those classics people,’ you have to look at what the objects left behind say about the people who made and used them. And so, by studying pottery she was studying dead people just as much as I was. Unless of course she decided to claim that the pots formed, baked and broke themselves.

dog

I can be indecisive to the point of making other people help me pick what to order from menus or throwing my hands up and pleading ignorance when it comes time to choose a restaurant. But when I know what I want, I really know. I’ve known since I was eight or so that I wanted to become and archaeologist. In spite of my family’s best efforts and their many sleepless nights that’s still my intended career.

Originally I didn’t want to do an honors thesis. Senior year is supposed to be fun and less stressful, right? But then I saw the dog burial. I was working on my internship, analyzing ceramics and pulling together information from different sources for a report. I noticed that there was a dog burial on the site I was dealing with and asked my advisor. He told me that there were a bunch of them in the area, that no one had really worked with them and that he had no idea what it meant. I wanted to learn more, so I did some background research and had trouble finding anything relevant. I realized it would take a lot more work to figure out what was going on and that a thesis would be the perfect excuse for doing all that research.

I went to my advisor and asked him about honors theses. He’s the kind of person who always had a thousand things on his mind at the same time. Right there he spouted off a bunch of outlines of possible theses. I have a feeling that most professors have some secret file ferreted away that’s filled with their ideas for different research topics they would like to see some unwitting undergrad slave away at for a few months. I smiled and nodded, looked thoughtful and said ‘uh-huh’ a lot. Then I told him what I wanted to do. That’s not to say I wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying, I was. And I could see the value in that course of research. I just wanted to do something else.

He seemed a bit surprised, but thought it over and said that there was probably enough for me to do a thesis on. So I had a topic and my professor’s support, the next step was doing more background research and writing a proposal to convince the Anthropology department that I had enough to write a worthwhile paper.

Starting Up

So…
Starting things can be difficult. I know I usually have trouble knowing just where to begin. That goes for this blog as well.
We’re supposed to track the research process as we go along, unfortunately I’m already rather far in. So, I’m going to have to make some stuff up, because I don’t quite remember just what I did, or how I got certain ideas.

My mom hassled me a bit after freshman year; she told me I wasn’t doing enough at school besides classes and that I’d better find something else to spend time on than hanging out with friends. She was right , as I told her repeatedly in order to get her off the phone, and I’d had the idea to see if there were any internships available in anthropology, since I already knew that’s what I wanted to major in. I also knew that I wanted to be an archaeologist, and that made things easy. There are four archaeologists in the anthropology department, not counting those who work for CW and teach some classes. I went to the one who’d taught my Intro to Archaeology class and asked 1. would he be my adviser 2. did he have any idea where I could do an internship that semester.

Luckily, the answer to both was ‘yes.’

It’s a good idea when looking for an adviser not just to make sure the professor works with what you’re interested in but also that s/he is someone you get along with. If you get along with your advisor you can pop in to ask questions on everything from what classes to take, to finding internships or grad schools. Thankfully mine has the patience to put up with all three subjects and more. Your advisor is also normally the source of research, whether they have their own projects going or know someone working on something you’d be interested in. Of course people also seek out research separately if they have other interests, but that can be a lot more work.