When I was first being introduced to my new colleagues here at SuckyU, one introduced me to her thesis student (undergrad).
He wanted to do his thesis on X in the region. Think,
To show interest and because I am sort of a nice strawberry, the first thing out of my mouth was a supportive “wow, how interesting.”
Colleague says: “But he didn’t do that.”
Strawberries says, “oh why not?” I has just begun to warm up to the idea of blue houses. Maybe there was some significance or something. Plus, people may think my own research is like blue houses, so who am I to judge.
Colleague looks at me like I am a more than a bit weird. “Because he could never have finished the project, I mean that is like a doctoral dissertation.” Please shoot me if I ever advise anyone who wants to concentrate on Blue Houses for his/her PhD. Frankly, it seemed a bit easy to me. I mean count up all the blue houses in the region, which I am sure the data already exists, it's not like poor student has to actually travel to each blue house. And then write some sort of [boring] history on blue houses.
“So instead he did it on Blue Houses in the tri-city that were stolen.” (Now the stolen metaphor really doesn’t fit with Blue Houses, and goes better with say,
Sounds kind of boring to me. But anyway, that is not the point of this post.
What got me was the professor telling the student that he coudn't possibly do all blue houses in the region because it was impossible and that if he wanted, he could get his doctorate in Blue houses. Now, many times students are interested in something, say Gender, but they really can’t do a thesis on that. You have to focus it. But not just because of time restraints, but also because Gender is really broad. Blue Houses present in the region is not broad, just boring. So are stolen blue houses in the city if you’re keeping track. I was just surprised that this professor would say that this was not feasible when it seemed very feasible. I mean this kid had a year to do Blue Houses. Sure, stolen blue houses might be nominally more interesting than all blue houses, but couldn’t it have been a subsection of the thesis?
Which brings me to my final point/question. When do you tell a student that they will be unable to study X? Shouldn’t advisors rather explain that it might be a more in-depth project and it would be doable but hard rather than say outright, nope, you can't do it? There are times when advisors should discourage students from studying Y in favor of Ysub1 because it would be more feasible. Ok, if Y was lets say Education , and Ysub1 was Education of Women and how it has been defined by Z. But this was clearly not the case.
So now what? Student has produced one heck of a doorstop on stolen blue houses. Sure, even blue houses would have been a doorstop, but what is important here is the experience.
If someone told me I could not do it, I would not give up right away, and maybe ever. What sort of service are we doing to students who want to do something and are instead told they cannot?
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