The Druze Rebellion of 1925: A Clash between Imperialism and Nationalisms
Matt Mezger, History, 2013
Thesis Advisor: Professor Rachel Goshgarian
Q: When did you start thinking about your thesis?
A: I started thinking about my thesis project in latter half of the fall semester in my junior year. I had recently decided that I wanted to write an honors thesis so I started to think about what possible subjects I could write about. I talked with Professor Goshgarian, my thesis advisor, about what kinds of topics I could explore. By November, I knew that I wanted to write about the French involvement in the Middle East. By mid-spring semester, I decided to focus my thesis on the French Mandate of Lebanon and Syria. By summer, I was all set to get “officially” started on my project.
Q: How did you start tackling your thesis project at the very beginning?
A: I started tackling my project by reading a lot of secondary materials on the subject. By doing so, I familiarized myself with the top scholars on the subject, learned more about my topic, narrowed my topic to something more specific, and also identified potential primary sources.
Q: Did your advisor explain the structure of a thesis project to you?
A: Professor Goshgarian was very instrumental in explaining what the general nature of the thesis project was like. She was also able to provide me with key advice on how to break down the project into smaller parts in order to make the whole thing much more manageable. With her help, I was able to keep all of my thesis work organized and on pace and balance it with the rest of my course load.
Q: Did you have to do a literature review? Had you ever done one before?
A: Before my thesis project, I had never written a literature review. With the help of Professor Goshgarian though, this part of my project turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be. Professor Goshgarian recommended that as I read secondary sources, I write small paragraphs about each work explaining their arguments and their sources. This way, I had a small annotated bibliography with which I could successfully piece together my literature review. I found it especially helpful in understanding how the discussion of my topic among scholars has changed over time.
Q: Do you remember receiving correspondence from the library about your honors thesis?
A: Yes I did. I received a notice in late May about setting up a time to meet with a reference librarian as well as other important information for honors students. I did not realize all of the “perks” that came with being an honors student. The library allows honors students to keep their books for the entire academic year. Students can also ask the library to purchase important books that they will need for their thesis.
Q: What did you find most challenging about your thesis project?
A: The most challenging part of my thesis was finding primary sources. It’s challenging to find primary sources because they might be in archives which you may not be able to access. Luckily, I was able to find a lot of primary sources that were not archival material. The subject searches on WorldCat was very helpful. I found it also useful to search for memoirs or any other type of work that was written by the main historical agents of my topic.
Q: What did you find most rewarding about your thesis project?
A: The most rewarding part of my project was looking at the finished project. It was a great moment for me to step back and reflect on what I had accomplished. There were many times when I wanted to stop the project entirely. After seeing my final work, I was truly glad that I did not do that.
Q: What assistance did your advisor/department offer you throughout the course of the year?
A: My advisor was the “lynch pin” for my entire project. Professor Goshgarian played an instrumental part in helping me with my thesis. She helped steer me in the right directions for finding more information on my topic, write my thesis, and provide general support. She made sure that my thesis project did not overwhelm me, and that I was able to take some personal time, balance my project with my other courses, and take care of my law school applications.
Q: Did you meet with librarians in the course of conducting your research? How many times and at what stages of your research?
A: Yes. I met with Lijuan at least twice. It could have been more, but I don’t honestly remember. I met with her when I was just getting started with my project in the early part of summer and later while I was working on my project. Lijuan provided me with a solid foundation as to how to manage all of my source material and look for the most effective means to search for materials including primary sources. For any student who’s not familiar with the great resources that the library has to offer, I would especially recommend that they meet with a reference librarian.
Q: What other kind of support did you rely on throughout the year to accomplish your thesis (IT, parents, friends, etc.)?
A: One of the other things that I relied on for my thesis project was the support of my friends. One of the toughest parts of the project is finding the balance between everything else you have to do and your thesis. Having your friends around to support you is key to keeping your sanity. My friends were helpful in providing the pressure to keep me on course for my thesis when I wanted to throw in the towel and let me know when it was time for me to take a “breather.” I’m also thankful that I received a grant from the Academic Research Committee. Because of the grant, I was able to spend a week in Washington D.C. doing research in the Library of Congress.
Q: Were you able to get access to all of the research materials you wanted for your project?
A: In an ideal world, I would have loved to go to the archives in France. However, that was just not feasible for this project. Aside from that, I was able to find all of the sources that I needed through our own library, in the Library of Congress, and/or through the Interlibrary Loan system.
Q: Would you do anything differently if you went through the process again?
A: Truthfully, there is not much that I would have done differently. There is one thing I would do differently though. I would have taken better advantage of the interim session to work on my thesis in terms of writing it. I dedicated a lot of my time to do necessary research, but I didn’t spend enough time writing my thesis. This put me in a tiny bit of a time crunch in March to meet other draft deadlines. Therefore, I would have made sure that I at least had a draft of an entire chapter upon entering the spring semester.
Q: What advice would you offer other honors thesis students, especially in your department?
A: The one piece I have for students, especially for those who struggle in finding primary sources, is not to underestimate the power of Google. For example, I was able to find a monthly newsletter I needed published in 1914 by the Diocese of Lyon, France as a free PDF online. There are a lot of new archival materials online that have been digitized by libraries and museums. It is important that you spend some time just doing general primary source searches in Google. Additionally, I would recommend that each student take the time to make a timeline of the project with his or her advisor. Let your advisor know about the work you have in other classes or any big life events. This way, you can create a personalized thesis timeline that won’t overwhelm you. Make sure to give yourself smaller size milestone goals for the project. I was perpetually worried about producing a three-digit paged thesis through the summer months, but by setting smaller realistic goals, my anxiety went away.