Matthew Ackerman, English, 2018

Thesis advisor: professor Steven Belletto

How and when did you select your advisor and the thesis committee members?

Professor Belletto teaches a course on the Beats that I took, and I approached him and asked if he’d be willing to advise a thesis on one of the beats. Professors Meg Fernandes (English) and Mary Jo Lodge (Theater) were my other committee members. I’ve taken many classes with both, and have a great relationship with them. I selected the members in April of my Junior Year.

When did you start thinking about your thesis? How did you select your topic? How did you develop your research question?

I thought of my topic when I noticed there was not a lot of research on the particular author I studied. I wrote a short paper on him in my beats course, but decided to extend that into a big paper. I developed my research question because I’ve been interested in how the Beat generation resonates with postmodern literature, so I wanted to apply that lens to this author.

How did you start tackling your thesis project at the very beginning?

Reading. Reading Reading. I’ve read every article on my author, and critical theory essays that define specific frameworks of postmodern thought in literature.

Did your advisor explain the structure of a thesis project to you?

Yes. Though he advised me to write out of order. There’s not always a specific structure in theses performed in the humanities. I would write part of my arguments before literature review, since my literature review had to be in context of what I’m writing about in reference to what’s been written.

Did you have to do a literature review? Had you ever done one before?

Yes- I’ve done quite a few.

Do you remember receiving correspondence from the library about your honors thesis?

Yes. I met with Teresa Heidenwolf and Ben Jahre about finding specific sources the library did not have.

What did you find most challenging about your thesis project?

Figuring out my long-term writing habits. I discovered I like to read for weeks, and then write 20 pages in two days. That’s just me. Some people do a bit each day. But my brain doesn’t work like that. I like to have read everything I think I would need to read before writing.

What did you find most rewarding about your thesis project?

Diving deep into a topic I personally found rewarding.

What assistance did your advisor/department offer you throughout the course of the year?

Reading suggestions, comments on arguments, research approaches…everything.

Did you meet with librarians in the course of conducting your research? How many times and at what stages of your research?

About 3-4 times- when I couldn’t find a source that I needed, and there’s only like 5 copies of this thing in the world!

What other kind of support did you rely on throughout the year to accomplish your thesis (IT, parents, friends, etc.)?

I always would talk to my friends about my project if I felt stuck. They helped keep me excited and motivated. It can be tough sometimes, so you need that support system.

Were you able to get access to all of the research materials you wanted for your project?


Would you do anything differently if you went through the process again?

Yes- I’d meet with the research librarians more often.

What advice would you offer other honors thesis students, especially in your department?

Make sure you don’t get tired of your topic in the long term. Choose something you truly care about- you’ll be spending a lot of time around it!