Yamabe Kentarō the Modern Japanese Individual and the Margins of the Public Sphere
Ren Makino, Asian Studies, 2020
Thesis advisor: Professor Paul Barclay
How and when did you select your advisor and the thesis committee members?
Professor Paul D. Barclay is my advisor. I am honestly unsure when I selected my advisor but it was formalized during the Spring semester of my third year. I selected my thesis committee members at the end of the fall semester of my fourth year.
When did you start thinking about your thesis? How did you select your topic? How did you develop your research question?
I unconsciously began thinking about my thesis my sophomore spring semester when I was introduced to Yamabe (my thesis topic) by Professor Barclay. The so-called research question developed through the many conversations I had with my advisor. However, I must admit some of my thoughts came as I wrote the thesis.
How did you start tackling your thesis project at the very beginning?
I read quite a few books. I obviously kept in mind the main ideas of these books but at the same time I kept mental note of how I wanted to emulate some of the writing styles I had seen. From there, many ideas untangled out of my brain thanks to the support of my advisor.
Did your advisor explain the structure of a thesis project to you?
At the beginning my advisor just let me write. I also wrote a working abstract quite early in the process. The abstract guided me for some time and I believe is better than a strict structure as an abstract can be easily amended. This somehow naturally led to a well thought out structure mid-way through the fall semester. I would say many ideas changed as I worked on my thesis and was glad I did not have a strict structure limiting me from those ideas.
Did you have to do a literature review? Had you ever done one before?
No, I was not required to do a literature review. However, a guideline on how to do literature review was given to me early on in the process. I would recommend not forcing students into writing a literature review as it only offers a perception of understanding past works. Anyone can write a literature review; those that care about their thesis will, without any need for guidance, remember the main points of the books they have read and note down important page numbers.
Do you remember receiving correspondence from the library about your honors thesis?
Yes! The library was extremely supportive and I received several emails from various research librarians throughout the year.
What did you find most challenging about your thesis project?
The most challenging part about my thesis was actually not the thesis itself but losing motivation to do work for my other classes. My thesis topic was too interesting and I felt blessed that I can receive course credit doing something I enjoyed. Therefore, maintaining a balance between thesis work and other classes was most challenging.
What did you find most rewarding about your thesis project?
My thesis is a gift that keeps on giving because it has been a source of new questions I would like to tackle in the future. The deeper connection I was able to have with Professor Barclay, research librarians, as well as my thesis-writing peers was also very rewarding.
What assistance did your advisor/department offer you throughout the course of the year?
Professor Barclay offered much advice, comments, edits, and book recommendations throughout the course of the year. I believe my writing has been refined through conversations with my advisor, whether this be in person or over an edited Word document.
Did you meet with librarians in the course of conducting your research? How many times and at what stages of your research?
I formally met with a librarian once at the end of my third year. I learned a lot about library resources and the various privileges thesis students have during the year. As many of my resources were in Japanese I had to find them myself. Also, my advisor provided me with more than enough book recommendations. However, I would like to mention I had many conversations with the research librarians. I miss these conversations because it offered me an opportunity to talk about my thesis but also whatever was going on with life. They are great people to get to know as they understand the struggles of writing a thesis.
What other kind of support did you rely on throughout the year to accomplish your thesis (parents, friends, etc.)?
I relied on my advisor, thesis-writing friends, and the research librarians. I believe it is important to have at least a couple of friends that are writing theses, regardless of the department they are in. Even if the requirements, methods, etc. are different across the departments, we all share similar struggles. Sharing these struggles is something I relied on to accomplish my thesis.
Were you able to get access to all of the research materials you wanted for your project?
Yes, I was able to gain access to all of the research materials I wanted, thanks to the Interlibrary Loan Program. A couple of the books were sent over all the way from Japan!
What advice would you offer other honors thesis students, especially in your department?
Work hard and get to know people that motivate you to work harder. The social environment you are in when you are working on your thesis is so important. If you are around unmotivated people you will quickly lose motivation to complete your project. Also, do the thesis because you are interested in a topic, not because you want to graduate with honors. I caution against telling random people about your thesis, as they will bombard you with questions or comments that may misguide you. These people will also end up devaluing your work by comparing your year-long work to some paper they wrote for a class, so make the thesis about you not them.