Who’s Going to Read My Thesis?

I often hear students ask the question, “Why does this matter?  Who’s going to read my thesis anyway?”  I think two possible answers exist to this second question.  Let’s consider first that no one ever reads this work.  Let’s assume the work in your thesis has been nothing more than an academic exercise in discipline.  If that is true, you don’t need to do anything more than write for your thesis committee.  Complete your work in a timely fashion, defend with authority, and collect your signatures.  In this situation, you are doing your research, writing, revising, and defending for no more reward than graduating from school.  Of course, graduation in itself is quite an accomplishment but let’s be honest.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have that work recognized on a slightly larger scale?

And that brings us to a second possible answer for “who will read my thesis?”  Does your family know you’ve dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy to this work?  Do your friends know?  Will either your advisor or your thesis committee ever refer to your work as an example of what a student either should or should not do when creating a thesis?  Will you ever, in passing, tell someone you once wrote a thesis in college?  When you update your CV/resume, will you include your thesis publication?  Is it possible a potential/existing employer will Google your name?  Answering “yes” to even one of these questions means you already have an audience.  You have family, friends, coworkers, employers, and more gauging you as a researcher/professional according to the work in your thesis.  What do you want that work to say?

Be careful not to see your thesis as simply a stepping stone for achieving your academic goals.  Instead, see it as a building block to your future.  Your thesis is not something that should be published and forgotten.  Rather, it is something that should be held up as an example of your accomplishments.  Use it to demonstrate your dedication to your work, your desire to succeed, and your persistence through difficult times.

Stop for a moment and think of anyone and everyone you don’t want to read your thesis.  Now assume they will anyway.  What do you want that thesis to say?

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