Friday, August 25, 2006

Interim Post, or It Is Hard Coming Up With A New Thesis

A post on social network theory or feminism (I am delinquent on both fronts) to follow over the weekend (first week of classes have been quite a lot to deal with) but for now I'm stuck at the library on a Friday, as if I were some 1L.

Being an LLM is more relaxed in terms of my stress levels, but an even greater time commitment (particularly when you factor in all those expresso and chocolat chaud dates with your fellow European students). Last Friday, I wrote that my advisor was pointing/pushing me towards a new direction in my thesis, and out the window went my 7 page thesis prospectus on the federalism issues in federal and state hate crimes statutes.

Since then I've been reading everything I can on Gonzales v. Raich. Let me just say, it is hard coming up with a refined, narrow, original and useful thesis centered around your advisor's suggestion that Raich is different from Lopez and Morrison on "this issue," and you are supposed to find out why and how and with which implications for what.

Why and how and with which implications for what is very tricky to figure out. I am getting a few ideas. They are all very vague and broad. And no, "it is different and thus important because it is a big change" is not a thesis. But the trick is to come up with a more narrowly framed issue that will be a workable thesis capable of being researched and written in a tidy 60-70 page article.

Writing a master's thesis is in reality no different from writing any law article you wish to publish--you come up with an argument, you research, you write. And actually, this is better because you have an advisor who makes you come in every few weeks to show a draft. But for some reason, the stakes are higher. It is my master's thesis. It is not only going to be incorporated into my application materials, but it is also going to determine whether or not I get my advanced degree in legal studies. Not only is this article supposed to go towards establishing my scholarly abilities, but also credentialize my status as a person who has been in school for too long. Kind of daunting. I am having a harder time coming up with a refined thesis on this than I normally do coming up with paper topics. Maybe this paper shouldn't mean more to me than any other article, but for whatever reason it really does.

Believe it or not, my other article on social network theory and employment discrimination law has been tentatively accepted for publication. That is, I don't have a full polished draft yet, but what I submitted the journal likes enough to go forward and start an editing schedule, and has agreed to delay the submission date from this month to the end of next month. So that article has become quite important too, and I have even gone to the lengths of asking another professor here at Liberal College Law to read and advise me on it (informally). But for whatever reason, I feel calmer about the process of writing that article.

What is it that makes a master's thesis so much more important than a law review article? Is it the attachment of the credential "L.L.M" to the paper? Is it the fact that because a faculty advisor is attaching him or herself to the project in a formal manner, it must be very, very good (or else it will not only reflect badly on you but also your advisor)? Is it the idea that an advanced legal degree should mean that your thesis in pursuit of that degree must be superior to just any ol' article?

Who knows, I just feel a bit more anxious about it. So back to work I go, burying myself in a sheaf of law review articles. Yes, I have been here since my 8:30 am class on Federal Courts ended at 10 am. No, I am not a 1L. No, I'm not at home watching babies anymore. Toto, we're not in Kansas.

Deepest apologies to Ann Bartow for not guest-blogging about law and feminism recently, despite her kind invitation and use of a cool t-shirt as a bribe.