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Thesis in the Spotlight: Addie MacLaughlin

December 10, 2018 7:15 PM
 | 
Tess Martin tmarti1@tulane.edu

Addie MacLaughlin

Senior thesis writer in Political Science, Addie McLaughlin, in Seville, Spain. 

Addie McLaughlin is a senior studying international relations and French. She is writing her Honors Thesis in the Political Science department under the direction of Mark Vail, Associate Professor in Political Science, Christina Kiel, Professor of Practice in Political Science, and Felicia McCarren, Professor in French. In her thesis, Addie hopes is examining how legacies of the French Revolution and imperialism have influenced conceptions of citizenship and belonging in modern-day France, an increasingly timely issue.

Last year, Addie studied abroad in Paris, France, and her personal experiences abroad intersected with her interests in international relations, which lead her to her thesis topic. After taking numerous classes abroad that were centered on French culture, history, and language, Addie was excited to have the opportunity to incorporate that information in this research project. During her time at Tulane, Addie’s courses have also piqued her interest in topics relating to history and conceptualizations of citizenship. In her first year, she took Professor Taras’s course “Politics and Nationalism,” which focused extensively on Europe and provided a substantial political theory background on nationalism. After taking other courses more focused on citizenship as a concept, Addie decided to write her thesis on what “[she] knew about” as she was “very interested in identity and culture.” Since the thesis is a year-long project that allows students to pursue a question or questions in-depth, she decided that writing from her personal interests based on her experience in the classrooms at Tulane and at the Sorbonne, as well as her time abroad, would enable her to have the most valuable research experience. 

Like many of this year’s thesis writers, Addie's main argument is beginning to take shape. As her research progresses, her data and findings will shape what she is able to prove and how she conceptualizes it. At this stage, she is focused on reading a great deal of French history as well as political theory concerning nationalism and integration. One struggle that she has faced is in finding current academic sources regarding French nationalism; many of the articles she finds are online articles written by political extremists. Even though she has been frustrated with the lack of scholarship available on her topic, Addie plans to use the articles she has found to demonstrate examples of today’s conceptions of French citizenship. Another struggle that she has experienced is developing arguments only to find that scholars have conducted research based on the exact same points of view, citing the same sources. While Addie believes this means she is on the right track, she, like many other thesis writers, finds it challenging to have a purely original idea for research that is feasible at the undergraduate level. Ultimately, Addie recognizes that these struggles are all part of the research process, and that they are to be expected in these early stages of the Honors Thesis.

Addie is considering applying for master’s programs after she graduates from Tulane. Since these programs would require her to write a thesis at the post-graduate level, she thought that this Honors Thesis experience “would be good practice.” Furthermore, she thought this personal, year-long research project would be more interesting to her than taking a writing intensive course. Addie does advise younger students thinking about the Honors Thesis to start as early as you can, since carving out time to work on research can be more difficult in the midst of regular schoolwork. For people studying abroad junior year in the spring, Addie urges them to start thinking about it while they are abroad. “Don’t be intimidated,” Addie says, and speak to your professors and the Honors Program staff about wanting to write a thesis. Despite her obstacles within the research process, Addie is excited to continue working on a topic that both fascinates her and is so closely tied to her personal experiences and intellectual pursuits.