At Tufts, writing a thesis is not required for most majors. So, you may call me a masochist for writing a thesis when I´m not required to. But I swear, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I am a Community Health and Sociology double major, so ambitiously, I decided to do a thesis that counts for both majors. It´s not so crazy when you think about it... Sociology and Community Health work well together. Community Health deals a lot with social determinants of health and there´s a whole field of sociology dedicated to health. I was originally going to do the research for my thesis in Boston.... I am very interested in immigrant health, and I was planning on working with Dominican immigrants living in Boston. But the best laid plans of mice and men....In the end, I decided to stay in Chile for the whole year (the school year here ends in July), and I was afraid I wouldn´t be able to do my thesis research. But then it occurred to me... Santiago also has a sizable immigrant population, and with quickly changing demographics. In fact, the Peruvian immigrant population has grown exponentially in the past 10 years, so there is very little research on the subject. Now, there being very little research on the subject is both good and bad. It´s good because I will actually be collecting information that noone has collected before (which is pretty exciting for an undergraduate.) On the other hand, I don´t have much to go on. I had to write all of my own interview questions, look at all the survey data that exists on the population but hasn´t yet been analyzed and dig up immigration and health legislation. Anyway, in the end, I decided to do a somewhat basic study on how the social and legislative conditions of Santiago influence the health care access and health behaviors of Peruvian immigrants. The idea is that I will interview about 20 immigrants and 10 key informants (local experts on the subject). It may or may not surprise you that I have been working on my thesis for about 5 months now, and I still have not done a single interview. This has nothing to do with being lazy or unmotivated (although sometimes I am a bit lazy and unmotivated) but for the most part it has to do with the fact that it´s a really long process preparing to do original research... Since I like lists, let me make you a short list of the things I have had to do before actually doing my interviews: 1) Decide on a topic Sounds simple enough... but it´s not. When you think you have an idea of what you want to study, you find something more interesting. Then a professor will tell you that it´s too broad. When you try to narrow it down, there may be logistical issues. Then when you finally decide on something, you´ll probably change it again later anyway. 2) Do background research Now this is really an ongoing process that doesn´t end til the end, but it´s super important to do the background research before writing your research instruments because you have to make sure that your questions are actually relevant. My first step of background research was going to the University library, finding the section of books on immigrant health and taking as many as I could carry (it turned out to be 26.) Then I speed read them all in week--well at least the interesting parts. (I think this is probably somewhat non-traditional.) But even beyond that, I talked to health and immigrant experts in Chile over the course of several months, learning about the health system and immigration legislation. Then I could finally start writing my instrumentation.... 3) Write the instrumentation For me, this meant writing several drafts of a survey (taking questions from previous surveys in two different languages) only to change it all into a qualitative interview format. Plus doing the interview guide for key informants, which was a totally separate endeavor. 4) Getting everything approved by the Tufts Institutional Review Board. This is may more or may not seem complicated, but don´t be fooled, it is most definitely complicated. In fact I think I will have to make sub-items for this item. a) Fill out the protocol application (which, alone, easily took me at least 3 hours) b) Become IRB certified to do human subjects research (at least another 3 hours) c) Figure out which type of consent to use d) Write the consent forms (which is no joke, let me tell you) e) Run everything by my faculty advisor f) fax all of the forms with my signature internationally to my faculty advisor g) Make sure everything got delivered to the IRB office before the review deadline h) Make all of the changes suggested by the IRB administrator before having the application passed along to the committee itself i) Make all changes suggested by the committee --Oh I´m sorry, are you bored already? Oops. I promise I was at least as bored as you are with this whole process, but I promise it gets better. 5) Translate EVERYTHING into Spanish (and then get THAT approved by the IRB), which was, granted, much easier than getting the originals approved FINALLY. This Friday I have my very first interview with a nurse that has experience working with Peruvian immigrants. I have my stamped consent forms, my stamped interview guide, my voice recorder, my lucky notebook, my pen.... Am I forgetting anything? Admittedly, I am nervous. Even after all of this preparation, I feel like an ignorant outsider... I mean, after all, who I am I to want to change the Chilean system? Oh well, at this point, all I can do is go in humbly, as a student of the world, and hope to learn something. Oh... and I´m excited, too! I mean after all, I´ve been working toward this moment for 5+ months! And really... this is just the start. Also, I feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity: to be in another country (and to be able to speak the language here fluently!), with the support of a prestigious university, researching something that is profoundly interesting to ME. Wow. That´s pretty cool. Wish me luck!