THESIS PROCESS: RESEARCHING AND UNDERSTANDING THE TOPIC

Alena Miskinis Shares Her Experience of the Honors Thesis Process at the Halfway Point

This article is part two of a three-part series, each focusing on a student in the process of navigating their Senior Honors Thesis/Project. Once students have established their

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Alena Miskinis Posing in a Blue Dress
topic, who their faculty advisor will be, and what they hope to research, phase two of the thesis process begins. Alena Miskinis (She/Her) tells about her experience through the process and where she is headed. As an Honors College senior, Alena is pursuing three majors in English, Piano Performance, and Psychology, and will be attending Kent State for a fifth year to graduate in the spring of 2023. She hopes to attend graduate school for sports psychology and apply it to performing artists’ mental health.

With the extra year of school, Alena has pushed back her thesis work to finish and defend it next academic year. But that is not stopping her from continuing her research and perfecting her project. Finding out about the opportunity of completing a Senior Honors Thesis/Project, she shared, “I think the first time I heard about it was in my colloquium class. I honestly thought it was required and then when I found out it wasn’t, I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t complete such a rewarding opportunity.” Up to this point, Alena shared that she has most of the first two parts of the study done and has written up the first study; one step closer to the rewarding opportunity she is striving towards.

Since it benefits the student to be passionate about the project topic they are researching, narrowing down the subject area can be daunting. However, Alena was lucky to find her research matter fairly quickly. When asked about what selecting her topic looked like, Alena said, “I think even since my first year, I’ve been fascinated by expression and perception and the relationship between literature and music.” Alena explained that her passions for this topic came about after one of her English professors commented about how beautiful it was that program notes can be written about music. “I first came up with my thesis topic in my Rhetoric and Composition class which is something I have to take for my English major. So, that allowed me to explore a lot of the philosophies regarding metaphor theory before even proposing my topic,” said Alena. “The research for my thesis is actually a lot different than the research I do in my English or music history classes though, because I am collecting data and running participants,” she adds. “Therefore, unless it’s for introduction or methodology purposes, most of my research is in a lab with participants or, like with the first part of the thesis, reading music periodicals to collect metaphors.”

Picking her topic and knowing what she hopes to research, Alena tells about all the parts that play a role in her process, commenting, “Most simply, my honors thesis explores the relationship we naturally form between figurative language and musical expression. I chose this topic, because it combines all of my majors together really nicely, and I think it can benefit pedagogical and performance applications. My thesis is broken down into three main studies. The first is a corpus study in which I gathered 2,780 figurative descriptors (you might say metaphors) from twenty-one 19th century music periodicals written in English. Three main categories of metaphors emerged from the data including personifying, extended, and synesthetic metaphors. This part of the study showed how we use words to describe music. The second part of my thesis takes five of those words (dark, cold, lively, tender, and mournful) and observes how musicians use musical expression to describe words. The last part of the thesis is still in process and it will take the recordings from part two and see how accurate nonmusicians in the psych pool interpret the intended musically expressed word.”

With an extensive topic such as this, you need a good support system and advisor to guide you. Luckily, Alena has a large group of faculty members who have held her best interests since the beginning, “My thesis advisor is Dr. Joshua Albrecht, who is a music theory professor, but he also runs our music cognition lab. Running experiments is the

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Alena Miskini Posing with a Guinea Pig
goal of our lab, so it was an easy decision to choose him as my advisor. However, I have so many other professors who have also at least at some point mentored or inspired me in this process such as Dr. Wendy Matthews and Dr. Jennifer Johnstone from music; Dr. Philip Hamerick, Dr. Uma Krishnan, Dr. Ryan Miller, and Dr. Ed Dauterich from English; and Dr. Christopher Was from Psychology.”

Although she is waiting until next year to defend her work and final project, Alena has appreciated her experience up to this point in the process, commenting that, “I am very grateful for this experience, because it has continued to show me how research can address problems and questions I face every day. Of course, I am also immensely grateful for all of my mentors and professors who support my passion to explore knowledge and research. I’ve already presented the first part of the thesis at several conferences, including my first international paper presentation (albeit online) at the International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC).”

At this midway point, the second part of the thesis research is when the project starts to come alive. Alena has enjoyed her process and shared what has benefited her, even when pushing her oral defense back. The third and final story in this series will feature Senior Honors College student Moira Armstrong and the process of completing and defending their thesis. To learn more about the Senior Honors Thesis/Project, visit https://www.kent.edu/honors/thesis or contact thesis advisor Marsha Kraus at mkraus1@kent.edu with questions.

 

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PHOTO CAPTION 1: Alena Miskinis Playing Piano

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Alena Miskinis Posing in a Blue Dress

PHOTO CAPTION 3: Alena Miskinis Posing with a Guinea Pig

 

Media Contact: Stephanie Moskal, smoskal@kent.edu, 330-672-231

POSTED: Thursday, April 28, 2022 10:13 AM
UPDATED: Wednesday, June 19, 2024 11:28 AM
WRITTEN BY:
Honors College Writing Intern: Mai-Ling Francis