Thoughts on Theses: Andrea Quiles-Sanchez
Issue   |   Tue, 12/05/2017 - 19:05

Andrea Quiles-Sanchez ’18 is a sexuality, women’s and gender studies and psychology double major. Quiles-Sanchez’s thesis explores causes for depression within the Latino community. Her advisor is Assistant Professor of Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies Sahar Sadjadi.

Q: What is your thesis about?
It’s looking at depression among the Latinx community, trying to see what the causes of it are. Obviously, being Latinx is a very expansive identity, so I focus on acculturation, assimilation, other factors that might affect people with depression. I’m running a study, … which I haven’t done yet. I may be a SWAGS major, but I’m also a psychology major and I’ve taken other social sciences. I’m very much focused on quantitative data but there’s also a personal aspect to it. It was very much based on personal experiences where I deal a lot with depression. I’m very analytical, so I was thinking about what exactly it is about my life. So thinking about being Latinx, there are usually a lot of religious factors; a lot of people are Catholic. I started looking at religion within my family. I also started thinking about discrimination and not feeling like you belong at school. There are stereotypes and the pressure to fulfill them. I want to see what are the major causes. What actually inspired this was the beginning of my freshman year: I read an article saying that among young Latinas, they are the highest rate of the people who commit suicide. I thought, “Well, that’s a lot — why is that?”

Q: What has been the process for writing your thesis?
I started over the summer, and what I did was I looked at a whole bunch of studies that did very similar things … I used them to try to inspire me and look at how I had to go about doing this. That was the first process. I actually ended up writing a literature review for my advisor, just so she knows what I’ve done. After that, I did a procedure and looked at how to do this step by step. Recently, I filled out a form to the IRB, which is the International Review Board in psychology. What that is, is whenever you have human participants, you have to go through the IRB to make sure your study is ethical. I’m currently waiting on them to get back to me because they might reject my proposal. They might tell me to change it a little bit, or change it a lot or they’ll accept it. I don’t really think my study is going to be causing harm, but it does cover hard issues. So I’m going to send a survey out, then I’m going to have a follow-up interview. In the survey, I’m going to ask about language, communities that they feel most comfortable in, discrimination, then after that asking about mental health issues. Then I’m going to do the same thing in the interview, but I want it to be more free and more in-depth because I want people to tell me everything. I’m a little behind schedule, so I want to do at least a couple of studies now so that I have something to do during interterm. After that then it’ll just be me looking at the data, and looking at the interviews to figure out what’s going on here. I want to divide things up into themes — what things do people bring up? That’s more important than the numbers. I want the numbers to back it up, but I want to focus on the story, which is why I chose to do this in the SWAGS department.

Q: What is the best part about writing a thesis?
I never realized how much I like to research things. I think it’s really fun, and it’s not something I had much experience in. It has opened me up to this world, and maybe it’s something I want to pursue after graduation. I did a very small version of this for a class junior year, which actually inspired my thesis. My professor said for any of us juniors that this could be our thesis. I was talking to her about what I wanted to do and she was like, “Listen — if you do really well, you could get this published.” For me, that’s really exciting. I never really considered going into academia. I think why I’m so excited is because I’m interested in social justice, and mental illness is something I really focus on. To think that I can help people not just by doing advocacy but by doing research is really important. I’m trying to find the causes, and if you find the causes you can fix them. It’s been a wonderful time.

Q: What has been the hardest part about writing a thesis?
My thesis advisor isn’t here this semester. She’s on sabbatical so she’ll be back in the spring. I’m in the SWAGS department, which is a very small department, so they had no one that could help me. They were like, “We love your thesis, but no one here has done any relevant work.” They pointed me to professor Sadjadi, but she does more ethnography. I’m not doing ethnography, but she has experience and she’s very smart. So for me that was the hardest part of the semester. I didn’t have her here so I didn’t have a specific idea of what I was supposed to do. What I did though was I contacted other professors to help me. It was really lonely though because my friends would see their thesis advisors once a week. Meanwhile, I just contacted everyone I knew. To a certain extent, my thesis is very interdisciplinary, so I wanted to get in touch with as many people as possible. That was the hardest part, where I didn’t have a path, which is partly why I’m behind schedule.

Q: Any advice for students who want to write a thesis?
Start sooner rather than later. I’m definitely glad I started doing my research over the summer. I would not have had time to do that during the semester. Also, don’t do a thesis just because you think you need to do one, because that’s no fun. As a freshman, I didn’t want to do a thesis because I thought it would be too much work. When I came up with the idea, I realized that this is something I really care about, which is why it’s been so much fun. If you’re doing something that you don’t really care about, there’s no point. Maybe you can graduate with honors, but I don’t think that’s worth it. So start sooner, and do it because you want to and not because you feel like you have to.