Keep Working While Fightin​g the Epidemic. Here’s How Supervisors Help with Thesis Writing amid the COVID-19 Outbreak


(Correspondent: Hong Jin) The epidemic has brought not only numerous teaching challenges for professors but also difficulties for 2020 graduates in both thesis writing and job landing as cases of COVID-19 escalate. Besides all efforts made to ensure the online education, master supervisors in the School of Foreign Languages at CUG also aided students in mentoring their theses by keeping in touch with them via the Internet as well as the Cloud services. Knowing the expectant graduates were having trouble developing theses, supervisors provided professional advice and relevant references at once, showcasing their proven work ethic during the battle against the epidemic. They gave impetus to the fulfillment of online courses and thesis writing as planned, overcoming the constriction by the bounds of time or location. That’s how our professors helped students achieve academic outcomes.

“A notice from school was announced at the end of last semester that the first draft of the thesis must be submitted in mid-February, 2020. But I couldn’t access to CNKI to download e-resources while at home. In this case, it would be very hard for me to compose my thesis as all I had at that time was only my thesis proposal. Besides, I couldn’t focus on writing since most of the time of the day was spent in exploring where we could buy grocery and necessaries when almost every shop was shut down in Wuhan.” said Wenjing Min, a 2020 graduate when talking about the writing of first draft of her thesis. She is one of many examples. The virus hindered them coming back to school, back on track of traditional graduation. Some of them even had no computers handy. Facing the coming thesis defense, quite a few graduates-to-be were feeling anxious. At this very moment, master supervisors in the School of Foreign Languages offered much needed guidance by staying in touch with students online, securing the fulfillment of students’ thesis without delay.

As Wenjing Min’s supervisor, Prof. Hongyan Zhang made timely contact with  students to send the latest news of coronavirus to them, and to concern the updates of their daily life and study, by Chinese social media apps Wechat and QQ. For those who had no access to e-resources at home, Prof. Zhang helped them find what they needed and encouraged them to try peer learning, clock in/out mode and working collaboratively with one another. In doing so, her four students fulfilled the first draft of the thesis at the appointed time. Later Prof. Zhang led two group discussions online to diagnose problems in theses for students, which lasted over two hours each time. Students are revising their third draft of the thesis now.

In terms of academic learning, Prof. Zhang showed students how to integrate theory with practice as one seeks to apply what one learned to real work. Backed by a professional knowledge of linguistics and discourse analysis, she raised a proposal to the Office of Scientific Research and Development at CUG, including understanding the metaphor of COVID-19 to eliminate the taboo and mystery of the virus, building up an empathy discourse mode by recognizing the rigid, crude discourse mode of COVID-19 and so on. After hearing Prof. Zhang’s perspectives on discourse analysis on the virus, students believed that they should critically read discourses on COVID-19 so as not to trust and spread misinformation.

As a supervisor, Prof. Liling Zhang always concerns herself with students’ difficulties and pressure. She is committed to assisting them to achieve goals through a closer communication with students. As regards thesis composing, it took Prof. Zhang at least one hour each time to type down professional comments and inputs and send voice messages as a way of making up for face-to-face supervision. On top of that, Prof. Zhang gives prominence to collaborative spirit by shaping an empowering environment where students could leverage their respective strengths to help each other including revising the thesis for peers.

Prof. Liling Zhang has three expectant graduates, one International student Kim One from Korea, one majoring in MTI and another academic master. They have kept in contact since the winter holiday. Besides the guidance of thesis research, Prof. Zhang wrote a recommendation letter for Kim One to help him apply for Ph.D. program in linguistics in Wuhan. At that time, Kim One flew back home for his sick mom. He often sent greeting to Prof. Zhang and classmates in Wechat group when noticing the news of COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. Prof. Zhang was delighted to find out that he and his family landed in Thailand as the virus spread to Korea. With the help of Prof. Zhang, Kim One revised his thesis smoothly. Prof. Zhang and her students are expecting to reunite at CUG as the epidemic is under control now.

Every professor and student has been implementing the study plan online as scheduled without any slack amid class suspension and social distancing over pandemic. Prof. Xiaoyun Tang brought her students together to exchange their experiences and share book reports they read during the winter holiday. Then she reviewed how students progressed and assigned follow-up tasks for everyone. Prof. Jing Zou focuses on how MTI students look at the translation style. During the holiday, her students were required to compare and contrast both English and Chinese versions of the text to figure out the author’s writing style as a way of revising their own translation and reports. Prof. Minxia Liu emboldened her expectant graduates to produce a better thesis by slowing down the pace to polish it. Prof. Dongmei Hu encouraged students to think out of the box in thesis composing, and meanwhile to keep the balance between work and rest amid the outbreak of COVID-19. Instead of slacking off due to the virus, all supervisors show students what the meticulous scholarship is about and how they should react in adversity by these teachers’ own actions. “As a Chinese saying goes, ‘April showers bring May flowers’, I have every confidence in the fulfillment of thesis.” said a student, Chen Hao, giving expression to the most 2020 graduates’ determination.

During this exceptional time, online communication serves as a bridge between supervisors and 2020 graduates. Following a principle of “Staying Online, Staying with Students”, professors are fastidious about thesis supervision, with patience, heart and love. What they conveyed is not only academic references, professional advice and warm regards but the expectation that students can “work hard with plain living style and seek truth with pragmatic attitude”. The concerted efforts of teachers and students is a de facto perfect illustration of both the motto and the mission of CUG. The challenging road of fighting the epidemic also offers hiding opportunity and hope. Let’s keep the belief and expect the first glimmer of success.

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