Tis the Season: Reorienting Your Research Goals

Even as the holiday season approaches, make sure you stay oriented with regards to your project. (Photo by Stacey Huang)
Even as the holiday season approaches, make sure you stay oriented with regards to your project.

Winter break is coming.

But that also means that, much as we would like to avoid it, reading period is also approaching more quickly than we might like. While that’s the last thing we want to be reminded of going into winter break, it helps to think ahead for planning. As a student doing independent work in the Electrical Engineering Department, I am required to submit a report during reading period summarizing what I have achieved during the semester. However, as that time draws closer and closer, I still don’t feel like there is necessarily a conclusive midway point in my research. I have to start asking myself: what exactly did I do this semester? What were my goals coming in and how far have I gone to reach them?

While it can be stressful, I like that the report forces me to reorient myself and remember just exactly what I’m trying to do and how far I’ve gotten along on that path. Even if you aren’t required to write a report or paper or present your research to other people just yet, the bridge between semesters is one perfect time to gather your thoughts. After all, the very nature of research is endless—as researchers, we are always trying to discover the unknown and learn more about the infinite world. If you don’t stop somewhere along the way, it can be easy to be pulled into the details and lose track of what exactly your goals were and what you’ve already done to achieve them.

Another reason I’ve found outlining an overview of research to be a great idea is that you inevitably get friends, classmates, family, and family friends spontaneously asking you to explain your research to them—especially when you’re at holiday parties over break! When you’ve spent a lot of time up close looking at small details and specific problems, I’ve found that it’s difficult to suddenly step back and remember what the main idea is of what you’ve been doing for so long. I like that the report and presentation forces me to think about that and to convey my experiences, good and bad, to people. It can also help me rekindle my interest in the field.

In the end, you just want to make sure that you don’t get lost in your research. As break comes rolling by, remember to take some time to reorient yourself and focus on your accomplishments to date. And make sure you can spin a tale or two for those curious family members who want to know how you’ve been spending your time at school!

— Stacey Huang, Engineering Correspondent