One of the most rewarding parts of conducting independent research is finishing it. After spending several months finding a topic, looking for a research question, keeping track of sources, and writing up a semester’s worth of work, you can’t help but be proud (or simply relieved) to finally turn in your Junior Paper. That being said, there is a downside to completing your first independent project: having to start over. If you’re like me, you’re required to write another JP for the spring semester. And perhaps, also like me, you dread having to let go of your previous hard work and starting from scratch. Well, maybe you don’t have to!
The beauty of research is that there is no limit to how many times and ways you can study the same material. More importantly, building upon pre-existing work can help you better understand your topic and plan for future studies. This could entail conducting new research that tries to eliminate limitations from the original study or research that compares the results of the original study with the those of a new one. For that reason, with departmental permission, your spring semester JP could be an extension of your fall semester research! Here are three ways you could expand your old research:
If your Fall JP focused on a specific time period, you could expand your work by conducting a comparison of different decades. For example, my first JP was a content analysis (i.e. text or image analysis) of feminist ads in the 21st century. If I wanted to study these ads from a chronological perspective, I could do a content analysis of feminist ads from the 1930s and then look at how female objectification and agency in the ads have evolved over time.
You could also expand your work by changing your project’s geographic boundaries. If your research was originally limited to the United States, you could consider conducting the same study in another country and comparing the results. You are bound to find significant differences (or similarities) that would make for a great JP. For instance, the different gender norms and beauty standards in China could contribute to different themes being developed in their feminist ads.
In my original study, I focused primarily on how feminist commercials depict women. While conducting the research, as is the case with any study, I had to eliminate observations that weren’t relevant to my research question. One way to take advantage of these kinds of additional observations is to analyze the primary sources with a different lens. If I wanted to do this, I could easily study the same ads with an eye for racial diversity and have enough content to produce another JP.
Content from Classes
Perhaps you want to focus on a new topic for your second JP or this is your first time conducting independent research and you don’t know where to begin. In that case, you still don’t have to start from square one! Think about the classes you’ve taken and the reading material that has piqued your interest. With enough digging, you’re likely to find a new topic to write about with a number of useful articles that you’ve already read. Furthermore, talking to the professor who assigned you the readings can even help you find more sources and brainstorm new ideas.
While recycling old material for new research may seem simple at first, it’s important to note that your study will still require a lot of planning. This time, however, you’ll not only be prepared for the upcoming work (you just did it last semester!), but you’ll also be starting with a better understanding of your topic and new insights to bring to your analysis. So, if you were worried before about the spring JP, know that there’s still a lot of content you can work with!
— Taylor Griffith, Social Sciences Correspondent