Roaring for change: Presenting Your Research

The process of research might involve a complex mass of reading articles and crafting arguments, but the goal of research is simple: change. No one would devote time and energy to a concept if they didn’t expect their results to make a difference. Whether adding to a field, correcting a premise, or highlighting some new phenomenon, the surest way to encourage change is to frame research with a strong presentation.

By the way, presenters get a t-shirt with the conference motto and cute, researching tigers. Wear it proudly.

Princeton’s writing seminar students can present their work to faculty and peers at the Quin Morton ’36 Freshman Research Conference. PCUR readers are welcome, so save the date: Friday, November 21 in the Writing Center.  At last year’s conference, I was selected to present my research on affirmative action. I felt first-hand the excitement of leading people to question beliefs they had firmly held just minutes before. Last Tuesday, I volunteered at a workshop on presenting research for this semester’s Quin Morton student presenters.  The conference’s motto “Research. Revise. Roar.” hints at one of the workshop’s biggest themes: finding your voice.

Presenting research involves a range of skills that are not necessarily included in the writing process, and chief among them is verbalization. Continue reading Roaring for change: Presenting Your Research

No Lab Coat Required

Before last summer, I considered the term “research assistant” exclusively reserved for science majors in lab coats. And since my intended major and wardrobe don’t fit this conception, I never thought I’d apply the term to myself.

Well, I was wrong — in more ways than one. “Research assistant” has since been added to my resume, and I didn’t have to wear a lab coat to do it. In fact, pajamas were perfectly acceptable attire.

If you're looking for research assistant loungewear, school spirit is a plus. (photo by Melissa Parnagian)
If you’re looking for research assistant loungewear, school spirit is a plus.

Let me explain: After a wonderful semester in Dr. Renita Miller’s writing seminar Race, Gender, and Representation, I knew I was interested in identity politics. The class fundamentally changed how I looked at policies and judged their effectiveness for minority groups. Dr. Miller must have noticed my enthusiasm, because she described her research project – a look at representation’s effects on the Texas State Legislature – and asked if I wanted to help code data over the summer. Relevant information in the legislature’s bills could be accessed anywhere online.

Continue reading No Lab Coat Required

Research lifeline: Phone a friend

It’s the first thing you have to do before you really start that research paper: nail down the thesis.  After reading a few articles and narrowing down your focus, you’ve come up with a general idea for your argument, which is an important first step. However, until that idea is packaged in a strong and shiny statement, your paper has likely reached an impasse.

Of course, the thesis results from first asking a research question, trying to explain some phenomenon you’ve observed.  The goal is to answer the question innovatively and assertively, advancing something both original and powerful enough to change the debate on an issue.

But who said questions have to be rhetorical?

When I’ve settled on a topic but haven’t advanced past the thesis-planning stage, I like to ask my question out loud — so I give my sisters a call.  Both are graduate students, one in library and information science and the other in education, so their responses are a good way to test my ideas. I know I’m ready to seriously start writing if they both recognize the goal of my argument.

Frist has phones, which means you can assess your argument on the way to late meal…

That doesn’t mean I want my sisters to always agree with me. In fact, the opposite can be much more useful (and is, admittedly, much more common).  A classic example: asking my oldest sister “Would you accept that Jersey Shore represents a modern version of the American frontier myth?” made her question more than just my thesis.  Continue reading Research lifeline: Phone a friend

A ‘Major’ Discovery

I am not an art history major.

The art museum has a lot to explore ... have you been?
The art museum has a lot to explore … have you been?

Don’t get me wrong; art history is an important field with a lot of depth, but the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs is where I expect to get my degree. So when I signed up for the freshman seminar Visual Art and the Representation of Knowledge, taught by Susanna Berger, I was following standard freshman advice: join at least one “fun-course-description-takes-priority-over-prerequisites” class while you still can.

Like most freshman advice, it proved to be correct. Visual Art’s fun course description translated into engaging discussions on everything from hieroglyphics to comic books. On field trips to the Princeton University Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, we had access to the primary sources at the root of our papers, which made research both more authentic and more exciting. The first two papers were limited to a certain collection or time period, relevant to weekly readings. The final research project, however, was a 10-page visual analysis of any artwork of our choice. Continue reading A ‘Major’ Discovery