Amanda Blanco is a senior in the Sociology Department. Having taken several journalism courses and being an avid news reader, she was inspired by current events to write a thesis pertaining to the effects of today’s political climate on college campuses. Amanda recently finished her thesis and is in the midst of preparing for her defense. This process of reviewing her research in order to share it with a larger audience has led her to reflect on what the senior thesis experience has been like and what she has learned from the process. Luckily, Amanda had time in her busy schedule to share some of her end-of-year reflections:
This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student from their home department who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Taylor shares her interview with Hadiya Jones.
What’s your research about?
As a black woman raised in a predominantly white middle-class suburb, I am intrigued, both personally and scholarly, by the diverse manifestations created by the intersection of race, gender, and class. I ultimately desire to study how black middle-class millennials, who are socialized in predominantly white spaces, navigate their identities, and I am particularly fascinated by how this process happens on the web.
I think many would agree with me when I say that the spring semester is one of the hardest parts of the academic year. Not only are there fewer breaks to help space out assignments, but keeping up with back-to-back papers, problem sets, and assessments can really wear on students. Moreover, April and May can be particularly stressful due to the numerous independent work deadlines they contain. While some upperclassmen have already handed in their Theses and Junior Papers, several others are still working hard to the finish line. By the time the due date comes, many will be tempted to submit their work without a second glance. But the last thing anyone wants is to finally send in their results only to later realize that they forgot to [insert independent work requirement here]. So before you anxiously hit the “submit” button, here’s an independent work checklist you might want to quickly run through:
This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student from their home department who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In, Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Taylor shares her interview.
What’s your research about?
During graduate school, I became interested in learning how people know what they know. It’s essentially the idea that you as a person embody or have access to very rich cultural knowledge that is passed down to you through the people that you know in very subtle ways. At any given moment in time, you are actually operating on this incredibly rich, complex body of knowledge that is not only available to you, but is also available to the people associated with you. I’m interested in figuring out how to analyze knowledge like this–how it’s distributed not just to one individual, but to a group of individuals, and how to develop methodologies to do that.
As a personal interest, I want to know how this impacts inequality–does where you live and who you have access to affect not only what information you have, but your perception of the world, the assumptions you have for how you should function in society, and this kind of stock of cultural knowledge that you use to go about doing things like choosing clothes, taking care of your body, applying for a job–these types of knowledge that look simple in implementation but are really, highly complex.
Independent research at Princeton has given several students the opportunity to conduct exciting new studies, including traveling to other countries in order to get first-hand experience engaging in other cultures. Just a few months ago, I even flew out to Los Angeles to interview television producers for my thesis. While the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their life-stories is undoubtedly a transformative experience, these types of projects wouldn’t be possible without one particular group’s approval: the IRB.
To conduct any research that involves human subjects, Princeton’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) has to review your study in order to ensure the safety of the participants. For instance, if a study involves at-risk individuals (e.g. children or prisoners) the IRB will need to check the parameters of the study in order to make sure no one gets hurt or feels coerced into participating. But with 15 sections worth of information to fill out, the IRB form can be quite intimidating to go through–it even scared me away from including human subjects in my junior paper! But after some encouragement from my adviser, I partnered with a fellow SOC major and worked through the seemingly endless document.
Having completed the process, here are a few tips that I think will make the form easier to navigate:
Chloe Angyal graduated from Princeton in 2009 with a degree in Sociology. Originally from Sydney, Australia, she’s now a journalist in New York City, working as the Deputy Opinion Editor at HuffPost where she writes about politics, popular culture, and gender. But before Chloe became who she is today, she had to write a senior thesis. Lucky for us, she had some time in her busy schedule to talk about her experience with independent research:
As students, we hear a lot about preparing for interviews, especially when it comes to answering questions about ourselves. But what about conducting our own interviews? For my thesis, I will be traveling soon to interview film producers about their work, and I have been wondering what I should do in order to prepare. More specifically, how do I get the most out of an interview that will be used for research? After looking up pointers and consulting with my adviser, I’ve compiled some helpful tips on how to be an interviewer:
In a continuation of last year’s seasonal series, this winter, each PCUR will interview a Princeton alumnus from their home department about his/her experience writing a senior thesis. In Looking Back on Undergraduate Research: Alumni Perspectives, the alumni reveal how conducting independent research at Princeton influenced them academically, professionally and personally. Here, Taylor shares her interview.
Teri Tillman graduated in 2016 with a degree in Sociology and a certificate in American Studies. Now in her second year at Cornell Law School, she’s the academic chair for Cornell’s Black Law Students Association, the co-president for Cornell’s Sports & Entertainment Law Society, as well as a student associate in Cornell’s Labor Law Clinic. During her time at Princeton, her thesis helped her develop the confidence to conquer any large assignment, and this determination has carried over into her graduate work. Here’s what she had to say about her experience with independent work:
A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Kristin Hauge about her independent work in the Music Department to highlight creative independent work in the arts. This week, I got in touch with Edric Huang, a senior in the Anthropology Department with certificates in Urban Studies and Creative Writing. Unlike most students on campus, he will be writing two theses this year. One is the classic research-based thesis that seniors in the sciences and humanities are familiar with, but the second will be a collection of poems for his Creative Writing Certificate. If you are unfamiliar with the kind of work that goes into creative theses, here’s what Edric had to share about his personal experience: Continue reading Writing a Creative Thesis: An Interview with Edric Huang ’18
If you are an upperclassman, at this point in the semester, you’ve probably met with your adviser, decided on your research topic, and come up with a game plan for beginning your independent work. That said, you may still need to figure out one final detail: getting research funding. Not only does the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) now have several applications open for Winter and Intersession research, but applications for spring funding will also be opening relatively soon. Even if you aren’t in the midst of writing a thesis, SAFE also lists opportunities for students who need funding for internships, summer study abroad programs, and independent projects. If this is your first time applying for funding and you’re worried about writing a convincing proposal, you’re not the only one. That’s why PCUR attended the Writing Program’s “Crafting Your Research Proposal” workshop to bring back some pointers. If you weren’t able to make it, here are the fundamental guiding questions to help make your research statement as clear and effective as possible: Continue reading Need Funding? Tips for Writing a Convincing Proposal