Independent Work Checklist: What to Review Before Submitting Your Thesis/Junior Paper

Seniors posing with their thesis before celebrating their Post-Thesis Lives!

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:

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The Unexpected Concentration: Why I Declared Geosciences

Few students enter Princeton planning to study Geosciences–I certainly didn’t.

Fascinated by the natural world and enticed by the prospect of a field semester in Kenya, I confidently chose “Ecology and Evolutionary Biology” as my intended concentration every semester on Tigerhub’s Academic Planning Form. My backup plan, if the sciences weren’t the right fit, was to study History and get a certificate in American Studies.

So why, when it came time to declare my concentration, did I end up choosing Geosciences? There were three factors that I felt set GEO apart from the other departments I considered:

Community

When I was considering which department to join, it was important to me that the department had a strong community with a space for undergraduate participation.

GEO has a vibrant department community that places a high value on undergraduates. Undergraduate participation is encouraged in weekly department wide events such as lunchtime lectures and snack breaks, as well as celebratory events such as annual department picnics. Even before I declared my concentration, faculty and staff in the department made it clear that there was a place for me in GEO.

Graduate student Akshay Mehra (far right) laughs as Professor Adam Maloof (second from right) chastises the author (far left) for “cheating” during a game of foosball on a class field-trip to Utah in Fall 2016. Informal social interaction with faculty and graduate students abounds in the GEO department, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for undergraduates.

The department even has its own undergraduate society, Princeton University Geosciences Society (PUGS), run entirely by students, which plans regular social events and field trips centered around building a close-knit community of engaged undergraduates. PUGS organized a department field trip to Iceland in 2015 and is planning a weeklong trip to the United Kingdom this year.

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Navigating the IRB: A Few Quick Tips on the Submission Form

eRIA is the system the IRB uses!

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:

Continue reading Navigating the IRB: A Few Quick Tips on the Submission Form

Subject Librarians: The Research Experts You Need to Know

If you are a Princeton student, chances are you’ve spent some time at one or more of the University’s many libraries. You’ve probably also checked out books and may have relied on a librarian to help you navigate the ever-confusing maze of stacks. These are roles we typically associate with Princeton librarians, but they are by no means exhaustive representations of what these experts have to offer. What many students don’t know is that subject librarians are the hidden gems of Princeton academic resources. Librarians have helped me tackle difficult independent research projects, and you can take advantage of their incredible expertise too.

Use the search tool on the University’s website to find the subject librarian for your field of interest.

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Independent Work Workshops at the Writing Center

 

Get a jumpstart on independent work with the Writing Center!

Want an organized JP or Senior thesis? Doing a quantitative research project? Want funding to support your great ideas? Sign up for the workshops below!

— This week —

Back by popular demand!
Defining your Research Question: Quantitative Projects in STEM and the Social Sciences
Thursday, March 1, 4:30pm -5:30pm
Guyot 100
 
Are you writing a quantitative JP or struggling with the introduction or discussion of your thesis?  This workshop will help you frame your project’s direction and next steps by:
• defining and refining a specific, actionable research question
• learning how to leverage secondary sources in relation to your data
• identifying the role and impact of your project in your field

 

Sign up here!

Continue reading Independent Work Workshops at the Writing Center

Learning a Language Off-Campus

According to its website, Princeton offers courses in about twenty modern languages. Sounds pretty comprehensive – until you consider that the world has literally thousands of distinct living languages.

World languages by proportion of native speakers

As I start preparing for my independent work next year, I’m thinking a lot about language ability, especially as it relates to primary source access. For non-Anglophone historical research, facility in the region’s language/s is essential to original scholarship. Personally, I’m interested in Eastern European Jewish history. The good news: I only really need one language to study primary sources from this period. The bad news: it’s not one of the twenty offered on campus.

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Behind on Independent Work? Tips for the Final Push

This past July,  Joe ‘Stringbean’ McConaughy set out to break the speed record for hiking the Appalachian Trail. Carrying a 25 pound backpack and eating 8,000 calories a day, Stringbean initially planned to average 50 miles per day and finish the 2,181-mile trek from Georgia to Maine in only 43 days. Twenty two days in and halfway to Maine, he felt confident that he was on track to break the record of 46 days. However, his pace slowed dramatically in the mountains of New Hampshire, and when day 43 came, Stringbean still had 151.5 miles to go and under 70 hours to beat the record.

As my third Fall semester comes to a close, I find myself in a place similar to McConaughy’s. I started working on my Junior Paper in September with a well-defined research path and have worked consistently for the past three months, meeting with my adviser every week. Yet, with a full draft of my JP due in only four days, I have fallen far behind my planned timetable.

The view overlooking the Appalachian Trail as it winds north into Maine shows nothing but rugged mountains. Like hiking 150+ miles in three days over this type of terrain, writing a quality research paper days before the deadline requires a herculean effort.

There will be a time for reflecting back on why I fell behind my JP plans this semester and how to adjust my study habits and work strategies to get a better start in the Spring–but that time is not now. It is now day 43 and we have 70 hours and 151 miles left to go. If you have fallen behind in your independent work like me, now is the time for the final push. So here is my strategy for beating my JP draft deadline in four days: Continue reading Behind on Independent Work? Tips for the Final Push

Trusting My “Nugget”: Committing to Initial Ideas

Do you remember that old SAT advice of committing to your first multiple-choice answer? I have realized that choosing not to second-guess yourself applies to much more than standardized tests, and this realization has been an integral part of my research experience at Princeton.

Your intuition is as valuable as this pure Australian gold nugget!

When I’m confronted with a writing task, like seeing an essay prompt for the first time, thinking of my JP for this fall, or even this blog post (#meta), it is tempting to let myself panic and frantically begin brainstorming. But, before all of that chaos begins, an immediate seed of an idea always pops into my head. I call it my “nugget.” It could be a tidbit from a conversation I had with a friend, a theme I had been following in class, or, most recently, a side-note I had made over the summer about a potential JP topic.

However, I’ll often ignore my nugget as quickly as it appears. I’ll abide by “first is worst” logic and assume that the first idea I think of to start a research project cannot possibly be as developed as the result of hours of brainstorming. So, I’ll put myself through the ringer searching for other topics. But, almost inevitably, the products of these intensive brainstorming sessions fall short, and I circle back to my initial idea. Continue reading Trusting My “Nugget”: Committing to Initial Ideas

Need Funding? Tips for Writing a Convincing Proposal

There are many opportunities to apply for funding!

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

Why Research Immigration? Recapping Previous Experiences and Moving Forward

What I’m most passionate about is immigration. How do people move? Why do they move? And what can we do to assist immigrant communities? While I’m not an immigrant myself, I’m the child of Chinese immigrants who came at a time when Chinese immigration was almost entirely restricted on a racial basis. When my grandparents came to America, only 105 Chinese immigrants per year were permitted entry into the United States. While I acknowledge that I speak from a position of natural-born citizenship, it is the struggles of modern undocumented immigrants that truly fuel my desire to research this field of policy.

The author’s grandfather came to America on this ship in 1949.

Continue reading Why Research Immigration? Recapping Previous Experiences and Moving Forward