Albert Lee ‘24 is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chair at Colonial Club, a member of the Students for Prison Education, Abolition, and Reform (SPEAR), and former Senior Writer for The Daily Princetonian.
As a junior, a hot topic for many of my friends lately has been their junior research and senior theses. In brainstorming ideas for this piece, I also thought about the incredible amount of learning that takes place in just a semester. That’s when I got the idea for this paper—to hear from seniors about their recent experiences conducting research for their Junior Papers. So, I reached out to Albert Lee ‘24, a senior majoring in Sociology and pursuing a certificate in Journalism.
Even before stepping foot on campus, I had already heard of the challenges that came with the Writing Seminar, the first-year writing requirement. Students are able to rank by preference several Writing Seminars covering different topics, which have included topics such as WRI 116: Sustainable Futures and WRI 159: Gray Matter. In each of these Writing Seminars, students develop their writing skills through a research focus, writing three research papers throughout the semester. As Writing Seminars are such a widely discussed topic for first-years and there is an abundance of advice from juniors and seniors floating around, I wanted to write a more detailed article specifically about what I did to learn how to write.
Most people probably know Trustee Reading Room as that large room with big glass windows on the first floor of Firestone, where you go when you want a really quiet study space. Perhaps you’ve recently studied for midterms or worked on a paper in its sacred silence. Maybe you’ve wondered if there’s more to Trustee than simply providing a quiet atmosphere for study. The answer to that question is: yes, there is. It is the primary reference room of Firestone library– and if you read to the end of this article you will learn how to make the most of this tremendous resource.
Trustee Reading Room in Firestone Library has many reference works
I’ve always loved reading through senior thesis titles and thinking “Wow, that’s clever,” “That’s genius,” “I wonder how they came up with that.” The senior thesis, which many seniors refer to as a full-blown novel, is supposed to be a senior’s finest work and proudest possession. It looks impressive in its black book with gold font. It is 115 pages. It has fancy acknowledgments. As a first-year/sophomore, and even as a high schooler on tour, I was in awe at how seniors could create such a perfect paper. It isn’t until now that I know the answer: hard work.
With course selection coming around the corner, the sheer number of opportunities can be overwhelming. Choosing courses can be doubly challenging for rising sophomores who are finishing up their prerequisite courses and trying to figure out what they even want to major in. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce a new and exciting opportunity for students interested in research—the Sophomore Research Seminars.
Whether you’re trying to free up your summer to enjoy one of Princeton’s other fully-funded programs, or maybe pave the way for more advanced summer or independent research opportunities, it’s understandable why you might want to get a head start on research during the academic year. But, with jam-packed class schedules, multiple labs, essays to write, and hopefully squeezing in some time for yourself, it can feel impossible to do research on top of life at Princeton. So, how do students do it? Can you really spend 8-10 hours per week on research and still find work-life balance? In short, it depends. The number of classes you’re taking, extracurriculars, and your own unique circumstances all factor into whether research during the academic year is sustainable for your class schedule. For some, research can be a valuable addition to their academic schedules. But, like anything at Princeton, it requires careful planning, time management, and clarifying your own values. Here are three tips for striking balance with research during the academic year.
In this post, I share my experience of requesting resources from Princeton’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library for a research paper in ART102/ARC102: An Introduction to the History of Architecture. I took the Spring 2022 iteration of the course, taught by Professor Basile Baudez and Professor Samuel Holzman. The course provided an overview of architectural history from ancient Egypt to the modern-day through key monuments and architectural movements.
One of my favorite parts of ART102 was our semester-long research project. Students have the opportunity to delve deeper into the history of any building in the Princeton community. My peers covered a wide range of buildings, including Firestone Library, the Graduate College, and the University Chapel. Inspired by my involvement with the Princeton University Art Museum as a student tour guide, I chose to research Bainbridge House (now repurposed as Art@Bainbridge, one of the Museum’s gallery spaces on Nassau Street).
Writing sem. For many, it’s one of the most challenging courses they’ll ever take at Princeton. It forces you to think in new and challenging ways, often questioning some of the ‘basic rules’ we’d previously been taught about writing. With late nights spent drafting and redrafting, 8:30 am classes, and daunting essay prompts,it’s easy to understand how writing sem (short for writing seminar) gets its reputation. No student makes it out of writing sem with three perfect papers. Yet, in the midst of challenge, it’s easy to lose sight of the many professional opportunities that writing sem can offer. Whether you’re looking to get published, nail your next job interview, or just make a little extra cash, here are four ways that any student can make the most of their writing sem experience.
As anyone who has taken one of Princeton’s introductory statistics courses can tell you: informative statistics and figures can and will be incredibly useful in supporting your research. Whether you’re reworking your R1, writing your first JP, or in the final stages of your Senior Thesis, chances are you’ve integrated some useful statistics into your argument. When there are a million different positions that one can take in an argument, statistics appear to be our research’s objective grounding. The data says so, therefore I must be right. Right?
Reflecting on my first year, I think about how quickly time flies. I’ve thought about how much I’ve changed over the course of a year and how my discussions with my peers and professors already began to shape the way I viewed the world. As an engineering student, Writing Seminar was especially memorable because it opened the door for me to engage with research in the humanities.
All first-year students are required to take a Writing Seminar. My seminar, WRI146 – Constructing the Past, taught by Dr. Emma Ljung, centered on the theme of how the past is closely intertwined with the present. In retrospect, one of my most pivotal periods in the course was the process of writing my R2, which focused on artifacts from the Princeton University Art Museum. Interested in delving deeper into my Chinese cultural background, I chose to work with the Guang, a dragon-headed bronze pouring vessel from the late Shang dynasty.
Pouring vessel with dragon-head lid (guang), China, Western Zhou dynasty, 11th century to 771 BC, bronze from the Princeton University Art Museum. Photo from Daderot on Wikimedia Commons.