Research Step One: Finding Your Purpose

Believe it or not, sitting down at a computer and putting my thoughts on paper can sometimes feel like the monster in the closet that every five year old is afraid of. Despite the fact that I love to write, and that I generally feel like I am good at it, it is the time in between gathering my thoughts and actually typing them out that beats me up. I dread having to sit down at the computer and put in the work. It may be due to laziness, or fear of getting it wrong, but at the end of the day I’m never excited to write something until I’m actually finished with it.

I share this because I’m about to embark on a series about the research process, and the past six months of work that I have put into my senior research project have been the most terrifying, and exciting, moments of my college coursework. In the next few posts, I will be discussing how to apply, conduct, and present research. I will share my personal experiences of my research and also try to inform my readers how to do everything from start to finish. So we begin!

While most people might think that the first step to beginning a research project is picking a topic, I am here to disagree. I believe the first step to starting any serious research is to find a purpose. Having a purpose for your research will guide you in finding a topic, deciding on a timeline, working with a budget, and generally giving you momentum throughout the project. For me, my project actually had more than one purpose.

First, as a senior in the psychology program at LMU, I am required to conduct a research project, write a paper on it, and later present my work at an academic conference. While I have been really excited for this since I entered the program, a more pressing force led me to my second purpose. My first half of my junior year, it became clear to me that I would need to supplement my income in order to be able to complete my summer internship and still have money to survive. In the middle of searching for part-time jobs, my advisor happened to send me a link to the Appalachian College Association Colonel B. Ledford Scholarship Application. It seemed absolutely perfect! The Ledford Scholarship is a program that pays students to conduct a summer research project of their own making, and then later present at the ACA Annual Summit, where research is presented. I spent the next three months working on a personal statement, a project budget, and an introduction to my research that also explained what I would like to gain from doing it. Last February I was awarded the scholarship and from there my project had purpose.

Keep in mind, anything can give a project purpose. It could be a school requirement, a scholarship, a need to share your ideas, or even just a sincere interest in a topic. Ideally, it will be a combination of all of those elements that will lead you to start with questions, and end with a new found answer. Find a purpose and let it fuel you, because I can attest that as gratifying as my research has been, it also requires dedication and commitment.

For this series, I will be posting every week, so stay tuned for next Tuesday when I will discuss picking a topic! Any questions? Feel free to comment below or send me an email!

Baby Come Back! You Can Blame It All On Me…

I’m sitting at my computer, thinking about how to communicate how I am feeling. It’s difficult because the past few months have been one of those times in life where you look back, and you’re not really sure how time could move so fast and how you could have moved so slowly. First, to all of my readers, I want to give you a heartfelt apology. My life got crazy, and I neglected writing because in my mind I was only disappointing myself. After sitting down and looking at a piece of paper with stats that showed me that people truly do care about my life and my words, I am newly committed to writing consistently and honestly. I never truly thought before now that what I sent out into the world was being read by anyone other than my dad, but knowing that there are people that enjoy reading my posts gives me the inspiration that I had lost.

So let us talk about what life has brought me this past summer! I stopped posting somewhere near the middle of April, and as you can imagine, the end of year brought the struggle of finals. Then, I moved to Knoxville at the beginning of the summer and moved in with my new, shiny fiancé! He proposed on Easter Sunday, April 20th, and I can tell you at the moment of my writing this there are 477 days, 10 hours, 18 minutes, and 39 seconds until I say “I do”  to my best friend. By the time we moved in together, I had already missed a couple of posts and it was easy to let the obligation slip my mind. Jared and I spent the next month figuring out what it meant to pay bills, eat off 75$ for two weeks, and spend quality time together. We felt the struggle of losing major income, Jared struggling to find a job, sorting out who got what chores, and much more. We also got to enjoy movie nights, cooking our favorite meals together, hanging out with friends and family, and living life side by side. There were definitely fights and struggles. There was also laughter and love. This summer was probably the best thing that could’ve happened in our relationship, because now we know what the real world feels like and that we can get through it together.

Yay!

Meanwhile, I embarked on an adventure! This summer I had three jobs, and they all had special challenges to go along with them. I discussed them in my post “She Works Hard for the Money,” but actually doing them was a unique experience. Monday through Friday, I worked 8am-12pm at my internship at the Parkwest Senior Behavioral Unit, and 1pm-6pm at the local daycare. I absolutely loved my time at Parkwest. The unit, which consisted of 16 acute-care beds, treated seniors with a variety of psychiatric and behavioral problems. There I learned how to do one-on-one therapy, communicate with families, and what it means to work in a hospital setting. This internship has also inspired me to pursue a career in social work! I am hoping to be admitted to the UT Masters of Science in Social Work program, and I will be applying for that later this semester. At the daycare I learned to work in the new after school room, which consisted of 5-11 year olds. Let me tell you: angry eight year-olds is a whole different ballgame than preschoolers, and I definitely developed as a daycare teacher this summer. This year, when I left, I felt like I had truly done good work.  By the time I got home every day, I had worked ten hours and was absolutely exhausted. Jared typically took pity on me and cooked dinner, and for that please give him a round of applause.

My third job was my summer research. Every Sunday I went to a local assisted living facility and conducted research that focused on music listening. Special challenges that came with this project included jumping through all of the legal hoops involved with working with the elderly, accommodating hearing disabilities, encouraging subjects to participate, and much, much more. As of last week, I am officially done with data collection! My next step is to analyze my data and begin constructing my poster presentation for the Appalachian College Association Summit in October. I am super nervous and excited to present my work for the Summit, but I have so much to do beforehand! Look out for an upcoming series by me highlighting the research process from start to finish. From applying for a grant, to getting IRB approval, to data collection and analysis, and even presentation; I am excited to share with my readers both my project and what a general research project entails.

So this summer had been the best and most challenging part of my life thus far. I don’t consider it an excuse for not writing, but at the end of the day my priorities were so focused on my work, my family and my relationship that it felt like there was room for nothing else. Here is to a new start! Feel free to comment below on what you did this summer!

She Works Hard for the Money!

As we all stress and prepare for finals, the prospect of summer is swiftly approaching. I, for one, have had to think about where I am going to live, how I am going to pay for my bills, and how I am going to spend my time this summer.
Like many college students, I plan to do all of the fun summer things: sitting by the pool, weekends at the lake, ice-cream, Netflix, and vacation! In addition to that, I am also incredibly excited about what most people would cringe at… working three jobs!

My first job I am not actually getting paid for! For the first seven weeks of summer, I will be working as an intern at the Parkwest Senior Behavioral Health Unit in Knoxville. As a requirement of my Gerontology minor, I am required to complete a 200 hour practicum in a setting that focuses on older adults. I recently met with my supervisor, and I am very excited for all that I will get to learn. I will start off working with CNA’s, then with the nurses on the units, shadow the doctors, and eventually move on to working with the therapists and social workers on the unit. This will give me a chance to see every aspect of the unit, from basic care, to diagnosis, to therapy, to discharge and rehabilitation planning. I cannot even describe how excited, and especially nervous, that I am. My biggest fear is that I will do something drastically wrong, but I trust that I will be in good hands and will do well in such a good learning environment.

My second summer job is doing research. In February, I found out that I had been awarded the Colonel B. Ledford award by the Appalachian College Association. The whole process of applying, being accepted, and now carrying out my research has been a learning experience for me. First, I had to pick a research topic and plan out every aspect of how it would be carried out. After doing extensive research, I am planning to research the effects of music exposure for depressive assisted-living residents. The whole research project is very in-depth, but the basic premise is that I will go into an assisted-living facility, have depressed residents listen to music once a week for four weeks, and test whether it lowers their depression.
After I put my application together, which included a research proposal involving past research, a personal statement, and a budget, all I could do was wait a couple of months. I found out in February that I was chosen to do my research, and since then I have been ecstatic to begin. Between February and now I have been working on the Institutional Review Board application. Every University, including LMU, requires that you gain approval through the university before starting research. Hopefully my application will be approved May 1st, and I plan to start the research process during the second week of May!

My last summer job is one that I have worked at for the past two years, during the summer or Christmas breaks from school. I am an assistant teacher for Mudpies and Music Daycare in Knoxville, and will be working part time again this summer. My duties involve going to various classrooms throughout the daycare and assisting whoever needs help during the day. I often find a niche during the summer and will stay in that classroom permanently for the summer, but sometimes I float between classrooms helping everyone out. Since the daycare has ages that range from 6 weeks old all the way to elementary aged children, I can be doing anything from changing diapers and feeding bottles to teaching children their ABCs on any given day. While the job is very stressful at times, I go back every summer because it is incredibly rewarding. From the smiles and hugs, to seeing a child so excited to read a book, there is something to appreciate about every age and classroom. I have learned to adapt to the various ages easily, because when you switch from taking care of a baby to a five year old you have switch gears and focus on what the children need. The daycare has given me so many memories, and always welcomes me back with open arms. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity every summer.

So, this summer is going to be exciting, hectic, stressful at times, and wonderful. Look out for updates on my summer adventures! If you would like to share your own summer plans, please subscribe or comment below!

It’s Musical Time in Tennessee

Hey y’all, it’s beginning to be my favorite time of year again. It’s musical time in Tennessee! I absolutely love the time near the end of every semester where musicals and shows from all over the state tend to premier. After working hard all semester, I am sure everyone is ready to get the shows on the road. Recently, I saw a poster for the LMU Players’ presentation of Godspell. All of the advertisement and excitement on campus about the upcoming show got me thinking of the shows that I have performed in in the past.
I have only been in two musicals and one madrigal in my life, but I greatly enjoyed each individual experience and felt that I learned a lot from each of them. During these performances, I learned to laugh at myself, develop character depth, come out of my shell, and cast away all inhibitions I had while on stage. Though I have not been in any shows since the fall semester of my sophomore year, I do miss the atmosphere and experience of being on stage. Read the rest of this entry

Lazy Time with Ashley

As many of you can probably speak to, college students do not typically have a ton of free time. As I have progressed through my college career, I have found myself becoming more and more involved within the community and specifically LMU. Yet, I love it! I am the type of person that relishes in having a packed planner that lays out my day-to-day schedule of classes, work in the Tagge, and sorority events. Knowing what I am supposed to do every day helps me to feel focused and driven.

On the flip side of Ashley, I am a lazy girl. Granted, my definition of lazy may not match everyone’s definition of lazy, but for me taking a few hours to have some downtime is a love/hate kind of thing. On one hand, I completely love laying around and doing whatever I please. On the other hand, my natural personality drives me to constantly be completing some kind of task. That is why, when I am typically having what I call “Lazy Time,” I am usually completing something at the same time. Here is a list of my favorite things!

Movies:

Yes, I love movies! (Who doesn’t?) Specifically, I love sappy, ridiculous, cry-into-your-pint-of-ice cream-movies. Some of my favorites include: P.S. I Love You, Forrest Gump, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Hitch. In addition to just plain old romance, I do of course love the romantic comedies, anything involving Will Smith, and I actually really enjoy musicals. Now, you may be thinking, “What is she accomplishing?” Well, finishing a movie is an accomplishment! I just devoted two hours of my life to the lives and woes of these fictional characters, and believe me, I am not a passive movie watcher. I relate to the characters on a deep level and become totally absorbed, so DON’T TALK DURING THE MOVIE!

Love him!

Love him!

Reading:

Reading is another way that I spend my lazy time. Since I was a little girl, my parents struggled with the fact that I could sit for hours completely lost in a book. During the summertime I would find a spot in our field and read all day long, and my parents were always concerned that I wasn’t playing enough! Eventually, I think they realized that reading habits weren’t the worst thing a child could get into, so they encouraged it, even if they thought it was a bit abnormal. Now that I am in college, I don’t have near as much time to read for fun, so when I do get free time I read like a champ. Over Christmas break I finished almost two books from the Game of Thrones series, and now I’m on the last book that has been published. Back to the completing thing, finishing a book is such a success for me. While I am not always happy for the book to be over, I do feel a sense of accomplishment.

Story of my life...

Story of my life…

Knitting:

You may be thinking, “Who knits in college?” Well, my sophomore year I began knitting because I needed cheap presents to give to my family for Christmas. Being on the college girl budget, I knew it would have to be homemade presents, but I wanted to find something that would actually be useful for them. I taught myself how to knit via Youtube that September, and it took me about month to finish my first scarf, but after that I could pop out a hat in two days and a scarf in about three. Needless to say, everyone got a hat or scarf for Christmas that year! Since then, I have tried out different projects. There is so much you can do! So far all I have done is hats, scarves, and a baby blanket, but I have really enjoyed trying out new patterns and techniques. The best part about learning how to knit was that soon after I began everyone in the sorority house began to pick up either knitting or crocheting!  Even more than that, knitting taught me patience. I am not a very patient person, but when I taught myself I probably restarted the same scarf about ten times before I was satisfied. To this day, Jared still wears that scarf, despite the fact that one half is full of holes and lopsided, and the other half is pristine.

My last creation took me about two hours!

My last creation took me about two hours!

Obviously, I don’t have the most exciting hobbies in the world, but these things make up who I am. Most people see me when I am always on the go, but there is a side of me that relishes in a lazy Saturday filled with movies and knitting. These are parts of my college experience that I would never take back.

What do you do in your free time? Are you a mountain climber, Netflix-watcher, or even a knitter like me? Let me know in the comments below!

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