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Wrapping up Research: Presentation Time!

After a couple of months of discussing how to do research from start to finish, it is now time to wrap up this series by discussing how to present your research. Looking back at everything that I have written about in this series of posts, I feel very privileged to have been able to share some of the knowledge I acquired over the past year of my life. Thus, this is a bittersweet end.

The timing for this last post is basically perfect, though. A couple of weeks ago the culmination of over six months of hard work came to fruition when I present my research at the Appalachian College Association Annual Summit. Because I was there as a Ledford Scholar, for undergraduate research, I presented a poster of my research instead of a speaking presentation. I actually had a blast!

When I got to the conference, the ACA had prepared a Student Summit for all of the Ledford Scholars. We first introduced ourselves and our projects to the other Scholars, and then we had presentations on job hunting and applying to grad school that I found incredibly helpful! I’ll share a couple of the best tips about applying to graduate school that I had never thought of before:

  1. Make a connection with one of the professors in the program you are applying for. One good way to do this is to read a couple of their publications, and then email them about your interests and possible research opportunities with them. Here is a link that can tell you more about that!
  2. Ask one of your professors/references to let you teach a lesson in one of their classes. This way, when they write a letter of recommendation they can touch on your teaching abilities. This will help you to stand out in acquiring a Teaching Assistant position that could potentially pay for graduate school.

After the Student Summit, it was time for the poster session. I got my poster set up, and then people began to come to my poster and ask me questions about my research. I found that I really enjoyed this! I got tell people what I did, bout my results, and even have a couple of goodhearted debates about the validity and outcomes of my project. It felt really rewarding for people to actually be interested in my project, and have acknowledgment for all the work I had done.

As far as tips on research presentation, there are just a couple of things I can say:Keep-Calm-and-Research-On

  1. Stay calm. I was so nervous leading up to the conference, but once I got there it was easy. It turns out, I am a complete expert on myself and my project, so questions were easy and discussion was fun!
  2. Listen to your advisor. Let them help you with formatting your poster, and finding endless grammatical errors, and figuring out where to print the giant thing. Most of all, my advisor was my biggest cheerleader and I am not sure I could have done it without her humor, help, and support.
  3. Practice talking to people about your research. Whether it is a poster or a speaking presentation, you’ll be glad you did. Suddenly the words “assisted-living facility” won’t get so jumbled.

I hope you all have enjoyed this series! Look out in a couple of weeks for my new adventure!

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!