May is finally here marking the end of the semester. I'm both excited and nervous, honestly. A part of me is eager to get every bit of this semester over with and finally start a new chapter in the summer and in the fall, but another part of me just isn't ready to get all the final papers of the semester over with. My workload is getting lighter now, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I get more time to focus on writing my research papers, but that means my fingers will be glued more than ever to the keyboard of my laptop.
Research papers are part and parcel of college life. When I first got here and found out that I had to write research papers in the second semester of Paideia, I was prepared to disappoint myself and my professor, to be honest. Prior to college, the most writing I'd ever done in my life was just examination essays in O Levels. Furthermore, the education system I was brought up with back in Malaysia had strict formats we were bound to whenever we wrote essays. In a way, I was spoonfed with tedious guidelines on how to score well in the examinations with the formats I was bound to. When I took Paideia, I struggled with writing papers and the research paper because I found the guidelines and formats more ambiguous than the system I was used to. I constantly consulted my professor, because I was uncertain about the writing. It was later that I realized the frequent consultation with your professor was how the system works here! Every professor has a different expectation for the papers they assign you, so consulting them will help you better understand the requirements of their assignments and how you can improve on it. Frankly, my research paper wasn't the best for Paideia. Nevertheless, I was glad that I was able to learn heaps about writing research papers.
Fast-forward to my second year, and research paper assignments started flowing in more than before. This semester, I have two research papers to worry about. One from my Comparative Politics class and the other from my Introduction to International Studies class. Like I've mentioned, not all research papers are the same, and every professor has a different expectation for their assignments. The research papers that I'm assigned are not alike at all. The first requires me to develop an argument and use methods and theories from comparative politics to analyze my hypotheses, whereas the second requires me to analyze a case study via an interdisciplinary approach, e.g. analyzing the issue from an economics perspective, a historical perspective, an anthropological perspective etc.
One thing learned from my first research paper experience in Paideia was how to pick the right topic (especially one you're interested in or passionate about) and to get as much help as possible. I didn't utilize the research paper support on campus as much as I should've, so I decided to change the way I did things this semester. I started by constantly consulting my professors about how they expect the paper to be structured, especially using the assignments like outlines, annotated bibliographies etc. This time, I made an effort to consult the Research Help desk in the library! I was glad that I decided to, because they are more helpful than you can imagine. They are much more familiar with finding sources in the online library search. I've found so many sources that can help me immensely in my research papers. Also, remember when I said that frequent consultation with your professor helps you better understand the expectations for your research paper? I consulted my comparative politics professor on how to incorporate the methods I'm using into my paper, and he suggested looking into journal articles more (since I already have enough books) and reading more about papers similar to mine to understand how the paper should be written, which was very helpful advice!
Moreover, this year, I decided to take a leap of faith and sign up for the annual Student Research Symposium 2018! The Student Research Symposium is a full-day event held each spring to celebrate the vibrant intellectual life and learning at Luther; whereby students (particularly seniors) can share their research and work with the Luther community and beyond. I didn't plan on doing it during my freshman year, but I thought it was time this semester. I also feel confident about the research that I'm doing, so I thought that I should give this experience a go since it has always been something I've wanted to do. So here's an invitation to my research symposium on May 11, 2018!
See you there,