Refueling Research Passion

University of Pennsylvania, Houston Hall, Fireside Lounge
Photo by Scott Spitzer
Source: University of Pennsylvania flickr

How do you keep the intellectual fire alive?

Whether you’re an undergraduate, graduate, professional or executive student, everyone has experienced a feeling of plateau in their scholarship. Your “long-term” goal may range from a term paper, a capstone thesis, a peer-edited publication, a grant proposal, to a dissertation and beyond.

But what happens when you experience intellectual fatigue? When the passion and excitement of your research question appear to have dimmed? When fogginess surrounds your clarity of conviction and analysis? You have been so focused and poured so much time and energy into your academic, scholarly and professional endeavors, that all of a sudden you start doubting yourself, including your research.

At Weingarten, we love to partner with and support our students through the ups and downs of their academic journeys. We offer a framework to help you assess and reignite the passion within for your scholarship:

Refueling Research Passion Pyramid
Conceptual Framework by Min Derry

In the Refueling Research Passion Framework, each triangle represent spheres of opportunity to re-engage, learn and restore, while the circles represent stratification and fortification:

  1. Wellness Triangle (top): How can you engage Self-Development, Community & Network, and available Resources to nurture and restore your Wellness? For instance, is it time to make that doctor’s appointment, or to try that new circuit route for your running or workout routine? How about joining a Philly @ UCity Fitness or Nutrition Meetup?
  2. Intellectual Triangle (bottom left): How can you explore Self-Development, expand your Community & Network, and seek new Resources to deepen or broaden your Intellectual Pursuits? For instance, is it time to step outside of your comfort zone and try a new Conference that brings other players and perspectives, or to try an interdisciplinary Conference that will “shake” up your ideas a bit?
  3. Vocational Triangle (bottom right): How can you explore Self-Development, connect with your Community & Network, or seek new Resources for Professional Development? For instance, can you email that distant colleague or professor and finally connect over good conversation, an article, coffee and/or writing for publication?

PEDAL@GSE
Second-year lead facilitator Yuxiao Li speaks with the team of four first-year GSE students she is mentoring during a discussion after teaching the intermediate class at Penn.
Photo by Louisa Shepard.
University of Pennsylvania flickr

So, next time that you feel in a slump, fret not! There are ways to reignite your research passion! Refer to our helpful Framework for Refueling Your Research Passion.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Study Spots: The ARCH

The ARCH building intersects Arts, Research and Culture:

  • The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF)
  • Ben Franklin Scholars
  • University Scholars
  • Makuu
  • La Casa Latina
  • The Pan Asian American Community House (PAACH)
  • Student Performing Arts

It is designed to be a safe, supportive, inclusive and critically generative space where students can assert their agency, activism and ingenuity with confidence.

“One of the most engaging features of the building is the large amount of carved stone ornamental detail on the exterior.  There are three cross‑gables on the main (east) elevation.  The middle gable is placed adjacent to the southern end gable and is set back, forming a picturesque mass crowned by an elaborate double serpentine chimney.  A one- story entrance portico with Gothic details stands out from the middle gable, and is set below a two story mullioned window.  The south facade is marked by symmetrically placed polygonal bays with ornate stonework panels, battlements, and windows topped by trefoils” (Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services).

Address: 3601 Locust Walk, Philadelphia PA, 19104

Demographic: Undergraduate and graduate students

Noise Level: Bustling with activities

Traffic: Moderate to high

Perks: Gothic Revival Architecture, Performance Arts, Culture Houses, Nourishment, Meeting Rooms Available for Reservation

Accessible from Locust Walk near 36th Street:

Auditorium and meeting rooms that can be reserved:

There are student lounges throughout:

Culture Houses offer their own student lounges:

  • Makuu
  • La Casa Latina
  • PAACH

Tortas Frontera Mexican Dining:

If your academic endeavors invoke the intersection of culture, arts and research, consider making The ARCH a motivating, inspirational and interactional Study Spot!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Study Spots: Penn Law School

jpalumbo@law.upenn.edu

If you are looking for some variation to your usual study spots at Penn, consider Penn Law School. The study and collaboration facilities at the Penn Law School offers choice, versatility, support, nourishment and ecological access. It is located at 3501 Sansom StreetPhiladelphiaPA 19104. While you can typically gain access to the Law School with a Penn ID, please check for any changes to access for non-Penn Law School students during special Law School schedules, including final exam times, etc.

The Law School is comprised of four interconnected buildings surrounding a central courtyard (Map of Law School Complex): Silverman Hall, Gittis Hall, Tanenbaum Hall, and Golkin Hall, with Silverman being the most traditional, and Golkin the most modern. You can take a  Online Self-Guided Tour of the Law School Complex.

First, let’s pause to admire the beauty of the combined architecture styles, where the original, old and traditional co-exist fluidly with the new, contemporary and modern:

Now let’s hunt for your desired type of study space based on your preferences or mood for the day:

Biddle Law Library

This library is great if you prefer absolute silence.

Outdoors

Rooftop Terraces

Lounge Spaces

Gathering Spaces

There are enclosed rooms too. First check protocols for reservations, if applicable.

Relax and Nourish

And there is much, much more! If you’re looking for a change of scenery, and would appreciate an array of choices, versatility, nourishment and/or outdoors spaces – all in one complex – we hope you will explore the Penn Law School as a possible study spot for you!

Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow, Weingarten Learning Resources Center.

 

 

 

Reflection: Foregrounding Identity in Academia & Scholarship

images (3)

Right about now, we find ourselves knees-deep (maybe waists-deep!) in final projects. It is that time of the year in the Spring semester, Folks! At Weingarten, we empathize with the criticality and rigorousness of your final projects: term papers, capstone projects, portfolios, program thesis papers, and the list goes on! We also know our students, yes, YOU! You have been diligently examining your syllabus requirements, going through the assignment/project rubric with a fine-tooth comb, consulting with the Professor and/or the TA, integrating your course citations and materials, aggregating your own research references, and perhaps even disaggregating, coding and analyzing your collected data!

As you sit down in front of your computer to write your introduction, thesis or opening paragraph, BREATHE! Close your eyes, inhale deep, exhale loud, and CENTER YOURSELF… Yes, that’s it! We want to locate the YOU back in the research project!

Due to the increasing professionalization of the Academy and the scientification of research, even social science research, it is easy to loose sight of our own IDENTITIES in being enveloped by the research process. But remember, YOUR PERSPECTIVES are UNIQUE and VALUABLE! You are part of a diverse University Community, which is bonded by all that makes us different, inasmuch as there is synergy in our factors in common. Your IDENTITY fundamentally influences your approach, methods and interpretations – whether or not you acknowledge it explicitly in your work.

YOUR IDENTITY OCCUPIES A CRITICAL SPACE IN YOUR CONCEPTUALIZATIONS

Here are a few tips in bringing back, centering and honoring the YOU in your research process:

What Inspired You?

Identify and track the source of  your inspiration. Was it a person, object or moment in time that served as catalyst for your inspiration? Was it a personal, academic or professional experience? Is there a story, a narrative behind your inspiration? Don’t lose sight of this inspiration as it will not only serve as fuel to sustain your academic work, but it will also serve as an interpretive lens in helping contextualize your conclusions and implications based on the source or triggering axis of your inspiration.

Look Back: What is your Legacy?

Reflecting on and examining your legacy will help you flesh out the theoretical framework to your project. Your legacy may involve histories, stories, narratives, memories and experiences that shaped who you are today. They often inform the ideologies, orientations and interpretive lenses, which can be teased out of your theoretical framework. Other times, they serve as counter-narratives, arguments or positions relative to your own or society’s dominant stances.

Explore Your Intersectionality

You are a phenomenally complex individual whose legacy, orientations and identity are deeply and richly rooted. The work of understanding the intersections of our identities, the matrix of their categorical representations (e.g. gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, citizenship status, etc.), how our identities are socially constructed, fluid and negotiated, and ultimately, what socio-political and economic power they afford or limit in different contexts can be labor intensive, but will prove invaluable to your research process. It will help reveal blind spots and assumptions in the research design, analysis and/or interpretations of findings. Identifying, wrestling with coherences, dissonances and/or boundaries of the scope of our research project is our duty as researchers.

images (6)

Localizing and interrogating your own IDENTITY within Research is a critical means to Embracing and Valuing the authentic YOU and WORLD around YOU!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Reflections on DATA

download

As a society, we put great value on DATA. As students, academics, scholars, researchers, practitioners and inquirers, we are often in the pursuit of, if not, immersed in DATA. Each Discipline, from the Medical and the Health Sciences, to Engineering, Computer Science and Business, Sociology and Social Policy, to Education and many others, we seek to collect, analyze and interpret data in meaningful and impactful ways. All the while, we adhere to the highest standards of integrity, validity and reliability. Institutionally, we evaluate and scrutinize our methodological processes through rigorous review processes, internal review boards, internal and external audits, and certifications. Whether or not our practices are directly or indirectly related to data generation and management, our lives are increasingly enveloped in DATA, and currently, BIG DATA mediated by powerful data processing and storage software.

download (9)

Relatedly, in the scope of research data analysis, there is substantive literature, instruction, training and professional development that engage quantitative and qualitative methods of research and data collection. Nonetheless, there are some enduring questions about the implications of methodology towards humanizing and democratizing research outcomes:

What is the symbolic or material value of researcher data?
  1. Whose interests does it serve? Who does research ultimately benefit?
  2. What purpose(s) does it fulfill, for whom and why?
  3. What are the restrictive parameters (e.g. temporal or contextual, etc.) particular to the affordances and limitations of the collected data that would curtail or caution the generalizability or universality of the research findings?
  4. What other outcomes or consequences can be anticipated, identified or acknowledged beyond/outside the scope of the research question/study?
  5. What are the cross-disciplinary implications of the study (e.g. social, economic, political, religious, etc.)
Are there issues of Access in Site and Participant Selection?
  1. Whose stories are studied, retold, why, and how? Which stories and agendas are foregrounded, and which are subjugated? Whose stories and agendas are omitted?
  2. Which participants does research reach by elicitation, and why? Is there an avenue/process for participants/communities to reach research opportunities? Is there reciprocity and multilateralism in research?
  3. Can participants self-select into or except out of research without direct or indirect consequences? What are the local implications of designing indeterminacy into the site and/or participant selection process?
  4. How are power disparities conceptualized, balanced or mitigated? How is power directly or indirectly coded or recognized into the research process and findings report?

As you engage with your research project, consider the other side of RIGOR, tipping the balance towards humanization, democratizing engagement and ambivalence. Only a very intentional and balanced approach to research can counteract the historical scientification, objectification and exotification of complex categorical lived realities that are far from neutral.

References:

Erickson and Gutierrez (2002). Culture, Rigor, and Science in Educational ResearchEducational Researcher. 31:8. 21-24.

Lather and Moss (2005). Introduction: Implications of Scientific Research in Education Report for Qualitative InquiryTeachers College Record. 107:1. 1-3.

Zembylas and Schutz, Eds. (2016) Methodological Advances in Research on Emotion and Education. Switzerland:Springer International Publishing.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow & Instructor

Study Spots: Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center Edition

secret-1142327_960_720

I know what you’re thinking. Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is not a secret study spot. I’m here to let you in on a little VP secret: there are two new spaces within our beloved library that opened this fall. The hours for these new rooms are the same as most of the rest of VP:

  • Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to midnight
  • Friday 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Sunday 10 a.m. – midnight

Read on to find out more about these great new spaces!

Moelis Family Grand Reading Room (first floor)

  • Noise level: Silent
  • Perks: The swivel recliners in the front of the room are perfect for study breaks.
    • This room truly is grand. A beautiful cloth tapestry lines one wall, with floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the other sides of the room.
    • This room also features plush blue chairs at every table to make your study time a comfortable experience.
  • The Moelis Family Grand Reading Room is sound-proof and totally silent. If you’re looking for a space to really buckle down and focus, this is your spot.

The Class of 1937 Memorial Reading Room (fifth floor)

  • Noise level: Quiet
  • Perks: Comfortable seating in front, study carrels in back. Perfect for any occasion!
  • The Class of 1937 Memorial Reading room is now a card-access room designed to meet the needs of graduate students.
  • This newly redesigned room features space for both independent and group study, and there is a lactation room available as well.
  • In addition to the new features, this room is also home of football memorabilia from the class of ’37. The glass display case features three footballs and several uniforms that give a feel for what live at Penn was like 80 years ago.

Class of 37

While you’re over at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center checking out the new spaces, don’t forget about our other favorite VP spots including:

Each separate space at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center has different advantages, so make sure to check them all out to decide which one works best for you.

By Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, Learning Fellow & Instructor

 

Writing Strategies: What’s Your Positionality?

Reflecting on, fleshing out, interrogating, and conveying your positionality relative to a research orientation is critical to ensuring the validity of your research stance. After all, no one can be 100% objective. The researcher’s beliefs, values systems, and moral stances are as fundamentally present and inseparable from the research process. In fact, even the most passive methods of data collection and quantitative analysis have some interactional aspects, and it is impossible to absolutely control for and ensure the unobtrusiveness of research applications and interventions. Power dynamics flow through every vein of the research process; therefore, it is our ethical duty to intentionally and mindfully attend to our role(s) in the contextual power interplay of the research process.

In addition to the technical qualitative and quantitative research methods for ensuring validity, a preemptive and fundamental step in attending to the ethics of the research process is to critically reflect on, flesh out, interrogate, and state one’s positionality. A great place to labor with and develop one’s positionality is in a researcher reflection memo, which provides a safe, brave, intentional, self-reflexive, and critical space to consider and respond to questions about one’s positionality:

  • How do my personal, professional and/or intellectual positionalities (identities, contexts, experiences, and perspectives) cohere with or diverge from my research inquiries?
  • What legacies (personal, communal, societal, national, transnational and/or global) inform the social constructedness of my positionality?
  • In what ways, or not, am I conscientiously, or not, reifying, resisting, disrupting, and/or changing the constructs of my positionality through this research process?
  • How has my own positionality changed, or not, over time, and why? In what ways has it remained static, and why? In what ways has it been dynamic, fluid, emerging and/or generative, and why?
  • How does my positionality recognize, honor, and/or problematize intersectional notions of difference (politics, economic class, race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, legality, age, ability, education, sexuality, gender, and/or religion?) as a conceptual praxis of analysis for my research context?

intersectionality-blueman.jpg

For more support come into Weingarten to meet with a learning instructor during an individual consultation on any and all undergraduate and graduate research or join our working group series called Dissertation Bootcamp.

Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow