Written by Mollie McNeil
Conducting undergraduate research was an enlightening experience. While enrolled in English 102I my freshman year, I spent an entire semester researching the topic of my choice (the Kardashians) and my research culminated in a presentation of my findings to the PIT journal. This experience improved my writing, research and presentation skills.
For my research topic, I chose the Kardashians because they are so interesting, yet few know why. Thus, my original research focused on the appeal of the Kardashians to American audiences. Writing my research proposal was surprisingly one of the most difficult writing assignments that I have completed thus far in my time at UNC. This assignment was challenging because my research was not yet complete and every time I began writing my proposal, the entire nature of my research changed. The original conference proposal I drafted was nothing like the proposal I submitted and I think this is a testament to the flexibility of undergraduate research. Your research can really become whatever you want it to be.
I spent last spring semester watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and reading literature on reality television. While this sounds like a great time, there is only so much research to be done on the Kardashians. However, analysis of television and its effects in the American psyche are abundant. While it is exciting to research subjects that aren’t the topic of a lot of scholarly discussion, it is also intimidating. However, the availability of sources here at UNC really helped to keep my research manageable. The actual research portion of my project was both the most intensive and the most interesting.
After my research was complete, I wrote a report on my findings. This was definitely the most frustrating portion of my experience. I was constantly tweaking, adding more information and re organizing my arguments. The draft that I finally decided on is actually titled “Journal Article Draft 12”. I believe that this experience was beneficial because it really drove home the importance of revision and taking constructive criticism. I still feel that this paper has a lot of improvements to make. It was at this stage of my research experience that the GRC meetings and extra instruction from my professor Ms. Guy were the most beneficial. I would say the writing portion of my research experience expanded my analytical thinking skills beyond simple explanations, which will undoubtedly help me in the future.
The presentation of my research at the PIT journal was also very rewarding and I think that the presentation brought home what undergraduate research is all about. While I realize that my research is undergraduate work and not quite “scholarly”, I still feel that the ideas presented could contribute to scholarly discussion. If nothing else, my research demonstrates the impact media has on American life. My experience with undergraduate research was great because it was exciting and genuinely the most instructive thing I have done thus far at UNC.