Well the semester has come to a close, and the Obamacare Team is happy to report we had a very productive semester. Between myself, Joanna, and Will we completed our article collection project, collected troves of new data, and made lots of headway on our individual projects.
As we reported before we spent much of this semester collecting new data for use in group and individual research. This data includes three categories of variables: policy (collected by Joanna, measures what states did in response to the ACA), health/demographics (collected by Will, includes a number of measures on the health and characteristics of state populations), and political (collected by me, and includes measures on the ideological climate of states).
Once we completed that we set about working on our individual projects. Will and Joanna will report on theirs more in the future, as both are spending time this summer on their projects. As a senior, however, I completed my project on measuring state ideology (see my earlier post for more details).
My departure from the SNaPP Lab (and from W&M) has made me want to reflect on my time in the lab. I don’t want to just take this opportunity to tell you I learned a lot though, or that I completed some really interesting research projects (even if they were super interesting). Instead, I want to encourage all current and future liberal arts students out there with a will to learn and a topic they’re passionate about to get out there and find research to do! Even if your final product/result isn’t what you expected (and trust me, it usually isn’t), you can learn so much about your field and about scholarly work in general by rolling your sleeves up and doing research. The transferrable skills you learn are invaluable, and you may find your efforts turning into an honors thesis, published article, or even a job.
I also want to encourage those students doing research now or in the future to stick with it. There were times these past few years where I ran into giant brick walls I was sure were insurmountable. I remember distinctly the day this past summer I learned that my project as I had designed it was completely infeasible. Yet I stuck with it, adapted to the challenges I ran into, and ended up learning so much about research and more.
Finally, a word of advice to my future and current Government/Public Policy lovers: do research! I know there is a temptation amongst students in our field to avoid methods courses and research work like the plague. Oftentimes we would rather read Politico articles and talk about Democrats and Republicans than sit down and complete a research project. The benefits of doing projects like these, however, are tremendous, and even if you don’t please consider taking as many methods courses as you can. I am so glad that I took the research courses and completed the projects I did because they taught me an immense amount about not just research, but also how to approach complex problems more methodically and successfully.
So if you know a favorite professor of yours is looking for research assistants, or you have the opportunity to apply for a summer research grant, don’t hesitate because you’re worried it would be too hard or that you wouldn’t learn from the experience. If you approach your research with enthusiasm and dedication you will learn an incredible amount, I promise.