Monday, July 17, 2017

New Skills

All my life, I have struggled being confident with conducting, displaying, and discussing my research. Even though I still have a long way to go in implementing this confidence, this research internship at the LAKES REU has without a doubt increased my confidence in my research abilities more than I could have ever hoped for. Not only has confidence in myself and in my research improved, but I have also learned about the importance of surveying in my research field, and how the order and phrasing of questions have a HUGE impact on how people answer the survey. It has been really interesting seeing how people respond to these surveys which has shown me two things: when conducting a survey, they need to come off as neutral as possible as to not scare possible participants away, and that I should never get my hopes up when receiving surveys back because the response rate is extremely disappointing (of the about 250 surveys we handed out, we got about 35 back).

While working with Sadie and Elise, my respect for survey data was furthered. Their surveys were much longer and more personal than the survey Madison and I conducted, which made it even more difficult to receive a decent participation rate. Even when analyzing the survey answers, I noticed that many people leave answers blank, or answer them incorrectly. I also noticed that some questions we asked were confusing or needed to be more specific after already sending them out. By gaining data through surveys, I have realized how important survey data is in research, yet how difficult it is to make good surveys and get people to participate and give accurate answers, which means it is important to stay positive, persistent, and just learn from your mistakes so you can fix them quickly.  

While doing research in this internship, I have also noticed that whenever I hear people talk about studies they've heard of, I am immediately skeptical and question the validity of the research. How big is their sample size? How did they word their questions and answers in their surveys? How did they recode the answers for their data to analyze? Depending on these answers, the results can greatly vary and change the overall findings. Even though I trust scientific research, I also believe it is important to stay skeptical and always question what you think you know in order to keep improving your understanding, enhancing your skills, and keep advancing forward. I am so excited to keep learning new things in this internship and keep gaining confidence in my own work so I can possibly become a well respected and influential researcher or worker in general!

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