Capstone Project Introduction

My capstone project presents a health science research project I completed the summer before entering the Capstone Course. On my site, you will find a complete copy of the research paper I wrote and submitted for publication, as well as my introduction essay that contextualizes the work.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I am more than happy to talk about my Capstone experience.

Email: jerlynn@umich.edu

Ahead, and Behind

My capstone project has been progressing rather quickly this week, compared to weeks past. I have now finalized the data collection and statistical analysis necessary to write a publishable research manuscript, and created various tables and graphs to present the results in an accessible manner. The abstract, introduction, methods, and references are also written, and my mentor has already reviewed these components. Nonetheless, I can’t seem to figure out whether I am ahead of schedule, right where I need to be, or wildly behind.

I still need to write the results, discussion, and conclusion sections of my research article; create a website to house the final capstone project; write the Introduction Essay; and create an annotated bibliography to accompany my work. Additionally, the University of Michigan Pediatric Research Symposium, at which I will be giving a talk about my capstone project, is quickly approaching and I have yet to begin the accompanying PowerPoint that will supplement my presentation. It seems the uncertainty surrounding how much time it will take to complete the abovementioned tasks is fueling my uneasy feeling.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to realizing the project I set out to complete, and my eagerness to potentially publish the research manuscript at the end of the term is especially motivating. After all, I find myself in this position at the mid-way point of almost every term, and up until this point, things have always worked out in the end. I am (sub)consciously depending on the same outcome in 6 short weeks.

Current Challenges (not edited)

The following is an un-edited copy of my in-class writing from today, which discusses the challenges I am currently facing in the Capstone Course:

“I am just now starting to realize how much work I have left to complete in approximately six short weeks. At the beginning of the term, I was basing my perceived workload on the research paper component of my project, but failed to account for all the time that will be required to create the website and write the Introduction Essay. My meeting with T this past Friday, during which I clarified my plans for these additional components, was thus somewhat shocking.

With that said, I am still very excited about realizing the goals I have set for my project, which include potentially submitting my paper to a scientific journal for publication. The fact that I am not dreading this project has helped keep my stress levels down. It is now just a matter of finding time in my schedule to do the work. But, I have no travel plans in November so I should be able to make a lot of progress rather quickly.

More specifically, my plan is to complete the full draft of the research paper, and then focus on the project site itself as well as the Introduction Essay. I also need to work on my upcoming presentation slides for the University of Michigan Pediatric Research Symposium I am presenting at. I plan to include these slides and potentially an audio file of my talk on my project site as an additional resource for people to view.”

I usually spend time editing and re-wording my blog posts before publishing them, but I like the feeling of leaving this work as is.

Contacting Mentors, For Help with What?

Throughout my time here at the University of Michigan, I have had the opportunity to interact with and learn from several influential mentors. Most notably, Dr. Blackwood, a pediatrician at the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital here on campus, has supported me through the process of developing and executing the research project I am writing about for my capstone project. In addition, Dr. Ranganathan, a University of Michigan plastic surgery resident, has been extremely helpful in maintaining the direction of the data collection process in the face of various obstacles encountered along the way. Despite the established relationship I have with these two individuals, I was initially hesitant to contact them about being my capstone mentors because I didn’t yet have a clear vision of my project in mind. I felt as though I was asking them to support me in a venture, but didn’t have specific things for them to assist me with.

I am curious whether other capstone students have experienced this same dilemma. Does the importance of contacting potential members early in the semester supersede the importance of having a well thought out project to pitch in the initial email or meeting? I personally decided to proceed with contacting my mentors before I had my production plan finalized, but I also had an established relationship with them. If I were contacting someone I didn’t previously know, I am not sure which decision I would have made. I am also not sure if there is a “correct” answer to this situation.

Interacting with Outside Literature

The final paper of my English 225 class (academic argumentation) was an investigative analysis essay, which involved creating a claim-based argument “supported by evidence from research.” I decided to write about the return of golf to the Olympics in 2016, and engaged with a myriad of websites, journal articles, and published research to familiarize myself with the topic and develop my own stance on the issue. While finding credible research was straightforward, the process of interacting with these sources while developing my own claim was very challenging.

Looking forward to the capstone project, I believe the biggest obstacle will be cohesively blending primary research into my writing while also developing my own voice. The investigative analysis paper I wrote in English 225 taught me how to utilize outside sources to advance my own claims. However, if I write a health science research paper based on the data I have collected over the past year regarding cleft lip and palate patient compliance for my capstone project, I will face the added challenge of integrating novel results with outside research. That is, I will need to frame and support my findings with relevant research performed by others.

To overcome this challenge, I plan to find a “model paper” on PubMed, and follow the general format and rhetorical strategies as I create my piece of writing. This will allow me to expand upon the skills I developed in English 225, and further prepare myself for a potential career in medicine by enhancing my ability to interact with the health science research community.

ePortfolio! The end…

I remember previewing various ePortfolio’s at the beginning of the semester, and feeling slightly intimidated by the amount of writing they seemed to contain. I remember feeling stressed, too, at the mere thought of having to create one of my own in just four short months. But as I add the final touches to my ePortfolio, I am finally realizing that I have indeed completed all four major projects, and I have made dramatic improvements as a writer along the way. This semester has flown by faster than ever before and I am amazed at the quality projects I have been able to complete.

As for the ePortfolio in particular, I am most satisfied with the general layout of the site, including the format of each individual page as well as the organization of the portfolio as a whole. Simplicity was my main focus during the construction of the ePortfolio, and I believe this focus is clearly reflected in my final product. I am also very happy with the three major projects my portfolio displays. I feel as though all three projects were created in accordance with my overall goals for the minor, and clearly reflect my passion for medicine, too. But with that said, there is still a fair amount of work to be done on my portfolio, most of which revolves around the writing reflections.

The overall process of creating the portfolio was more extensive than I initially imagined. My goal for the portfolio was to create a very user-friendly showcase to display a wide array of my writing. I therefore considered the placement of each aspect of the site, and included numerous direct links from one page of the portfolio to another in order to achieve maximum ease of use for viewers. This careful consideration perhaps lengthened the process, but was well worth the effort in the end. While my ePortfolio is not yet complete, you can view my project as it currently stands right HERE.

I still cannot believe the semester has already come and gone, but I look forward taking more writing classes for the minor in the coming semesters.

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Advice!

Congratulations on your acceptance into the writing minor. My first bit of advice would be to start engaging in the gateway class immediately, because it will be over before you know it. I feel like I was reading advice blog posts just a few weeks ago, yet here I am writing one. Anyways, here are a few pieces of advice that should ensure a smooth trip through the gateway course.

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First, take every writing assignment as a chance to better your writing skills, and you will be surprised at the improvements you will make in just four short months. This includes the weekly blog posts and other low-stakes writing you will do in addition to the three or four main projects.

Second, I recommend being very proactive when it comes to gateway assignments. When other classes get busy, it is tempting to quickly throw together a blog post or peer-review letter, but mindless writing will not lead to improvement. We all entered the minor with intentions of improving as writers; staying proactive and engaged in assignments is the best way to meet this goal.

Last, don’t be afraid to open your mind and try something new. I know this is corny, but let me give you an example. In my very first blog post, I said I was in the minor to write and was therefore not going to create a video for any of the projects. Well, I just finished my video today and it was by far the most rewarding piece of work I completed all semester. So I suggest trying something new at some point during the semester.

 

Good luck as you begin the rewarding experience that is the gateway course.

Busy, Busy, Busy

This semester has flown by faster than any other. Here we are just weeks away from Christmas break, and I feel like the gateway class is just starting to pick up steam. By this I do not mean to discredit the work we have done so far this semester, but rather acknowledge the significant work yet to be completed in the coming weeks. Of course I am referring to the remediation project, Why I Write project, and the ePortfolio, which are all fairly substantial pieces of writing. I am most excited to work on my ePortfolio, as this project offers an opportunity to showcase all of the hard work I have put into my writing skills this semester.

Putting the ePortfolio on hold for one last week, I used Thanksgiving break as a time to sit down and get a good start on my Why I Write piece. For this project, I took a very different approach than the repurposing project and remediation project, and began the project by simply writing down any/all thoughts that came to mind as I pondered the somewhat overwhelming prompt of Why I Write. This process led to the creation of a more traditional essay containing personal reflections on my progressive development as a writer, beginning from the time I was about ten years old. This was an enjoyable process, and forced me to think back to various aspects of my childhood and relate them to the possible reasons Why I Write, which I had frankly never considered.

Furthermore, my personal reflections on why I write in the beginning of the essay Alt="Cartoon of book acting as bridge over valley"transformed into a more holistic approach to the prompt in the concluding portion of the paper. This final section focuses on the power of writing to provide personal clarity and understanding, facilitate widespread education, and ultimately enable positive change on a societal level. I also used these concluding paragraphs as a time to connect the reason why I write to the reasons why I am driven to pursue medicine. Overall, I felt myself relaxing more as I wrote this draft than the previous two, and this led to a piece that well represents me both in content and style.

Mastering the Basics: Sentence Structure

As I have voiced in previous blog posts, my goal in entering the writing minor was to develop a more professional tone by mastering the basic mechanics of writing. And while I have already made noticeable strides towards achieving this goal, I still find myself regularly struggling with awkward sentence structures, as suggested by the prompt. These frustrating moments arise for me both during the initial writing process and during the revision process, and often times leave me feeling handcuffed in front of the computer.

My conscious struggle with fluidity and rhythm were most prevalent during the revision process of the repurposing piece. I began my revision process by studying the sentence structures of my model source, and then proceeded to mimic them in my own work. It was this process of actively altering my sentence structures that opened my eyes to my go-to sentence structure: complex. The more I combed through my repurposing piece, the more complex sentences I noticed, and revised. I feel this exercise of consciously writing in certain sentence structures was my first big step towards improvement. Additionally, the weekly blog posts allow for regular practice and subsequent improvement.

Alt="satiric cartoon about writing revision"

Furthermore, I hope to implement my improved writing skills into research abstracts and manuscripts written for my lab here on campus. Writing a research paper is a very extensive process and often times requires more than twenty or thirty drafts before the publisher will accept the work. However, beginning this writing process with a strong understanding of basic writing mechanics will surely speed along this revision process and cut out many unnecessary drafts.

In all, I look forward to steadily improving my writing skills in the coming semesters, and then implementing such improvements in a wide array of writing projects.

 

Why I Write

I find it very difficult to articulate my personal motivations and passions. For example, I grew up loving sports and friends and the outdoors, but I never really knew why. I just did. And as I entered high school, and eventually college, my lack of words and concrete reasons behind my passions never seemed to clear up. Today, I know without a doubt that I want to be a doctor, and I know without a doubt that I appreciate the empowering nature of writing. But I still struggle to articulate why. These things simply feel natural, and I have never had a reason to question my seemingly inexplicable passions.

Reading the Why I Write essays of Orwell and Didion marked the beginning of my process towards introspectively understanding why I write. I felt disconnected from the Orwell piece from the very start, because, unlike Orwell, I have not known I was meant to be a writer since age 5. In fact, I didn’t know I was meant to be a writer when I entered the writing minor. But something seemed to constantly guide me back towards writing. I am not guided back to writing by a lack of interest or focus in other subjects, like Didion. But still, something seems internally natural about writing. I finally began to understand why I write midway through the Didion essay, all thanks to one 9 word phrase in her essay:

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking.”

This may be the reason why I have never been able to articulate just why I write; I haven’t been able to offer concrete reasons as to why I write because I have never written about them–I have never found out what I was thinking. This, too, may be the reason why I have always lacked the ability to articulate my passion for becoming a doctor. This line stood out in Didion’s essay, and the more I write about it, the more I understand why. I write because I have to. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking.

Furthermore, I have discovered a lot about myself as a writer this semester. These personal discoveries have been broad, and range from discovering what I define as writing to the very reason why I write. Most importantly, the regular blogging and reflective writing in this class has exposed one of my most prominent writing tendencies: I write first and think second. By this, I mean that I most often think of my arguments and ideas while I write, as opposed to before I begin the writing process. No matter how much I brainstorm, the direction of my writing cannot be predicted until I begin writing.

This tendency explains both how and why I write.