And We’re Off!

Seeing as how I had very little clarity about my Capstone project, any sort of activity or aid that might help spark some inspiration in my brain was more than welcome.  Receiving this assignment to browse the web for possible topic ideas proved to be just what I needed, as it helped me to hone in on areas that interested me, and on subjects that I definitely wanted to stay away from.

Initially, I was drawn to the broad headings of “Business,” “News & Current Events,” and “Social Sciences”.  Since a lot of my undergraduate career has revolved around social sciences and business, I would love to do a project that would actually benefit my professional goals, but that would still allow me to stretch my talents and learn new skills such as graphic design and Photoshop.  Because of this, I thought it might be interesting to do some sort of ad campaign for a new product or for, say, a new and upcoming musician at the University of Michigan.  Being able to work on something from start to finish that would be along the lines of what my career goals are could help me to test the waters and gain relevant experience.  I want to do something completely different from my gateway project, and this type of campaign could be just the thing.

Alternately, the anxiety that the headings like “Engineering” and “Government, Politics, and Law” gave me was sign enough that no project of mine would ever revolve around these fields.  Although I may not have entirely figured out my project through the rabbit hole search, I have definitely narrowed down the list and found glaring subjects to avoid.

Overall, through this process I have come to realize that I would like to stick with a subject area that is relevant to me and not do something completely random that will not be applicable or useful to me in the future.

Looking forward to seeing where the semester leads and what kinds of ideas everyone comes up with!

Into the Rabbit Hole: Another Form of Fiction

I have to admit that this may not have brought me any closer to a succinct idea but I do feel a bit more bold in potentially experimenting with things. I was immediately drawn to the Arts and Humanities sections because I wasn’t familiar with the “research” side of them. Surprisingly, I had no idea of the depth of available research in the Arts and Humanities sections.  

“Comic Books and Graphic Novels” was a guide that was incredibly interesting. I had always pictured this genre as mostly containing Marvel/DC superheroes, Manga and Archie comics. Other types of novels seemed to be a small subset. But, I guess, Betty, Veronica and Batman don’t even begin to cover this genre. There are so many different forms and stories that a comic book/graphic novel could take. There were different denominations (eg. independent, mini comics, etc).  I quickly realized that comic books/graphic novels could be portrayed differently, written differently and speak different message to different audiences.

I discovered the Expresso Book Machine. Did you know you could actually print books? You can actually get published (not officially, but at least have a print copy of a book). This is a great opportunity for anyone to print a project in book from. 

The other subject area that I was intrigued by was “Theater/Drama”. I had never read or seen too many plays. I visited the resource“Theater in Video” which had fantastic recordings of original performances from plays but also contained productions on “non-artsy” topics like Rehabilitation history and Dentistry. The definition of theatre is defined differently from what I expected. 

From a project perspective, this exercise broadened my view of the different forms that my writing could take. This semester, I wanted to explore more of my ability in writing fiction. However, rather than simply typing words as a story, I now see that this project could take different forms. I could create a comic book. I could write a play or create a video/film depicting some sort of story. It’ll be interesting to see what form of fiction I’ll end up with. 

All Rabbit Holes Lead to Food

I have a tendency to get myself very lost in “rabbit holes” on the internet – I can spend hours clicking from one page to the next and the next – so I sort of thought this would be a terrible assignment for me before I even began. I have also used the Research Guides before, strictly for finding databases and at times when I knew exactly what sort of information I was looking for, but being familiar with the site allowed me to choose what sounded interesting, without thinking too much about where it would take me. Once I got to the Research Guides page, I clicked on the International Studies tab. One guide near the end stuck out: Unique Collections on the UM Campus.

Did you know we have an amulet collection? It’s at the Taubman Health Sciences Library, which is unfortunately closed for renovations (I couldn’t find if the amulets are on display elsewhere until the building reopens). However, I didn’t see this helping me with my capstone project in any way, so I backtracked a bit to look through the library’s special collections.

I found that there’s a culinary archive of American cookbooks and related materials from the past 400 years. The archive’s description mentioned the strong connection between food and culture, which I find very interesting. Still, I was unconvinced I had found my topic, so I went back to the Research Guide and clicked on Social Sciences. Lo and behold, there is a category on Food Studies. It gives suggestions on how to research food technology, culture, history, and even government regulation. I started thinking of about a million different ways I could explore food in my capstone project. Although I did not come up with any concrete ideas, and I still have no idea what I’ll be doing for this project, food seems like a good place to start.

I fell into a rabbit divot

I’m going to make a pretty obvious statement right here and now: the Internet is a magical thing. Good, now that that’s out of the way, I can confess that my searching habits resemble those that someone who never grew up with a computer may possess.

What I’m saying is that I don’t find myself clicking on link after link and “falling into a rabbit hole” on a usual basis. I think a big part of it is that I don’t like not knowing how much time I will spend looking up factoids that I will literally never need again. But also, maybe I am just not extremely inquisitive.

Sticking to what you know isn’t completely a terrible way to live life; I just like to think that I’m a pretty direct thinker who searches for something with a purpose. For example, on an almost daily basis, I will read or watch something entertaining, and I play the “What else has that actor been in?” game (big shout-out to IMDb).

So with this massive preface out of the way, my “rabbit hole” was more like a “rabbit divot” when using the library research guides. Because I have a pretty good idea of where I want to take my project this semester, I didn’t allow myself to just wander; instead I looked at categories that I thought were going to be beneficial for me (selfish, I know).

About my search: what I’m looking into is really gender and entertainment of the superhero variety, so I first clicked on Arts and that led me to Comic Books and Graphic Novels. There was not only an archive of comic books, but also essays about the superhero, which is pretty neat. I even found an archive about women in comic books (score) and how to cite a comic book properly.

From there, I tried to find something under the women’s studies category, but came up empty handed. However, I did stumble upon a pretty nice archive about how to obtain copyright to use images and things, which I think a lot of people in class might want if they are using pictures that aren’t theirs (you’re welcome).

Although I didn’t just free-fall through links and tabs, I now feel more assured that there is material on my potential project. So I encourage a more direct route even if you have various ideas just to see what kind of potential your project has!

That’s Not the Rabbit Hole I’m Looking For

 

I have to admit…I don’t spend much of my time traveling down the rabbit hole that is the great and powerful Google search. When I search, I generally have a pretty clear idea what I want and what I am looking for. As unbelievable and unfathomable as it sounds, it’s the truth.

I search for things I like, I search for things I need, and I search for things I’m interested in and not much else. I find it excruciatingly difficult to not only search for, but also to read about something that I am not interested in. It is one of the things I most wish I could change about myself, but I have to be honest here.

320px-Down_the_Rabbit_Hole

When using the Research Guides from the University of Michigan library, I started out with the goal of just having fun, seeking out things I wouldn’t normally, and clicking on any link that tickled my fancy. The goal was not to hesitate, not to overthink, just to click.

Things didn’t go quite as expected. I managed to click without reluctance, but I found myself clicking back more often than not. And when I did go back, I was looking for something specific. As much as I wanted to let go and freefall into the rabbit hole, I couldn’t. By the end of the process, I was looking at every link in the long lists of options before selecting one, hoping to see one of the keywords in my mind. In the end, I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did locate some incredible resources that are there if I need them. This just wasn’t quite the rabbit hole I was looking for.

Down the Rabbit Hole I Go…

down_the_rabbit_hole_by_fit51391-d5m5uk0When I made it to the Research Guide page, I immediately clicked on the Humanities category. Some of the other sections interested me, but most of the courses I’ve taken in college are humanities-based and it’s become the field in which I feel most comfortable.

The Humanities category has a wide range of topics in it. I was turned off by the Communications and media links because I want to branch out and do something different in my project. I first looked at the Children’s Literature link. I think it would be fun to write a children’s book; it would be a new challenge for me, and compel me to approach writing in a way that I have not before. I’m not sure what I would write about that is applicable to my life or education and is accessible to children. Another hurdle is animation or art, which is almost always necessary to children’s books. My artistic talents do not go beyond the ability to draw a stick figure, so drawing pictures for an entire (albeit) short book would be very difficult.

As I was perusing the Humanities page, I found myself looking for a journalism link. I didn’t find one, but I think the fact that I wanted to says something about what I am interested in. On the first day of class, while speaking with my partner about potential project topics, I came up with the idea of a newspaper column. I –without any shame –am a big fan of Sex and the City, and was inspired by the protagonist’s fictional weekly column. The columns wouldn’t be quite as scandalous as those of Carrie Bradshaw, but I do think this project would allow me to incorporate humor into my project. As with the children’s book idea, I’m not sure what my topic or angle would be with the column, but the flexibility of such a project would enable me to come at it in different ways.

Overall, the rabbit hole activity was very helpful. The Research Guide didn’t necessarily point me to one specific topic, but helped me think about what I am interested, which is one of, if not the most important steps in choosing a project.

Best Kept Secrets Found Down the Rabbit Hole

Being a (mostly) science writer in my studies, I had heard of a good portion of the links that came up in my click through Health Sciences > Hematology/Oncology. For example, the journal names were all familiar, PubMed is my go-to database, and I even knew some of the jargon being tossed around. But, it really is true that you learn something knew every day.

Through my search I found a magical database that I only ever dreamed about before. It’s called Web of Science. (Cue glorious music sound) It’s the simplest and most needed database I’ve ever come across. You use it to search for published papers by topic, title, authors, author indicators, year, and the list goes on. Then, you can refine your search based on how far back in time you want to search. Click go and the magic flowing out of your computer is comparable to that at Hogwarts. This database tells you how many times each article has been cited by another source and, wait for it, will produce for you a citation map. That’s right folks, the Rabbit Hole problem has been solved. This map will show you who cited who and when. If any of you are science majors or have worked in a research lab, you’re probably as excited as me about this.

Web of Science Screenshot
The easy-to-use Web of Science Database.

Of course, there are other great features to Web of Science like MGetIt so you can see the full articles. The point I’m trying to make, besides a defending trial for Web of Science, is that I really didn’t know there was more we were being offered. I usually just go to PubMed or even just search the library search bar at the top of their website when I’m looking for papers or references. After 7 full semesters here, you’d think I would have gotten the University’s die hard message about all the resources, but I haven’t. My advice to any underclassman is to search around. I know you feel like you don’t have time and you just want what’s right in front of you, but there’s so much more and you’ll really save time in the end when you find a more specific and helpful resource.