For my second semester of the Library as Research Lab’s Assessment in Student Learning Lab, I did an independent study project, advised by Dr. Beth Yakel, surrounding some of the preliminary results of the survey that our lab conducted in the fall of 2019. This project, while giving me a chance to learn more project management and technical skills, also taught me a valuable lesson outside of these skills: the importance and necessity of patience during self-motivated research work.
In this work, I paired external demographic data about survey participants with a specific question from the survey itself (find my project poster here). While the survey data was something I had direct access to as part of the lab, the other demographic data that wasn’t generated by our survey was stored in various university data sources, and required extra steps to ethically access and use. While I planned on these extra steps in order to ensure ethical and equitable data use when embarking on this project, I hadn’t considered how this would impact the actual timeline of my research project.
The work on an independently-motivated project as an offshoot of my work in the Assessment in Student Learning Lab taught me so much about managing the moving parts of a research timeline that involves incorporating data from external sources. My productivity style is very self-motivated, and I initially felt stalled by the portions of my work that hinged on things that I couldn’t control. Although I understood the necessity of the procedures put in place to equitably access data sources, I often felt frustrated early on in this process. However, the assessment librarian I worked with on this project, Dr. Craig Smith, was really helpful in encouraging me during this process. I feel very grateful for his help in navigating the various systems and procedures for getting the data I needed. Understanding more about the repositories and databases from which I was getting data, and the reasons for the access procedures, will certainly help me in my future research, as well.
As I navigated the components involved in gathering and analyzing data for this project, I was able to understand how to manage my time amidst research pieces that were not always in my control. It taught me how to use my time in different ways, and to restructure my timeline to adapt to changes in the research process. Above all, this independent study taught me patience and the necessity of flexibility in all situations, which is a lesson I will value in my future career.
Julia Maxwell is a recent MSI grad interested in digital scholarship and learning in academic libraries. She is also a design management fellow at the UM Center for Academic Innovation.