My CURF in Retrospect

Looking back, these last four months of the CURF experience have really flown by. Thanks to the opportunity presented by the CURF, I’ve been able to take on an entirely independent research project for my departmental honor’s thesis, present this project on two occasions at undergraduate conferences, and successfully defend my thesis.

For context, my final project has shifted quite a bit since my original proposal. In the final product, I’ve since turned to explore several existing definitions of tianxia theory and employ mixed methods for text analysis to evidence critical characteristics of tianxia in the 1988 documentary River Elegy. In my project, I discovered evidence to demonstrate that instead of Westernized vision for China, the language of River Elegy constructs a unifying, all-inclusive, and centralized civilizational order on the basis of cultural Chineseness, principles at the core of tianxia theory.

In this experience working on a research project in the humanities, I have found the university library has proved to be an incredibly useful yet underutilized resource. Throughout the research process, I’d worked with the subject librarian in Chinese in order to access books, articles, and Chinese-language materials that I otherwise might not have been able to obtain during the pandemic. Later on, as I encountered challenges in exploring various text analysis methods, the dedicated library resources in the digital humanities were a great help. For my specific project, I had originally set out to use a simple word frequency analysis and collocations analysis of the River Elegy text. However, as I delved into the possibilities of semantic network analysis, initial findings were hugely interesting but difficult to replicate. It was only much later in the semester—and entirely by accident—that I discovered the digital scholarship services offered by our library. (Coincidentally, at that time I was part of a team conducting a usability test of the university library site.) For anyone beginning an independent research project of their own, I highly recommend reaching out to a library expert in your field. From my own experience, I was very grateful to the digital humanities experts I worked with, who were happy to sit down with me and address any questions specific to my project, as well as direct me to additional resources. Below, I’ve shared several visualization layouts I developed for the semantic network in River Elegy, with thanks to the help of library experts.

What’s Next?

Looking back over these last months, my CURF research experience has been incredibly valuable to me, personally, professionally, and academically. With my final thesis, I hope to translate these findings and seek publication opportunities in a peer-reviewed journal. This fall, I will pursue an MBA in International Human Resources Development at National Taiwan Normal University. While topic of my research isn’t immediately relevant to my post-graduate plans, nonetheless the research process has proven to be immensely useful for sharpening my data analysis, technical communications, and Chinese language skills. I’ve realized, perhaps even more impactful than my research question is this—discovering an interest in collecting and evaluating data to draw data-evidenced conclusions. This had had great implications for my current work as Research and Design Associate at Libraries Without Borders and is an area I have great interest in developing skills in for future professional endeavors.

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