Books Read in 2013

An ongoing list. Since I can’t seem to remember to update Goodreads, and some of what I’m reading will be Advanced Reader Copies(ARC) for work.

January:

Catching Fire (Hunger Games Trilogy #2) – Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction (dystopian)

Game of Thrones (completed second half) – George R. R. Martin,  Fantasy

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley, Science Fiction, Classics

Fever (Chemical Garden Trilogy #1) – Lauren DeStefano, YA Science Fiction (dystopian, genetics)

The Voyeurs – Gabrielle Bell,  Graphic Memoir

Eve and Adam – Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate, YA Science Fiction (genetics)

The Resurrectionist – E. B. Hudspeth (ARC), Fiction (Magical Realism?)

February:

Firecracker – David Iverson (ARC), YA Fiction (Realistic, contemporary)

Song of the Vikings – Nancy Marie Brown, Non-fiction, History (Snorri and Norse Mythology)

Calling Dr. Laura – Nicole Georges, Graphic Memoir

Not Exactly A Love Story – Audrey Couloumbis, YA Fiction (Realistic, historical – 1970s)

Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner,  YA Fiction (dystopian)

March:

Abelard – Renaud Dillies and Regis Hautier, Graphic Novel

Chickenhare – Chris Grine, Middle Grade Graphic Novel

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler (ARC), Fiction (historical)

The Testing – Joelle Charbonneau (ARC), YA Fiction (dystopian)

Hilda and the Bird Parade – Luke Pearson, Middle Grade Graphic Novel

The Round House – Louise Erdrich, Fiction

Island of the Aunts – Eva Ibbotson, Middle Grade Fiction

de: Tales – Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, Graphic Novel (short stories)

April:

Orleans – Sherri L. Smith, YA Fiction (dystopian/alternate history-then-future)

Foiled! – Jane Yolen, YA Graphic Novel (fantasy)

The Diviners – Libba Bray, YA Fiction (1920s, magical realism?, maybe just fantasy)

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls – David Sedaris, Essays

May:

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass – Meg Medina, YA Fiction (realistic – bullying)

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Dinner Table Discussions

The other night, my partner and I were invited to his aunt and uncle’s house for dinner. Going to eat there is always enjoyable, and we’re guaranteed a few hours of great food and interesting conversation. This was no exception, and I had to laugh when the discussion turned to performing research on youth.

Tom was discussing how frustrated he was with a certain seminar he had to attend the next day. I pressed him for details and he admitted that it had to do with performing research studies involving his students. Tom works at a local daycare facility, and he didn’t want to go into detail on the study they were going to try and complete in the near future (it very well could have been that he had not been told yet, I didn’t press him for details). The seminar was going to attend was going to take time away from his classroom, and in his eyes it wasn’t going to be anything new. Just another academic that wanted to discuss the finer points of separating the resesarcher’s role from that of the teacher. Tom wanted to vent, and this is what he shared.

As a teacher in the facility, he hates when they try to do research studies. He explained that they often ask him to resign his role as teacher for this period and focus only on gathering data. In his view, this is counterproductive to his actual job and trying to act as a researcher keeps him from doing what he is there to do: interact with and teach his students. He also briefly discussed the sheer difficulty of collecting data on this age group. In the past, he’s been instructed to attempt and record “interesting observations” with video. Being the only instructor in the room, this would often mean a mad scramble to get the video camera turned on and pointed at said “interesting interaction”, only to then have to restrain himself and stay out of the picture while hoping that the kids would continue at whatever they were doing (which was rare, he said, since they would often wander off since no one was helping them to stay engaged in their activity). At this point, I piped up about my Research Methods class, wanting to talk about the Ellis article that we had just read that outlined qualitative research techniques with children. I wanted to talk to him about interviewing young children and the value of pre-interview activities, or ask him if those weren’t really necessary with his kids since he knew them already from months of interaction before the study was introduced. But Tom did not want to talk about it. He was so caught up in not wanting to even do the research that any questions I had were brushed off, and so I decided to drop it.

Tom is a teacher, and his passion is working with those young kids on their level and helping them to grow. He is not interested in the research portion of his job, and is probably going to push pretty hard against whoever it is that is telling him to do it. I was sad that I couldn’t get him to discuss his past research experiences any further, but also exhilarated at the seemingly random insertion of a conversation on research methods in my everyday life. It was interesting to see someone who was so adamantly against the process. He did admit at one point that he understood the long-term benefit of gathering and analyzing the data, but from his disjointed and vague descriptions of the research process he had been a part of in the past I gathered that maybe those projects were not well organized.

I would imagine that with more resources or a more well-thought-out plan the data collection could be less invasive, and maybe having Tom and the other employees doing the actual data collection isn’t a good idea in the first place. Let them maintain their normal position as the head of the classroom, and introduce new individuals who would be less involved in the day-to-day classroom activities since their sole purpose would be to conduct the study and gather the data. One of the things I’ve learned in this class about conducting research  is that if it is being done in the natural environment of the participants it needs to be as unobtrusive as possible so that the data that is gathered is not tainted. Being a part of this environment in a natural way also helps the researchers to gain a better, richer understanding of the participants and what they are experiencing, which leads to a better understanding of their actions and reactions. Hopefully Tom’s meeting proved to be better than he was expecting, and this research proposal will be better-designed to allow for an easier experience than before.

Writing Abstracts

FYI: An explanation. Our class has an assignment to find and write abstracts for 5 articles related to one topic of our choosing. My group has settled on a schedule of submitting 2 abstracts for review the first week, 2 more the next week, and then our final abstract with a few days left before the 5 are due to our instructor. In this way, we are able to review each others’ work in stages, offer feedback on each attempt, and apply that feedback when writing our next round.

My first attempt at writing abstracts for our Research Assignment produced results unlike any of my group mates. My abstracts were much shorter and more generalized, avoiding a lot of details of the individual study. I had focused on trying to include keywords that would be useful to anyone performing abstract keyword searches, since I’ve found that to be a very helpful way of searching for things in my own experience. The individuals in my group had mostly positive things to say about them (I had some problems with tense that needed further editing, etc.), and since I usually prefer to read shorter abstracts with less specific detail I figured these first attempts were alright for the time being.
For my second attempt, I decided to try a different approach to both reading the articles and writing the abstracts. I started by opening the article in question in one window on my laptop and having a word document open in another window. As I read through the article, I took notes about the details of the study, along with things that I felt would help someone who was searching for information determine if the article was worth their time or applicable to their own needs. After finishing the article, I minimized that pdf window and opened another word document that was completely blank. Having this window open side-by-side with the original note-taking word document allowed me to see my notes at a glance and reference them easily while crafting my abstract. The immediate difference that I see between my first attempt at abstracting and this new round is that my abstracts are MUCH longer and more detailed. They resemble those of my group mates much more. I am curious to see what their feedback is on them this time around.

My initial feeling is that I need to find a middle ground between the two attempts. Figure out what details from the study to eliminate so that I can decrease the length of the abstract without diminishing it, but also retain keywords for those searchers who are utilizing keyword abstract search techniques. From a personal standpoint, I definitely feel a higher retention of the information in both of these studies/articles. I imagine that I will continue to take notes in this manner for most of my article readings in the future.

New Semester, New Direction

A new semester means new classes and new assignments. This blog is going to be the new home for two of them. Here are some handy directions for navigating these waters through to December:

LIBR 264: Materials for ‘Tweens

These posts will be full of reviews of books intended for audiences roughly age 8-12, as well as my own responses to weekly discussions required by our instructor.

LIBR 285: Research Methods (with a focus on Youth)

These posts will construct a Research Journal, cataloging my journey to becoming a researcher. Expect a varying style of post, but all relating to Research and my personal experiences with it as an entity and a process.

Tags for each will contain the class number (264 or 285) for easy compilation by professors and other interested parties. Hope you enjoy!