Junior Research Explained
Author Alexa Quindlen
At the Charter School of Wilmington, we have many unique trademarks that differentiate us from other schools. Because we are such a tight-knit family, we share common goals, faults, and understandings. Here, we have created our own little ecosystem, one in which we share a common language. For example, I think every Charter student sweats a little bit when they hear their teacher say, “Loose leaf!” It is almost certain what is coming—a pop quiz! The same applies to “Junior Research”: I truly believe every Charter junior’s heart rate increases slightly when they hear this topic tossed around by underclassmen and teachers alike. Junior Research is truly the elephant in the room…or school.
However, while all students are familiar with the term “Junior Research,” maybe even a little scared of it, most students do not truly understand the process until they are knee-deep in it. I remember hearing about it for the first time as a freshman; so many questions popped into my head. What is this project that we’re going to be doing? Why are we taking a class on it; is it really that big of a deal? What are the rules? Do we really just do whatever we want? I did not get these questions answered until I was on the verge of undergoing my own Junior Research project.
I hope that this article will be extremely helpful to the entire school, especially underclassmen and faculty; as a current junior on the cusp of ending this tiring journey, I believe that if I had known what was coming before I had started, it would have helped me better prepare for this process. So, as a gift from me to you, here is the entirety of Junior Research, retold by a current participant.
The biggest difficulty to overcome in any Junior Research project is letting go of the hand that has lead you through your freshmen and sophomore years. As Charter students, we are accustomed to go by the book; rubrics are our Bibles, and we religiously follow our teacher’s guidelines. We stay inside the box. However, the Scientific Research course during sophomore year forces you to start thinking for yourself; for once, you are not given a packet with a list of variables, procedures, and instructions. This is the greatest shock: knowing you are solely responsible for making sure your project works out is scary at first. However, once you can get past this barrier, you are able to dig deep into the creative side of your brain, the part that has been buried beneath rulebooks and rubrics for so long. While the process is intimidating, the more you overthink it, the less likely it is to work out.
Once you have a basis for your project, conducting it is extremely rewarding. To see your plans in action and to gather results for an original project is a huge weight off your shoulders. It is even fun to participate in other students’ projects; just like you, they got creative as well, and the range of project topics is vast. Depending on others to help you put your idea into physical action is really important in this process. You have to rely on the aid of your peers in order to successfully pull through Junior Research, no matter what your research topic is.
Peers are not only there for physical aid, however; being surrounded by friends who are able to support you through this emotional roller coaster is incredibly important. Although this project is creatively stimulating, I assure you it will be stressful. A yearlong project is not to be taken lightly: it requires a strong mindset and a lot of attentiveness. Yes, it will take a lot of time, and there will be days when you feel like you eat, sleep, and breathe your project. But as hard as Junior Research is, friends who can empathize with you will help keep things in perspective.
Again, this project will be difficult. A yearlong project is a year’s worth of time for mistakes. However, it is important to remember that mistakes are both okay and expected. While this project is important, no one expects perfection. In fact, teachers expect errors before looking at your project. In most cases, a perfect project is nearly impossible. Teachers will understand your mistakes as long as your project exhibits dedication and effort.
However, you should not make blind choices or procrastinate on your project. This project requires you to think and consider the effects of each decision. There is a difference between a wonderful project with a few errors and an error-filled project that was pushed aside until the last minute. There must be a happy medium. Try, but do not push yourself to the edge. Your project should be something you can pride.
Lastly, confidence is key in this project. You have to have the guts to ask for help if you need it; use your resources to your advantage. Do not expect to be able to do everything by yourself—if that were the case, your project would be too easy. Teachers, family, and friends are incredibly helpful, so use them! Do not be afraid to admit you are struggling because I assure you that every student will be at some point in their project.
So, have confidence in yourself and your work! Even if your project does not work out exactly how you think it will, you will spend a year of your life on it! You will put so much into your project, and even if you do not come out in the end with an award, you will pride what you have accomplished. Have confidence in your abilities.
These are my revelations and advice for the sophomores about Junior Research. It is vague, but teachers will fill in the blanks with all of the details. This article was mainly written to tell you all of the things your mentors and teachers do not mention. All of these things are important to keep in mind because you will not be reassured of them very often. With that being said, here is some advice from fellow juniors to current sophomores:
“Do not wait until the last minute to do the assignments.” — Lucas Hodgson
“Choose something you can collect data for very easily.” — Vivek Waghray
“Do not choose something that you think will be mind blowing; choose something that will be easy.” — Madison Mycoff
“Literally the most stressful thing in the world; super interesting, though.” — Kassidy Kasnic
Thank you to all who submitted quotes, and good luck to the sophomores!
The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Charter School of Wilmington or the CSW Newspaper Club.