Independent Thoughts about Independent Study

Roland Barthes: Among the top three minds I wish I could steal.

I am a Junior. As a student at the College of Wooster, I am required at some point during my Junior Year to complete an Independent Study project. It is intimidating, even though it isn’t my first or final research project at this school. I have a legitimate opportunity to contribute to humanity’s body of knowledge.

The problem: I do not have enough ideas or expertise. Plus, my choice of majors leaves me with little precedent to reference. Data Science and English? While computational statistics offers legitimate avenues of literary analysis, no student at the College of Wooster has taken this path. Because of this, my advisors are in new territory too. I have less guidance than my fellow students have. My Study cannot fit into any sort of easy template either.

I fear venturing into uncharted wilds of knowledge, guided by my creativity and sustained by ambition. How do I stay alive?

I have to start early that’s how. Every month or so, I come up with an idea for Independent Study. I do not know if any of them are good. I might have to explore multiple to find a good one. That is fine. JIS is really just a first dart throw before Senior IS.

I hope I can pioneer this blend of studies for future Wooster students. Leaving that legacy may be a lofty goal, but it might be achievable.

Does anybody else have similar thoughts or anxieties? Is anybody else working on their Independent Study now? If so, I am very curious to hear what you’re working on. It might give me inspiration for my own project.

5 thoughts on “Independent Thoughts about Independent Study

  1. I feel what you are feeling now, and you articulate your worries very clearly especially with the lack of guidance, because usually that is something you can depend on. I think however, mixing those two majors could produce some really interesting work and create new lenses that others can then follow.
    As something I noticed, that 2 sentence paragraph “I fear venturing…” felt a little disruptive to the flow, mainly because there was no use of metaphor before. Perhaps you could spread more metaphor, or that one, throughout, rather than mentioning it and not really returning to it.

  2. So, I’ve actually already taken Junior IS for History and English. You’ve already gotten the most important part of Junior IS down–starting early. Certainly, finding a place for your paper seems difficult–my majors of History and English go together fairly commonly, so there was a plethora of references for me. I wrote on the Victorian Era and on fan fiction for my JIS, so not too much to go off there. My best suggestion is to choose something, and see what sticks. If you find that you don’t like the topic you’re trying to engage with as much as you thought, since you’ve got a head start on it, you still have time to change course.

    Best of luck regardless.

  3. This post was really interesting to me because I feel like IS has a way of just sneaking up on you. I’m only a sophomore but I can feel it looming behind my shoulder…
    I think your path might be difficult, but exciting. I think you should be able to make it your own, into something truly interesting and memorable especially if you’re going on a path that is that unique! Good luck to you!!

  4. Ben,
    As a senior taking this class interested in Environmental Studies and Music, I relate so much to your hardship! (My IS focuses on songs about historical events that pushed the environmental movement forward. Then analyzing these events to see what specific categories the song lyrics highlight most and what topics might be missing. A significant example is the Burning of the Cuyahoga river.)

    Some advice for someone who has taken JIS:
    -it is so good that you are coming up with ideas! Any professor will tell you that your research question(s) will change so many times over a semester, and you are on a good path. It’s okay not to know what you’re going to do yet; I didn’t know until about last week!
    -Do not let the unknown create a barrier for you. It is scary to do something; I did not get an IS advisor until the 3rd week of this year because it felt like the environmental studies department did not know where to put me. Finally, you will find an advisor who is excited about your project.
    -IS is scary for everyone; no matter how well-versed they are in their project, it is daunting, but you will be prepared to complete it. You will succeed- that is what Wooster sets you up to do.
    -Continue to let your passions push you!

    Now for the critique: I thought this was a very great blog post; I do think I am biased as I tend to enjoy it when people stray off about their lives instead of focusing on the literature, which the prompt allowed you to do (: I also enjoy the vocabulary you use!

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