Advice for Future Students

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Currently, I am catching up on my emails and received feedback for a portion of my capstone project that both the 21st Century City and International Business program require. Since both of these programs require you to do this project, I want to break down how it actually all happens because I was not clear on the expectation before coming to China.  

            In the 21st Century City core class, Sociology, we were tasked with creating a 1st person research question of particular interest that would result in a 15-20 page paper at the end of the semester. In the first week, our class was told to figure out 3 potential topics that we would receive feedback on and from there determine our specific research question. Secondly, we had to create the literature review of any potential research done in or around this question. Third, which is what I just received feedback on, was our methodology portion. Students are expected to conduct first person research, which means collecting qualitative or quantitative data themselves. So, within this portion, we all gave our method of approach upheld by previous studies, a prediction for the outcome, and a survey outline. Lastly will be the qualitative analysis portion of the paper where we provide the details on our interviews and the outcomes.

            This semester, I am in both program’s core classes and want to give my experience within this project. Luckily, I only have to do the 21st Century capstone project and will complete a separate paper for the Business class. What I quickly found out was that this project takes initiative. Being forced to conduct 1st person research in China presents a huge opportunity for a student that has found an interesting research question. But, this potential research falls ALL on you. Personally, I hadn’t prepared myself well enough. In the states, I had only taken Chinese language courses and had never considered an interesting question about Chinese society. My first potential topics all came from the few things I found different around me in the first 2 weeks, which were not actually particularly interesting, only new to my eyes. They had simple answers that my Chinese friends could answer without research. Also, I have been in both classes, so I have seen how both Professors conduct and plan. The sociology class has had checkpoints with a TA along the way. Like I explained above, we have turned in 3 portions already. This has been very helpful for me in forcing me to do the extra work to find an interesting question, which also gave me the time to change my question several times. This time was helpful, but it really took some personal initiative with minimal help from the TA.  Comparing this to the business student’s experiences, I can say that their class is not as structured. Just in the past 2 weeks, the professor asked students to turn in their proposals, just over a month before the project is actually due. And many of my peers have told me they haven’t received any feedback yet.

            Personally, I know am being very critical. But my experience may help someone else. If you’re like me and wouldn’t have an idea of a question, I think it would be productive for a student to prepare by taking the time to create some potential topics before even coming to China. In reality, this would almost require you to complete the first two portions of the project: topics and literature review. Unless you are someone who already knows what you want to do, you should get some ideas and discuss them with professors at home and have them help critique and filter. I do believe you can find a great topic while you’re here, but I think prior preparation will give you the most ideal route to create the most meaningful research.

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