Literature Review

I am working on a literature review for my Sociology 300 course, which introduces us to the topic of research. I already have many skills in this area because of research rookies, so I am using my class requirements to help with my research. I have to choose five articles to do a literature review over, so I am choosing them on topics I found as patterns in my interviews. My mentor decided that looking at relationships among couples would be the best topic to dive deeper into, so the topic I was looking into previously has been changed.

I have found many more articles on the behavior of relationships between couples in poverty than my other topic. I am hoping to find much information and for it to help me in the process of categorizing why the women in my interviews have the relationships they do. Some preliminary categories are monetary issues, children, faithfulness, and “drama”. I am hoping to gain much more information into this topic and present the category as my findings on my poster in April.


Research Process Reflection

As of today I am in the middle of my research process. I am currently waiting for IRB to be approved. That was a sticky situation with many bumps in the road and I am just now waiting until the next IRB meeting for them to approve my study. I am also doing interviews with women in my neighborhood as a preliminary interview process to gain foundational knowledge. This has been helpful because I didn’t have much prior knowledge on where I wanted to go with my study but as all of these interviews come in, I am narrowing down the topics of interest.

With every topic that is revealed as a pattern by my respondents, I have to do a literature review to see what has already been discovered about the topic. Currently I am looking into multi-generational families that live in public housing and whether people that live there are more likely to have relatives in the same public housing area. There are a few research papers about this topic that deal with women and the higher probability they will live with extended relatives in public housing. This brings up an important similarity to urban public housing, which is the basis for my study.

Some benefits of having a mentor that is the Director of Women’s studies are: Having someone who knows the sociological and psychological aspects of women and the inequality they face, giving me theories to put my observations under. She has a vast amount of knowledge of the sociological process and research and I could never have gotten this far without her guidance. She is available any time I need her, and I know she will be a great resource and mentor, and provide me a letter of recommendation in the future.

Last Semester Reflections

Being a part of the Research Rookies team has been the most rewarding part of my college experience so far. As a freshman who didn’t know what I wanted to do with life, and had a very hard time adjusting to college life, research was something that gave me a purpose during my time here and a new passion.

There haven’t been many challenging parts of my research so far. The main thing is dealing with the IRB reviewers wanting me to clarify and resubmit everything. That has been the most stressful part. Getting people to interview has been challenging as well because I don’t know many people. Another part I am struggling with is typing every interview I conduct when each is over an hour long. I predict I will have trouble finding patterns for my reasearch. I also might have trouble putting the poster together. I have never had to do something like that, and I am not sure if I can finish my project in time.

There are many rewarding parts I have experienced as well. I get to work with an amazing mentor who is an actual researcher and is goig through every process I am. She has been a wonderful guider and I know I will work with her for a long time after this. I also have gained very valuable information because of what I have had to learn as a sociology researcher. I am taking a 300 level sociology class and grasp most of the techniques they are talking about because I have actually done it. This project has also given me a goal for my life. I don’t just want to research the people in my project, I want to help create better conditions and help them have better lives. I want to help the children in my area to understand what is expected of them in school and life so they can succeed in life. I never would have been able to know that without this project.

Research Rookies has been an incredible opportunity that I know will open so many more doors in the future to even greater opportunities. I want to thank the OSEEL department for working so hard to give students like me this opportunity and I hope they continue.

Ain’t No Makin It review

I have completed the parts of the book Ain’t No Makin It that have the most relevance to my research. The first half of the book included the theories relevant to the ideas presented in the book and the lives of the people as teenagers. It showed the differences two groups of teens from the same neighborhood experienced because of race.
The white group was pessimistic about their life outcomes and saw that there were many potential obtacles in their way to success because of their class. They didn’t value education as a defense mechanism because any failures would cause self esteem issues. To combat this, the kids just didn’t try and most dropped out.

The other group of kids were black. They wanted nothing to do with the white kids because of their racist attitudes. The kids did the opposite of what the white kids did. The kids didn’t do drugs, valued academic achievement, and behaved well. These kids tried in school and any failures were the result of personal mistakes. This caused the kids self esteem issues. Because they tried in school, they did average but didn’t have the success they should have with the amount of effort they put in. The kids believed they had equal chances of success despite not only the class inequality but the racial inequality to overcome as well.

These two groups are both found in the area I am researching. It shows me the attitudes and influences I need to look for in the students of my research, as well as the attitudes and influence of the parents. This book has been very helpful in providing me more catagories to put my information in and provided examples of the interview process I must undertake.

Background Reading

I am currently on break from school and my assignment is to read four books. The first book I am reading is Ain’t No Makin It by Jay MacLeod. This book is very interesting and insightful. I will use the background information provided by this book to organize the data I will collect.

The theoretical perspectives the book provides for its data will help me find patterns in my data. The categories the book includes are: education and ckass inequality; influence of ethnicity on the meanings individuals attach to their experiences; causes and consequences of racism; relationship between structural determinants (the local job market) and cultural practices (rejection of school); the degree of autonomy individuals exercise at the cultural level; the destabilizing roles of noncomformity and resistance in the process of social reproduction; functions of ideology; modes of class domination; schooling’s role of maintaining and reinforcing inequality and the culture of poverty ideology.

This book ethnographically examines the lives of two groups of teenage boys who live in the projects of an affluent city. It looks at their lives and why they believe what they do about life. I haven’t gotten that far in the book but it has been very eye-opening in what I need to look for in my research.

Mentor and Research Project Finally Chosen

     This journey has been long and interesting. I have had many possible mentors that were wonderful and were studying something I was interested in. They didnt have topics that I want to pursue as a career, however. So I decided to keep looking.
     I met with the Undergrad Research team at NIU and they helped me find a nuturing mentor that studied inequality, which is what I want to study.
     Kristen Meyers, director of the women’s studies program, is a sociologist. She will, and already has, given me valuable information and tools that can develop my research far beyond what I am capable of currently.
     My topic will be examining the effects of white privilege in relation to poverty among whites. There is alot of information on poor inner city blacks, but very little on poor non-urban whites. I will interview and get data low income public housing residents and the problems they face on gaining opportunities for bettering their lives, ways they raise children, and ideas they have about their situation. I will compare this to the data from urban poor on similar issues and see what is the same, different, and why.
     I hope to use this information to impact the ways of living in non-urban public housing. I also want to show that for people in the same economic class, race is the only thing that separates them. I want to create a more united front for poor people and make changes to benefit them and the country.

Change of Research Topic

Once again, I’ve changed my research topic. It has gone from foster children in gay and lesbian homes to poverty. I am not sure exactly what in poverty. The reason I changed is because it would be much too difficult for a freshman with no resources or contacts to get in touch with foster/adoptive parents that are gay/lesbian. So I’ve gone back to my original project idea. I am not completely sure what the topic will be just yet, but this is something I want to study for my life and I know that my mentor will have more to help me with on this topic. I expect to have another topic narrowed down by this weekend.

Mentor Selection Process

Finding a mentor hasn’t been an easy process. First, I changed majors from physics to sociology. I want to be a social worker, NIU doesn’t have a social work program, so I wanted to find someone that would help me and be a good mentor. In total I’ve emailed over 10 possible mentors. I have received emails from 5. I interviewed 4. I listened to all their research projects and they all seemed very interesting. None of them seemed the right fit for me, however.

I want to do a research project that I came up with. The people I interviewed would only have me work on their projects. That’s fine and all, but I have ideas that I want to work with that can help me in my career. I originally decided on understanding the relationships between poverty and education levels, because it is something I am experienced with. None of the mentors had anything to do with that. So I talked to a teacher of Sociology and she gave me a few names to look up and email.

The person I emailed was Dr. Sharp. He is a Sociology Professor that works with qualitative studies about religion and culture. I talked to him about my idea and he asked why I don’t work with something involving what I want to work with: foster kids. Great idea, I thought, why didn’t I come up with that?

Anyway, I finally decided on my research topic after consultation with him: lesbian and gay foster parents and the effects on children. I want to see whether these foster parents are providing the best homes for children. I am going to look up whether the children suffered negatively, or positively because of being placed in their care. I want to understand the social norm associated with gay foster parents.

On the T.V. show Glee, one of the stars (Rachael) was raised by a Jewish gay couple. There seemed to be no negative effects for her, but then again it isn’t reality. I wanted to know the process the couples undergo and if it is any different for gays than heterosexual couples. I know this is a very broad topic, but I will narrow it down as I go along. I figure this will help me immensely in becoming a social worker and placing children into foster homes, without prejudice on what sexual orientation the couple are.