On Thursday, March 20, six Trinity students received monetary prizes, varying in amount, for outstanding submissions to the Trinity Undergraduate Research Awards Program.
The award, which promotes excellence in research and writing, is sponsored by Coates Library. Members of the Information Literacy Committee evaluate research projects completed for a Trinity class. Not only must participants submit a professor-recommended research project, but they are also required to include a narrative essay describing the work that went into creating the final product.
“You don’t always know all the work that goes into a project, so we depend on those narratives,” said Benjamin Harris, Trinity’s information literacy coordinator. “We have papers submitted across so many different disciplines that it is sometimes hard to compare the rigor and work that went into the research process.”
Not only did the diversity of research subjects make selecting a winner difficult, but the quality of the work also gave the evaluation committee a challenge to choose the stand-outs.
“The committee felt like all the submissions were really good, and they’re supported by faculty members who feel strongly about their submissions,” Harris said.
Students submitted their work in January and were notified of their status as finalists on March 5. The winners were awarded at the end of the month.
“I was very surprised,” said junior Erin Drake. “When I received the email, it definitely made my day.”
Drake’s research paper about spiritual healers was assigned as part of the social research design class, required for anthropology and sociology majors. The final product combined local research, done with a group, and individual data collection and analysis.
“This was my first research project in which I actually had to collect the data myself,” Drake said. “The interviews provided such interesting information. I learned to love it, and I want to do more projects like this in the future.”
Other award recipients used different research methods. Junior Isaiah Ellis, who won fourth place, used historical documents and records for his paper about Native American religious freedoms and restrictions in the 20th century.
“I was interested in the way people were talking about Native American religion at that time,” Ellis said. “I reviewed secondary sources and looked at Supreme Court cases dealing with my topic.”
Both finalists said the key to the success of their work was their passion for the topic they wrote about.
“This research paper took a lot of work, but since I was so interested in the content, it didn’t seem as difficult as I thought it would be,” Drake said.
The Trinity Undergraduate Research Award is an annual award, and students are encouraged to start thinking about next year’s submissions.
“Every January we’ll be asking for submissions,” Harris said. “When working on assignments for classes, particularly challenging requirements involving research, understand that there will be an opportunity to submit it to this awards program. The project doesn’t have to end once you get the grade.”