“Regarding Research”: An Interview w/ Hannah S.

By Tim Melton

For some students, summer vacation presents an opportunity to destress from the previous year while also preparing for the upcoming school year. For students like senior Hannah Silvers (PWR/Creative Writing), though, summer can serve an entirely different purpose – ample time to work on scholarly research. This past summer, Hannah continued working on her two-year Honor’s thesis as a Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) student. SURE is an eight-week research program designed specifically for Elon undergraduates.

The SURE process can definitely be intensive, but luckily we were able to catch up with Hannah and get her perspective on her experience!

This interview has been edited for clarity.


Could you briefly describe the research you conducted this summer, as well as any significant findings?

This summer, I dove into the data analysis portion of my two-year Honors Fellows thesis. Generally, my project studies how student editors (specifically, copy editors who work for the student newspaper) learn to become good copy editors…I found that new copy editors learn from interacting (in many ways) with the copy editors who have been there for longer. I also found (at least, I think I found, on a very preliminary level!) that there’s a sort of ethos of a copy editor that novice copy editors feel like they’re working toward when they learn new skills and mindsets from veteran copy editors.

Did you find any aspect(s) of your research this summer particularly challenging? If so, how did you go about overcoming these struggles?

I did a lot of coding this summer, which in ethnographic studies like mine means lots and lots and LOTS of reading your data. Over and over again. Looking for only slightly different things each time. Learning how to not start skimming because I’d read it all before was a challenge, but it just took me forcing myself to slow down. I started using colored mini post-it notes for each coding pass, and I physically spread all my data over a big table instead of looking at it all online. Literally digging through things made me go slower, which helped me catch small things I might not have otherwise. I can thank my mentor [Dr. Rebecca Pope-Ruark] for suggesting that strategy!

Do you think your experience this summer will affect how you approach your studies in the upcoming year? Where do you see your research going from here?

It may seem silly to say this, but I’ve learned so much about my subject area this summer that I feel will apply to my senior year classes in my major. I know my definition of rhetoric has taken a beating, as has my definition of ethos and all that good stuff. I’ll keep my research going formally until I defend my thesis in the spring. Beyond that, who knows!

What might you say to students who may be considering undergraduate research? Any good advice?

Listen to your mentor. I had a breakthrough this summer because I headed down a specific rabbit hole in the theory literature. I never would have looked as intensely down that particular rabbit hole if it hadn’t been for a comment my mentor left on one of my research memos.

Thanks, Hannah, for sharing your SURE experience!


Are you interested in applying for SURE? Applications for the Summer 2017 SURE program are due December 9, 2016.

Are you conducting research in English? We’d like to showcase your work! Please email us at thescrollatelon@gmail.com.


Tim Melton is a senior English major (Literature/Creative Writing) from Mooresville, NC. In addition to gathering and posting content on The Scroll, Tim manages the English departments social media pages, consults for the University Writing Center, and writes opinions columns for the school newspaper, The Pendulum.

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