More than Ministers: Concluding My Research on the Chaplaincy

This summer and this research went by very quickly! It’s pretty amazing to look at a completed and polished 50 page paper and remember how it all started with a simple idea. When I initially conceived this idea almost a year ago, I didn’t realize it would lead to a much larger project.

As I conclude my project, I’ve realized quite a few things about doing research in a discipline that is not my primary area of study.

  1. There really isn’t a bad place to start. I was initially focused on not making mistakes. As the project went on, I realized that it was okay if I read a 20+ page paper and it didn’t turn out to be relevant to my research. I also picked up other sources that I didn’t think were going to be overly helpful, but turned out to be some of the most instrumental to my understanding of my topic. Lesson learned: expect the unexpected.
  2. In person interviews are great, but they’re not the only way to find interviews or get a personal perspective on a subject. I initially had plans to speak with multiple chaplains on their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. I ended up not getting any responses to inquiries I sent. I was disappointed, and I do believe that interviews would have been great for my research, but I also know my research is richer in other ways. I also was able to find interviews and memoirs by both other interviewers and chaplains that turned out to be essential and invaluable to my project.
  3. I’m probably never going to feel really “done.” Yes, my paper is complete and I tied up loose ends. However, I do think there are still more avenues to explore and ways I could still add more to the work I’ve done. And that’s something that I’m willing to explore!

What I’m probably most pleased about is how I still love my topic! Sometimes when you’re focused on something for so long you start to get sick of it, but I’m very happy that that is not the case for me! I’m still as excited to talk about my work now as I was when I first came up with the idea. I’m looking forward to the summer research showcase and being able to share it with the greater community. I hope that at least one person comes to a better understanding of what amazing work military chaplains have done, and an appreciation for this unique intersection of church and state.

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