Final Post

Last week, I met with my advisor about my finished product—a research paper which turned out to be 44 pages, much longer than I had originally intended it to be. Discussing my paper, section by section, with my advisor gave me some invaluable insights on what I did well and what I could have improved in my research.

By the end of my research process, I came up with an extensive compendium of the existing research on educational inequality, as I set out to do in my proposal. In addition, going beyond my proposal, I got the chance to perform some primary research, working with the ECLS-K to analyze how sets of factors work together to create circumstances of educational inequality. My most interesting findings came in the realm of student attitudes, particularly debunking the idea that a “cultural opposition” exists among minority students. I found that the idea of an inherently oppositional attitude among minority students, upheld by many researchers, is not a valid explanation for educational inequality. Structural factors provide a much more complete explanation of discrepancies in student achievement than do student attitudes.

Every day I spent working on this project presented me with new challenges. The sheer endurance it took to sit in the library by myself for hours each day proved to be one of the most harrowing aspects of the project. I found myself wishing I had chosen a topic that would allow me to perform interviews, or work in a lab surrounded by people. Still, the solitary aspect of my project afforded me plenty of time for focused work and introspection, which helped me to delve deeply into my topic. Having eight hours a day set aside for research allowed me to zero in on my topic in a unique way. I learned so much this summer, not just about educational inequality and its underlying causes, but also about discipline and the research process. I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to perform research this summer.