Research Opportunities: Incorporating Academic Exploration Into Your D.c. Degree

Research Opportunities: Incorporating Academic Exploration Into Your D.c. Degree

Research Opportunities: Incorporating Academic Exploration Into Your D.c. Degree – As students enter political science classrooms in this post-COVID, polarized social climate, teaching information literacy skills has become even more challenging and vital. Incorporating such critical skills into existing lessons and course content can be difficult and requires careful planning.

Using the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, this virtual workshop will explore practical approaches and active learning strategies for building these research competencies within your own curricula.

Research Opportunities: Incorporating Academic Exploration Into Your D.c. Degree

Research Opportunities: Incorporating Academic Exploration Into Your D.c. Degree

Join Kimberly McVaugh of Georgetown University for a 90-minute interactive session exploring best practices in teaching information literacy skills to students. All are welcome! Pre-registration is required.

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Kim McVaugh is the Government Librarian at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where she supports the research of faculty and students in their renowned political science and international affairs programs. She has served as the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) liaison to APSA since 2020, working to increase collaboration between political science faculty and academic librarians. She is co-editor of the forthcoming book Teaching Information Literacy in Political Science, Public Affairs, and International Studies (ACRL, 2025) and co-author of the chapter The Politics, Policy, and International Relations Section (PPIRS) Companion Document to the ACRL Framework: Process and Outcomes” (in Teaching Information Literacy Across the Disciplines, forthcoming from ACRL Press, 2024). Kim holds an MA in Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina and an MA in Arabic Studies from Georgetown University. Like any research project, career exploration requires information gathering and evaluation, may have unexpected findings, and is a long-term process, writes Tina Solvik.

For many students, career exploration can feel like an indefinite challenge. How do you explore the unknown? Where do you begin to identify and track available options? Career exploration tools and resources abound, but how do you know what to use and when? And when do you know the search is over and you can now make a decision?

When advising students new to considering their career options, I looked for a methodology that resonated with them. For long-term implementation and success, is there a career exploration framework that is logical, accessible, and empowering?

The Career Exploration Roadmap allows visual mapping of the stages of career exploration, from assessing interests to securing a job offer. Career exploration can also be compared to scientific experimentation, where one gathers information, conducts the experiment, and evaluates.

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These two examples inspired me to create a new framework that combines the strengths of both: a visual, iterative approach that connects career exploration with the strength of graduate students in research. By outlining career exploration as another research project to undertake while pursuing your PhD, you can immediately understand the nature of career exploration. It requires information gathering and evaluation, may have unexpected findings, and is a long-term process.

This framework, like a research project, is divided into five recognizable steps, and although they have a sequence, the process is often iterative. Many research projects provide unexpected discoveries that require you to go back to the drawing board and explore a new angle within the project, and career exploration is no different. The language in this framework is designed to resonate with all students, regardless of discipline, hence the use of language such as “data collection” instead of “experimentation.” Finally, the framework is career-neutral and can be applied equally to careers in academia, industry, government, or the nonprofit sector—or all at once.

Here, I’ll walk you through the steps of career exploration, illustrating how your skills can transfer into this framework and the resources you can use to complete each one.

Research Opportunities: Incorporating Academic Exploration Into Your D.c. Degree

Step #1: Conduct an initial review of the research topic. To identify a research question, the student will first research their research topic using a literature review. This process allows you to clarify what you know, what you don’t know, and what you can predict about the unknown—which together informs your research question. In career research, the research topic has two elements: the self and the career opportunities available. The initial review phase includes an assessment of your professional and personal identity, as well as an introduction to the myriad careers graduates can pursue. But instead of reading hundreds of articles about different careers and thinking about which one might be the most interesting for further study, you just need to find a career self-assessment that most closely matches your field of study.

Framing Career Exploration As A Research Project (opinion)

Most career self-assessments explore three key questions: what you are good at (i.e. skills), what you like to do (i.e. interests), and what is important to you in your professional life (i.e. values). These three elements of your identity can help you determine the ideal job. For humanities and social scientists, there’s ImaginePhD, an online career research and planning tool where students can assess their career-related skills, interests and values ​​and compare these responses to 15 different occupational groups to identify areas of fit and mismatch . Scholars often use myIDP, where performing a self-assessment of your skills, interests and values ​​creates a ranked list of 20 career paths. A similar assessment focused on skills and values ​​exists for research chemists through ChemIDP. The benefit of such an approach is that you can reflect on your identity in a focused way and find language to describe what is most important in your career. This process of self-reflection is vital before in-depth career exploration.

Step #2: Formulate your research question. Graduate students use the literature review process to identify their research question and make informed predictions about the answer they will test during the data collection and analysis phase. In formulating your career exploration question, you will identify your most significant skills, interests and values ​​from the initial review phase and use these as the benchmark against which you conduct your career exploration.

(fill in the blank here: nonprofit management, teaching intensive faculty, consulting) match my skills, interests, and values?” Career self-assessments are useful for streamlining career options from many to few based on an initial review of your identity. However, in order to make an informed career decision, a more in-depth analysis using a variety of sources is required – hence the Career Research Project. At this point, you can decide to focus on one career research question or explore several in parallel.

Step #3: Collect data. Data collection for a research project involves a variety of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, such as close reading, ethnographic research, or wet lab or computational techniques. Similarly, data collection for career research can involve different methodologies.

How To Find Research Opportunities

The four main methodologies include reading online or book sources, attending career events, conducting informational interviews, and completing experiential learning opportunities. These four methods exist on a spectrum of both the time required and the usefulness of the information in making career decisions. Online articles or resources may be easy to access but offer a limited amount of information. Informational interviews and experiential learning take more time, but allow you to tailor the information you gather to your own interests, skills, and values, and thus make a more informed decision. Career exploration is most effective when several of these methodologies are applied.

I recommend starting your data collection with web and book resources such as VersatilePhD (which includes real-life stories and application materials of graduate students who have started careers outside of academia), Aurora (which has a video library of about 200 career interviews with Ph .D.s) and books like

. Career-related events, such as panels of people with advanced degrees discussing different jobs, employer information seminars, or networking mixers, allow you to start asking your own questions about your career interests to professionals and career counselors.

Research Opportunities: Incorporating Academic Exploration Into Your D.c. Degree

Informational interviewing is one of the most powerful methodologies you can employ because you can identify interviewees with the right experience and skill set to meet with and ask questions specific to your best skills, interests and values . But it’s important to note that, as in any scientific study, one qualitative data point is not enough. Therefore, you should interview multiple professionals before making any career decisions.

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Finally, experiential learning can be a very valuable way to confirm or spark your interest in a career. Although internships can be extremely valuable, not all students have the time or opportunity to work full-time or part-time for an organization while completing their dissertation. In this case, short-term and project-based experiential learning, such as InterSECT’s job simulations, can allow you to gain hands-on experience in a job without the time commitment of an internship.

Because career research is a research project of its own, I strongly recommend that graduate students create their own research notebook or folder. Whether you use a spiral notebook, Word document, Excel sheet or folder on your computer or in the cloud, keep useful resources, document all findings and record self-reflections. With an up-to-date notebook, you can always return to your career exploration without losing progress – even if you have to stop for a few weeks or months – or pick it up again later in life

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