My research question this semester centered around parenting. This subject ended up being so much more complex than I originally anticipated. It really challenged my research skills and led me down many lines of thought that I had not originally considered. I feel like the process of researching this topic has not only expanded my skills as a researcher and honed my writing skill, but also given me much more insight into the issue of parenting itself.

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At the beginning of the semester I was intimidated by the research process. I did not feel empowered to judge academic sources, and was unsure of my ability to synthesize information from my sources into a cohesive paper. It was a daunting task. However, as I began to work through the process – finding the sources, writing out the major point from each one, and comparing the main ideas of the sources in the chart – I found that the information was less intimidating and made more sense to me. While my confidence with my ability to research was low at the beginning of the project, by the end, I would describe it as quite high.

I realized through the research process that the most important skill is that of critical thinking. THere are literally millions of ‘sources’ out there – academic and not – that will try to convince you of their authority on the subject matter. For example, as I stated in my paper, there are some 89 million blogs on parenting alone. That’s a lot of information to sort through! Thus, as a researcher, it is essential to apply critical thinking and logic in order to understand which sources have value, and which do not. By learning how to judge a source and determine its validity, I feel like I have gained valuable critical thinking skills which will be of great assistance to me as I continue on my academic career.

One of the most valuable insights I gained through writing my final project was that there is actually no one right way to be a great parent or to raise a happy child. If you had asked me before this project, I would have thought that of course there was a right way and a wrong way. However, I have come to realize, through my research, that parenting is a consequence of culture, and you cannot judge a culture through your own culture’s eyes. In other words, what we might view as bad parenting in one culture might be good in their eyes, whereas our idea of good parenting might be horrible in the eyes of another! It’s all about perspective. I feel like my research has also made me much more culturally conscious, and I am not so quick to judge other cultures now as I was before I started this project.

My unique contribution to the conversation of the challenges of parenting came about in an unexpected way. Originally, I felt like a commonly held metric, such as Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, would provide the optimal information necessary for parents to raise a happy and healthy child. Yet, as my research progressed, I realized that this metric fell woefully short, and could not account for the complexity of values and norms that exists within the cultures of world. Instead, what I came to realize was that the common denominator as active commitment on the parent’s’ part to do what is best for the child. I was surprised to find that the answer was so simple, because the amount of information available to parents was by comparison so much more complex and overwhelming. I feel like a lot of parents who feel overwhelmed and inadequate might actually feel more empowered if they knew this.

I really feel like I did a good job this semester finding and evaluating source for this project. Despite feeling overwhelmed at first, I was able to go through and pick out the best sources, the ones that spoke to my question and provided the best answers. I think I did find some great sources that led my research to some very cohesive and poignant conclusions. I gained much from this process, including having more confidence as a researcher and gaining more insight into the parenting process.

I don’t really feel like there were any moments during this semester I wish I could ‘do over’. Even when I made mistakes, such as spending too much time reading a source I then decided wasn’t good for my research, I feel like I learned a lot from them. Nothing is really a mistake if you are able to learn a valuable lesson from it. My mother used to tell me that this is called ‘learning the hard way’, but really, I think it’s just called learning. I will certainly be doing things differently in the future, as I now know how to weed out bad sources faster and hone in on more credible and meaty sources quicker. However, I did not know that before starting this project, so I am very thankful for that lesson.

Overall, this has been a very challenging but rewarding process. I enjoyed researching the topic very much and feel like I learned a great deal from the experience. I will continue to apply my researching skills to future projects, and feel that as I progress the process will become even more clear and my abilities more astute. While those researching and critical thinking skills will serve me well in school, it is in real life, where I apply them, that they will be the most valuable.