Our fourth student spotlight features Tiana Baheri, who is a member of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Class of 2016 majoring in Culture and Politics. Her research explores the affect of the Internet on language and communication.
How did you become involved in research at Georgetown?
I became interested in research as I started to talk about scholarly publication with my literature professor. I was asked to serve as his research assistant and I’ve been working as a research assistant since this past fall. I have had the opportunity to research a variety of issues ranging from literature to religion to politics. Doing research for an established scholar taught me what details to look for in the early stages of pursuing a topic and how to build on primary sources with secondary literature. Working on those projects, I became interested in conducting my own research.
What was your favorite part about the research process?
The beginning and the end were the most fun. When I first picked my topic and started to read scholarly literature on it there was a lot of adrenaline and excitement. Somewhere in the middle of the process, you reach a plateau where everything starts to become frustrating: you’re not finding the sources you need, things start to seem repetitive and boring, you’re not sure if your argument even makes sense anymore. If you pull through that difficult period and get to a place where you are confident with your material, it is very rewarding. One of my favourite parts was to sit down at the end and edit and spruce up my work by adding colourful examples and funny asides. I was confident enough in my work that I could have some fun with it and focus on the quality of the writing. That part was exciting.
How was Georgetown able to support you during the research process?
As obvious as it may be, I think people underestimate the resources at the library. Evidently, it’s a great place to find documents and sources but it’s also a great opportunity to talk to librarians and receive advice on how to organize research material and how to prioritize your search. I was also pleasantly surprised at the generosity of the professors at Georgetown. I reached out to a few professors whom I had never had a class with and they were more than happy to talk to me about the project.
The Georgetown University Undergraduate Research Symposium, and the university as a whole, is committed to fostering interdisciplinary, intellectual dialogue. What is one experience that you have had at Georgetown that reflects this commitment?
As a Culture and Politics major it’s a little difficult to think of anything as not being interdisciplinary. My entire major is based on the idea that people interact with different ideas and disciplines to create the socio-political culture we live in. My research draws on sociolinguistics, gender studies, politics, history and literature. I’m glad that most of my academic life here has focused on the intersection of these different fields because that set the stage for the way I think about research: no single field of academia is enough to explain the world on its own.
Describe your research in one sentence.
Language and communication are different now than they used to be but also kind of the same because Internet and also reasons.
What is your advice for other undergraduates who are interested in pursuing research at Georgetown?
It’s easy to lose interest in a topic if you choose it because you think it will ‘look good’. Choose something you’re passionate about. Choose something you wouldn’t mind thinking about for five hours every day. Once you’ve found your topic, don’t be afraid to reach out to experts in your field. Don’t be afraid to email professors who have published in your area of interest or to reach out outside of Georgetown to other universities or to research organizations: you’ll be surprised to find how many experts will be happy to talk to you if you approach them with your ideas.