Edited by Katherine Sinyavin

Students enrolled in the Summer Institute for Social Research Methods (SISRM) were asked to fill out a weekly survey about their experiences. The questions covered many aspects of the program: classes, research assistantships, workshops, and the way in which all of these components were adapted to the virtual environment. The responses received ranged across all five classes and all students (College, graduate student, and UChicago Lab) participating. The following is a sample of the responses, highlighting the varied student experiences.

Why did you decide to participate in this summer’s SISRM? What skills and experiences do you hope to gain?

“After taking a Winter Quarter class with him, I approached Professor Waldo Johnson, an associate professor in the School of Social Services Administration, about doing research with him he told me about SISRM as an opportunity for a funded research assistantship. I looked into the program and thankfully was able to join. Pairing a class and workshops with a research project is a great way to structure a more comprehensive introduction to social science research. I love it so far and feel that the computing class I am taking is giving me the chance to gain more hard skills before diving into research, and the workshops so far have been helpful in deepening my understanding of multiple types of social science research. As someone who has not done any research before, I hope to continue learning about different methods and types of research, and I look forward to starting my RAship.”

  •  Kathleen Cannell, rising 3rd year, Computing for Social Sciences

“I decided to take part in SISRM this summer to gain experience with research in the social sciences and to contribute to some of the work being done on campus. I hope to learn about some of the processes that go into academic research and to gain skills in computing and data analysis that I can use in the future.”

  • Francesca Di Cera, rising 4th year, Computing for Social Sciences

What are some of the challenges of remote learning? What changes have you made to your work and study habits? Are there any advantages of remote learning?

“Probably the biggest challenge is not getting distracted while watching lectures. I really like being in-classroom because the environment helps me focus and be intent on making the most of the information provided. I now separate myself from my roommates when studying and working, before during the school year we would work together in the same room. After the year ended, their relatively more relaxed summertime attitude sometimes hindered my focus. An advantage of online learning is definitely the flexibility of watching recordings on Zoom. If I miss my live lecture I have the opportunity of watching it (or re-watching it if I need a reminder) when I get a chance.”

  •  Adrian Przezdziecki, rising 4th year, Computing for Social Sciences

“Remote learning makes it a little more difficult to connect with the material and my classmates, mostly due to digital fatigue. After 2 hours of a Zoom class, it feels hard to devote my full attention. That said, I do enjoy the recorded SISRM videos and the fact that the workshops don't require us to be talking or on camera. I treat those like podcasts or lectures, which means I give them better attention. An advantage of remote learning is that I am able to integrate my education into my daily routine a little better, especially through the workshops. I can rewatch videos, rewind, etc. Despite all of Zoom's social affordances, online education mostly feels like individual education, closer to watching a TED talk than being in a class, which isn't bad, just something to accept.”

  • Peter Forberg, rising 4th year, Virtual Ethnographic Field Research Methods

“One of the biggest challenges of remote learning is not getting the chance to have unscheduled time to talk with my advising researcher and others in the class. However, I find myself staying longer in class office hours and in meetings with the primary researcher to get a bit more face time with others in various roles within the program. One advantage of remote learning is that I have been learning a lot about online research tools, such as MTurk and Prolific that I may not have otherwise had the chance to work with as an undergraduate.”

  • Cheyenne Wakeland-Hart, rising 4th year, Computing for the Social Sciences

What have been some of your favorite parts of your class so far? Are there any class discussions, projects, labs, or other experiences that you have especially enjoyed?

“I enjoyed using the City of Chicago as the subject of analysis and learning more about the spatial/geographic analysis of socio-political variables.”

  • Jadelynn Zhang, rising 4th year, Intro to GIS & Spatial Analysis

“I have especially enjoyed the two open-ended assignments that we have had so far, as they have allowed me to look more closely at certain data sets that interest me. In the first assignment, I examined the relationship between a nation’s GDP and its poverty levels, as measured by a few different metrics. I worked with data from the World Bank, and doing that analysis truly helped me to gain a better understanding of the world and its issues. The second open-ended project, which I just recently finished, allowed me to look at another data set that interested me, and this time I chose to download and work with a soccer dataset. It was extremely rewarding to be able to visualize data about my favorite sport, and to finally see a bit of the behind-the-scenes process that was responsible for the numerous infographics that I have consumed over the years!”

  • Caleb Weis, rising 3rd year, Computing for Social Sciences

Now that classes are coming to a close, what are some skills you've gained that you think will be valuable as you do research in your field or as you further pursue your major?

“I have gone from having no knowledge about R to being a fairly competent beginner! The basics I have learned have all been very useful, but I think that in the long term the most useful thing I learned is how to ask for help a bout R and how to reproduce my mistakes so that others can help me figure out how to solve coding problems. As I research, I hope to incorporate the R skills I have learned and improve them.”

  • Kathleen Cannell, rising 3rd year, Computing for Social Sciences

“Generally, by taking this class, I am now able to read about stat methods in papers and gain an idea of relevant and interesting stat topics for future classes.”

  • Micah Clark Moody, rising 3rd year, Introductory Statistical Methods and Applications for the Social Sciences

“ I think the two most important things I have learned in this class is how to read experimental evidence more critically and how to conduct research ethically.”

  • Brooke Davis, rising 2nd year, Psychological Research Methods

How were the SISRM workshops? What new things did you learn, and which workshops were your favorite?

“This is my first time in a research experience outside of class, and the workshops taught me the steps and mindset necessary to succeed in a project of my own, whether logistically or resource-wise. Additionally, I liked the workshop on post-BA research opportunities, as it got me thinking of what is available and what exactly I want to do after graduation, since I always thought graduate school was the next logical step in this direction.”

  • Adrian Przezdziecki, rising 4th year, Computing for Social Sciences

“Overall I really enjoyed the workshops! I like how there was such a variety in topics and how speakers were from such different areas. Thank you so much for setting these up!!”

  • Kathleen Cannell, rising 3rd year, Computing for Social Sciences

“The SISRM workshops were interesting because they covered multiple subjects and fields across the social sciences. I learned a lot of new things about the library, especially regarding the many services they provide, as well as the restrictions that come with accessing archived material. Two of my favorite workshops were the R and Python seminars, as I enjoyed being able to gain exposure to skills and platforms I might use in my research.”

  • Francesca Di Cera, rising 4th year, Computing for Social Sciences