Thomas Alva Edison said that, “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I find this to be a very poignant quote this week, because I have found out that working in research can be mentally taxing. While work always takes time and effort to complete, many people may choose to avoid it when it gets harder. I, however, am plowing forward in my desire to learn more about what it really takes to become a research scientist. Details are extremely important and it takes a lot of focus to look for the right information.
This week I learned how to complete literature searches. A literature search is when someone compiles a list of sources that have similar results or information that could be helpful for the research being conducted for a study. It is essentially an annotated bibliography for the research field. At the beginning of the week my boss gave me a list of variables and factors to research in scientific journal articles in an effort to gather information that could assist us when writing our journal article. The research we have conducted involves finding factors or variables that predict the success or failure of the therapy used at the Shepherd Center for patients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and ultimately predict their ability to enter their communities with the maximum level of independence given the lasting effects of the specific injury. Some of the factors include: depression, work alliance, self-awareness, engagement, effort, and motivation. I was assigned to find articles on patient’s effort and engagement in therapy sessions and how those factors play an integral part in a patient’s recovery.
After reading article after article, I found myself loosing interest in what I was reading. This I am sure is very common when you are reading scientific works about the same subject matter, especially when some of the articles can be at least 50 pages in length. I found this to be mentally taxing but in the long run very rewarding. I have learned how to break up the readings to ensure that I gain a grasp of what is important, what could have been carried out differently, to determine if it is a good source, what methods and measures were taken, and if it could be used as an asset to our study. These can all be seen as important skills to have in the research community because, what good is a journal article that cannot be understood by the targeted audience? While reading a scientific journal article may be hard for those who haven’t read something of that nature, at Dickinson College the science department makes a point to teach students how to understand what is meant through the “scientificese”. This term I have adapted from my Psych 201 class with Professor Barber. She always tried to help us strip away the scientific jargon that gets in the way of proving what was actually found in the study. Unless you have learned the ways of scientificese, it can be difficult to understand what you are reading. I am truly glad that I have had the opportunity to learn this skill from Dr. Barber because without it I might not be able to complete the tasks asked of me in my internship. Many people only think about the end results of research. Those are the findings that we hear about on the news or in magazines. What they don’t understand are the intricacies and hours of time spent on the details before anyone ever hears about the outcomes. I am doing real work in a real research setting and at times it makes my own brain hurt! I am hopeful that with the information I have gathered for Dr. Seele I will be able to further the study and help prove that the work at Shepherd does make a difference in the lives of its patients.