Embarking on a new concept of research was a frightening experience for me as a freshman. My initial perception of research related directly to sciences and chemical equations. Being an elementary education major, I found it difficult to think about research in terms of my own discipline. Through a variety of courses, mentor teacher support and the encouragement from staff in the Honors Program I was able to move through the levels of information literacy, synthesis, creating original research and finally disseminating my results.

            First, I learned how to access information to gain skills in my information literacy. My summer job as a prospect research student assistant at the Alumni Foundation Center gave me a new perspective on what research looks like.  The information I had access to came in the form of Google alerts, obituaries, local magazines, LinkedIn and other databases funded by the school. I used this information to find information on our alumni. Through this job I have learned how to access information effectively, efficiently and critically as I have to sort through many different sources to find critical information about our alumni. I learned on the job how to evaluate which information was useful and then input it into our database. Since I had access to the school's database, I also was expected to demonstrate knowledge of ethical use of information. I had access to personal and private information that I couldn't ethically spread to others outside of my workplace. Raisers Edge is the database our school uses to retain information on all our alumni, emeriti and friends. In my position I had training and a code of ethics to abide by in order to keep the information secure. The research I did had the specific goal of keeping connections with our alumni, find nominees for the Distinguished Alumni Award, and finally to help raise money for the advancement of our university. I learned how to evaluate the myriad of information given to me, distinguish and incorporate it into our database to effectively use the information to reach our goal.

            Alongside this job, I took an honors course that helped me to build my skills in information synthesis. This course was an honors course called, Exploring Leadership in the Context of Conference Development. While the course taught me many things about leadership, it also really helped me develop my skills as a researcher. This class showed me how complicated the term "leadership" really is. Throughout the course, we researched diverse perspectives of leadership by critiquing a variety of theories and models. I wrote papers that expanded on different leadership theories such as authentic leadership model. This paper showed my ability to organize others' ideas, and create my own thesis using multiple sources to back up my claim. By the end of the course I created and presented my own leadership theory using evidence from multiple sources to back up my own theory. I also wrote a reflection paper on all that I have grown and learned about leadership and the research paper.

            Next, I had the opportunity to join an undergraduate research team under the College of Education. This experience has taught me how to use the skills I have learned in classes and apply it to real world situations through original research. The first semester was spent on creating a research question related to my discipline of elementary education, and writing proposals. We also spent a vast amount of time reading, analyzing and synthesizing literature reviews to see what past studies have been done relating to our research question and discipline. Our research looked at cultural competency of students in education classes. The second semester we were able to conduct our research, see the statistics and analyze the results. Then we spent time understanding our information, writing results, and creating a powerpoint that exhibits our completed research for the year. 

            Finally, my undergraduate research team had the opportunity to disseminate our results. After working with my research team, we identified venues at which we would like to share our results. As a team we agreed to apply for the Undergraduate Research Symposium and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. We prepared to present for these venues by first writing an abstract and proposal to each board to be able to present. We were accepted at NCUR and the URS. Later, our team was invited by the College of Education to present our findings. We disseminated our results by creating a powerpoint presentation and preparing a formal presentation as a team. We also answered any questions at the end of our presentation.