The opportunity to conduct research this summer was an amazing experience. My research is focused on the analysis of current, available interventions used to help combat the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in an effort to aid in preventing childhood obesity. Although I have a topic now, my direction of interest was not always as clear. I started this research journey with the idea that childhood obesity is a major problem and SSBs play a large hand in the occurrence of this issue. With this said, I knew that this was too broad of a topic and needed to eventually narrow it down to a specific aspect.
With not knowing the exact direction that I wanted to go in, my professor, Dr. Northrup, really helped guide me in the direction of conducting preliminary research on the topic. I became familiar with the current literature regarding consumption patterns in individuals 1-60 years of age, obesity trends since the late 80s. I also looked into the defining factors of obesity in children and the definition of SSBs. This introductory research helped me a lot in terms of becoming better familiarized with the overarching topic and what information has already been compiled in the available articles. By doing this, I was able to see a pattern of what was available and what would be new to the current literature. This is how Dr. Northrup and I decided to concentrate on creating a review of the existing interventions to reduce SSBs intake in children 2-5 years of age.
I learned a deal about conducting research while participating in this program. Dr. Northrup has guided me and given me so many tools in order to be able to conduct successful research Not only did I learn how to properly search for articles pertaining to my topic, I learned how to read the articles in order to get the most information from them. She introduced me to a program, EndNote, which helps with proper citation generation. This program is extremely beneficial because it helps cut the time of creating citations and references. Another valuable takeaway from this program was the identification of “filler words” in research. By this, I mean including words that do not necessarily need to be included in the paper. If something can be said in a shorter way, it is better, especially in research.
Throughout the entire writing stage, Dr. Northrup gave me a lot of autonomy in writing and constantly encouraged me to type out my thoughts because nothing in research writing is permanent until the work is submitted. There is always room for change, whether it be an addition of an idea or a subtraction of one. Having another person there to make edits to each draft helped even more in the writing process. I will keep all of these things mentioned in mind because they are great habits to practice as a researcher.
I accomplished a lot in my research and I am proud of the work that I have done so far. Not only have I been able to compile the majority of my desired articles, but I also began writing the literature review. Despite the literature review being in the early stage, the direction that it is going is very promising. Yes, the program is over, but my research will not stop here; I will continue and complete the literature review in hopes of using it as my honors thesis and presenting it at a conference in the Spring.