Research Day 2018:
End of the Year Report
When I finished my research paper “Hitchcock’s Perfect Woman” I exclaimed ‘I will never write an essay again!’ That of course, was never going to happen, but the anecdote shows how new writing such an extensive project was to me. I was extremely happy to have completed a 20-page essay, a feat I didn’t think that I was capable of when reading research articles of similar length and admiring how well they were written.
One of the most important learning outcomes that came out of this experience, was the final addition that I included in my paper. This addition was putting in a historical background to the essay. By putting my topic in a historical context, the ideas that I wanted to express gained more substance and the whole point of the topic became clearer to readers. The historical placement of the ideas was completely clear to me, but I needed to make adjustments so that the readers could see them as well. If they stayed just in my head without being translated to paper, it would have been as if they didn’t exist at all. I also would not have learned this lessons without consultation with my advisor and professors, who I am extremely grateful to.
Another lesson that I learned from my faculty advisor was how to make better use of cited works. My biggest struggle during this research project was finding good sources, and then my advisor sent me one source that she was using for her paper, and everything changed. Not only was able to use that source, but also other works referenced in the essay. Through that, I learned that I have previously kept my view on sources too narrow, and that including a historical period, similar topics but with other directors, or different topics with the same director (Alfred Hitchcock in my case) were great ways of broadening my choices.
I also started with a different conclusion than the one I ended up with. My first idea for the project first came up when I saw Hitchcock’s film Notorious and was stunned by how the main character was a woman holding the traditional male gender role over the men surrounding her. What was especially stunning was that the film was created in 1946, and by a director who was often called a misogynist. I wanted to defend Hitchcock in my paper, as what I saw contradicted those claims, but as I started going deeper into the subject I realized that the topic was much more ambiguous. What surprised me was that there was no clear answer from any of the esteemed film critics and theorists specializing in Alfred Hitchcock and his films. When I noticed that, I decided not to pursue a clear answer about the person, as achieving that would be nearly impossible because it is something that cannot be proven or disproven, but that I would rather focus on the movie that got me started on the topic in the first place. I decided to make a contribution to what I saw was created by Hitchcock, regardless of who he was as a person, so I turned it into a written work instead of just keeping it in my head.
Without my advisor, Dr. Rebecca Martin, I probably would still have been stuck on my topic that originally spanned over 7 films, which would not justly fit into a research paper but rather in a book. She was an immense help in pushing me to stay on top of my topic and taught me a lot about cinema itself. Research, like any big worthwhile project, is a collaborative experience, and that is something that I learned through writing my essay.