Research: Week 3

While I am still enjoying my research, I’ve ran into some problems this past week. For the first week I was just getting a basis of fair trade, learning what it is and how it achieves its proposed goals, which farms can become fair trade certified and under what conditions, and other underlying mechanisms. My principal investigator was satisfied with my achievements and I felt like I was going to be able to do a lot over this experience. However, this past week during our weekly meeting, we came to the realization that there isn’t enough data publicly available to perform meaningful analyses. Fair trade just began in the market in the late 1990s, so it’s relatively new to the market and there isn’t much research on the topic. Our original plan was to use the data we might find to analyze the relationships between fair trade certification and factors such as healthcare in the community, educational attainment of school-aged children, accessibility to water, etc. but since there isn’t enough data to analyze this, I am instead beginning to go simpler in studying the percentage of fair trade certified workers over time in a given country, how that changes, and then why it changes.

This last week has been a learning experience; I learned that it isn’t necessarily what I do that matters, but rather what I learned. I’m not able to publish a paper over a 2 month time span, and I’m not able to gather my own data. This experience is more about whether I can learn to apply skills I’ve been taught in econ classes, whether I’m able to understand and interpret results, and how to read diligently and comprehend even a dense paper.

One thought on “Research: Week 3

  • July 20, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Props to you on taking a challenging learning moment and making it into a thoughtful, honest, and purposeful takeaway! Your post was inspiring.

    That sounds frustrating to find that your research focus needs to be modified, based on what data is available to engage with. Your PI sounds helpful in finding a way to reframe your research and work this summer to still be productive, impactful, and move the research on fair trade forward! The fact that you’ve identified where data is needed and the gaps in research is HUGE (that’s very PhD focused, if you do go that route!).

    It’s obvious to any reader that you are learning so much. I’d love to hear more about what connections you’re seeing between your econ classes and your work this summer! All of the skills you mentioned you’ll need for wherever your next steps take you, and what an opportunity to speak to how you encountered and managed an unexpected challenge.

    Thanks for your continued determination to learn, grow, and take advantage of your opportunity this summer, Elise!


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