2018 Undergraduate Research Highlights

Elon University

Undergraduate student Emma Flaherty analyzed the role of conspiracy theories in the Russian news site RT's European news coverage from March 2016 through August 2016 in her Honors thesis, "Do We All Need Tinfoil Hats? Conspiracy Theories, RT and Strategic Narratives involving Europe, the European Union, and NATO". This research coded two types of conspiracy theories - blatant and question-raising - in its analysis of RSS feeds collected from RT.com. RT utilized a low percentage of conspiracy theories in its European news coverage, in a divergence from findings by other scholars focusing on RT's U.S. television content. However, there is evidence that these theories, when used in RT.com stories, challenged narratives that supported a strong, secure, and united Europe. A notable example of this trend appeared in RT's Brexit news coverage, which contained fewer question-raising conspiracy theories than the non-Brexit European news sample; this may indicate that RT interpreted Brexit as an event that worked to undermine the European Union, leading RT to focus its conspiracy theories on other European events. This research was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Laura Roselle, Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies at Elon University. Emma will present her findings in April at the International Association for Political Science Students in Paris, France.

Furman University

Their research paper is entitled: “College Student Government and the Making Citizens: An Investigation into the Who Gets What, When and How on College Campuses.” With the ultimate goal of understanding the role of college student governments as socializing agents, especially their potential to motivate women and other underrepresented groups to participate in the real political world, they set out in this paper to describe how college student governments are operating on college campuses today. The co-authors present data regarding their goals, their power and professionalism, and their leadership. Data was collected via content analysis, survey and interview methodologies.  They found that college student governments play important roles on college campuses and are reflecting the real political world in a number of ways including showing signs of increased diversity in representation. 

Versions of the research were presented this year at the SPSAMPSA and at Furman’s undergraduate research day, which is called Furman Engaged.

Photo: Dr. Elizabeth Smith (center), with her two undergraduate researcher co-authors Nicole Hyman, Furman Class of ’18 (left) and Katherine West, Furman Class of ’19 (right).  

London School of Economics and Political Science

Similar to the US “Posters on the Hill”, the British Conference of Undergraduate Research hosted “Posters in Parliament” on February 20, 2018. One of the two chosen delegates from the LSE was Government student Hannah Bailey, who presented a paper using topic modelling to analyse both Mandarin and English versions of the Chinese People’s Daily, in order to assess the extent to which China talks to its citizens differently than how it talks to foreigners. 

Independent undergraduate research in political science at the LSE is coordinated and led by the student initiative, The LSE Undergraduate Political Review(LSEUPR). LSEUPR's team of about 17 students has coordinated to publish its first full journal issue, featuring articles on Brexit, populist rhetoric by Trump and Sanders in the 2016 US election, the link between football and nationalism, and electoral geographies in the UK—and, employing advanced textual analysis, case study methodology, and advanced regression analysis. 
The LSEUPR also hosts an annual conference which showcases the best undergraduate dissertations relating to politics from the previous year’s final dissertation projects. Aside from research-focused blogs, it also helps to steer undergraduates towards conducting (or at least engaging in) academic research, for example by publishing a “Beginners Guide to Undergraduate Research”. As a unique initiative in 2017-18, the LSEUPR further coordinated two student-led research teams (of about 5-6 students each) who, independently and in their own time, worked together to formulate, research, gather data, conduct analysis and draft a dissertation-length research paper. Both these teams will be presenting their papers at two different academic conferences—the PSE Undergraduate Research Conference and the British Conference of Undergraduate Research. 

The University of Texas at Tyler

Nine undergraduate students at The University of Texas at Tyler completed a project to digitize 135 objects in the Timothy Anthony Jackson Collection of political memorabilia. This national collection of political campaign memorabilia from 1884 to 2012 is housed in the University Archives and Special Collections at The Robert R. Muntz Library. The project was a partnership between Aaron Ramirez, Archives Assistant, and Mark Owens, Assistant Professor, to promote primary resource literacy in a Political Science Research Methods class.

The students selected objects from various presidential campaigns to analyze, specifically Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. The class then invested significant time into researching details of each item as a first step to digitize a national collection of presidential campaign memorabilia. While digitizing the objects, students also provided a critical analysis of each primary resource and wrote descriptions that offer historical context for the object. The project is set to continue in 2019 and a report from each class will be published on UT Tyler’s institutional repository, Scholar Works at UT Tyler. For more details on the political memorabilia please visit: https://archivesspace.uttyler.edu.

Yale-NUS College (Singapore)

In their undergraduate research, Dr. Sandra Leonie Field's students have adapted the tools of political theory to improve understanding of the South-East Asian political context:

  • Peter Ooi Teik Aun's capstone project is entitled "Sisters in Islam: A Case of Islamic Civil Society". Analyzing the case of the Malaysian Muslim women's organisation Sisters in Islam through a Hegelian lens, Peter critiques the common view that Islam is antithetical to civil society.
  • Tee Zhuo's class paper, "The Special Assistance Plan: Singapore’s own bumiputera policy", analyses educational inequality in Singapore. Tee argues that certain structural features of the school system perpetuate and entrench Chinese privilege in Singapore. Tee's argument generated debate beyond the campus, resulting in an invitation to present at a scholarly conference later this year.