The readers’ research

The inaugural 2011 Sssh: Social Science Showcase for graduate research took place in the Bodleian Social Science on Tuesday 28th June. Opened by Professor Roger Goodman, Head of the Social Sciences Division, 19 research students from 8 Departments displayed posters about their current research.

I have been involved in the organisation and running of this event for the last four months or so along with the other members of the Sssh team. I must admit this event has been the source of some stress, as the initial planning came along at a time where Lauren and I were struggling to keep up with our workload. Luckily this became less and less of a problem as time went on, and I really enjoyed being part of the project.

The first meetings were a bit of a struggle. It was decided that the posters advertising the registration website would be accompanied by two sets of postcards; one was to give more information, the other was a reply card you could fill out with an email address and have more information sent to you. A few of us thought this idea wasn’t necessary, and I feel we were right in our dislike of the reply cards as we only had one response! The colour scheme was also pretty off in my opinion, with the poster and cards in a shade of lilac which didn’t seem eye-catching, but I am told the advertising was a success so I was clearly wrong.

In these meetings we were all assigned tasks, and Lauren and I were asked to create a guide to creating an effective research poster, of which we are both pretty proud (sadly it’s no longer on the web).

Initial sign ups were slow, but reasonably steady, though when the participants were asked for a 150 abstract closer to the event date we had quite a lot of cancellations. This was a big problem, as were feeling quite low on numbers to begin with, and the display boards had already been ordered (at quite a cost to hire). We were even getting cancellations the day before the event!  This was even more frustrating because a brochure of the titles and abstracts had been compiled for the participants and attendees. In the end the event was a reasonable size, with around 19 participants on the day, which was actually better than a large group since it was manageable but also not too small. Seeing the posters really made everything worth it.

One of the key aims of this event was to bring together research from across the Social Sciences Division, and this was a great success; posters on topics such as young people’s museum learning experiences were displayed alongside “A conceptual analysis of social resilience of single older women living in rural Australia”. Other poster titles included ‘The Social Life of Schizophrenia’, ‘Early Iron Age Aegean Warfare’, ‘Tapping Ink, Tattooing Identities: Tradition and Modernity’ and ‘Dynamics of Bodily Changes and Self in Older Women’. This setup gave researchers a unique opportunity to discuss their work with members of other departments and to gain an awareness of the diversity of current research within the division. Therefore, although named Sssh: Social Science Showcase, a play on the library setting, this lively discussion meant that the day was anything but quiet!

Opening the showcase, Professor Roger Goodman, Head of the Social Sciences Division, gave a short speech to welcome participants and to highlight the crucial relationship between the library and the research it supports, which was put into practice at this event. He also stressed the importance of the skill required in creating an effective research poster, and urged everyone to take the opportunity to ask as many difficult questions as possible.

For us this was a great chance to learn more about the research being undertaken by our readers; as many of them are regulars in the library it was really interesting to see the end result of all their hard work. Similarly it was also great to see so many of the participants taking the opportunity to learn more about the research of their contemporaries and engaging in interdisciplinary debate.

I was mistaken for a student a couple of times, and some of the presenters’ faces did fall when they found out I was just library staff, but I hope I conveyed my enthusiasm for the topics and the social sciences, and that they all found the event worthwhile and enjoyable. The day was well received, and was an excellent end to four months of preparation. The library is hoping to repeat the event in 2012.

(Thanks to Lauren, as I pinched parts of this post from the article we wrote for the Bodleian newsletter!)

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