Archive of ‘Mentorship’ category

Mentor Update 5-8-17

Over the last two weeks I met with Dr. Field to discuss my paper and presentation on two occasions, the first time we met on April 25th for approximately 20 minutes in order to discuss my symposium presentation.  Specifically we worked on reworking the format of my hypotheses to more easily convey the information in an accessible way.  We also describes how this approach would be beneficial to apply to my paper.  During the second meeting on May 3rd we met for 15 minutes to work on revisions to my paper.  During this time we discussed clarifying the wordiness of many of my sentences. We also looked at ways to make my conclusion and analysis more concrete and focused on the main points of my findings.  These discussions were extremely helpful and I plan to go forward and implement all of these changes in the final version of my research paper.

Mentorship Post #1

My first mentorship meeting of the semester was with my mentor Dr. Erol on February 7.  We discussed the direction of my project and my final narrative paper for approximately 25 minutes.  We also went through the draft of my introduction in order to address a few questions on whether or not I should include certain points.  We discussed how I should list my hypothesis in my introduction, as well as discussing tweaking the words in my research question for clarity.  This included replacing executive regimes with the more simple “executive” and adjusting the information provided in the footnotes in order to better explain some of my terminology.  We plan to meet again once we have completed the methodology sections of our drafting process.

RPP #3

Answering this question causes me to face two conflicting sides of my outlook on the world, there is my normal opinionated/biased outlook (whether you consider that to predominantly be my personal, human, or political outlook likely depends on the day) and then there is my researcher outlook, which is a proponent of neopositivism. On its face, Gorski does not necessarily contradict with either of these ideals.[1] In fact I believe that his basic suggestion is correct in most cases, social sciences can in fact give genuine insights into human well-being.[2] By way of example consider the following:

Even interpritivists will likely agree with the general statement “suicide is undesirable.” Research can then produce results that, through sociology and psychology, find a certain ritual used practiced by a small sect of a religion actually can increase the chance or even cause suicidal desires. Therefore the results of a social science work give clear insight into how to ensure the genuine well-being of humans. Again, I would argue that even an interpretivist would agree that eliminating an activity shown to cause suicide is likely to decrease suicide.

Thus we have just one example in which science can offer insights on human well-being. I argue Gorski is accurate in pointing out that the use of social sciences can provide the knowledge that could logically be used to give insights into bettering the human condition by identifying dangers, which could be erased.[3] Furthermore, as Gorski states on page 546 “our values influence our choice of research problems” and therefore it was our underlying values against suicide that caused us to explore the problem in the first place.[4] Yet, now comes the question as to how to solve the problem, and it is here that normative research and neopositivist research begin to split paths.

A Positivist such as Harris or Comte would see the problem as black and white; the research shows this ritual can increase the risk of suicide and it should be eliminated. This type of conviction was exemplified by Harris’ crusade against the mandatory wearing of Burquas, in which he recommends it be considered wrong regardless of culture, religion, or ideology… period.[5] Comte conveys similar sentiments, though in a way that is arguably less controversial for our current era, when he describes how topics related to metaphysics have been “given over” with preference falling to “reason and observation.”[6] While Gorski takes a less absolute stance on issues of the proper action, he would likely not be opposed to the research being guided by his own beliefs on how the issue should be solved.[7] Thus if in our example one was to embrace “ethical naturalism” he would “focus on the social preconditions of human flourishing” and therefore focus on the desire to save lives for the benefit of humanity, and likely still try to eliminate the practice.[8] However this approach would be based not on the unflinching belief that suicide is bad, but that in the belief of the “ethical naturalist” it was an act detrimental to society and its overall good.

I do not believe that my research lends itself well to this approach as I am attempting to simply determine the causes of sultanism, not how to destroy it or promote it. While the results of my findings may result in this knowledge being generated for analysis, these elements are not incorporated into my design and as I am seeking to explain the phenomenon itself, not ways to manipulate it. Furthermore, my findings so far are limited by geographic location, political system, etc. and I would therefore not feel comfortable making the profound absolute statements such as those made by Harris, based on my lac of knowledge of the wider realm of the phenomenon’s occurrence.[9]


[1] Philip S. Gorski, “Beyond the Fact/Value Distinction: Ethical Naturalism and the Social Sciences,” Society 50, no. 6 (2013): 550.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 546.

[5] Science Can Answer Moral Questions, directed by Sam Harris2010),

[6] Auguste Comte, Course of Positive Philosophy, Auguste Comte and Positivism: The Essential Writings (New York: Harper, 1830).

[7] Gorski.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Harris, 2010


Comte, Auguste. Course of Positive Philosophy. Auguste Comte and Positivism: The Essential Writings, edited by Gertrud Lenzer. New York: Harper, 1830.

Gorski, Philip S. “Beyond the Fact/Value Distinction: Ethical Naturalism and the Social Sciences.” Society 50, no. 6 (2013): 543-53.

Science Can Answer Moral Questions. Directed by Harris, Sam, 2010.

RPP #10: Mentor Meeting

I had the opportunity to have a second meeting with my faculty mentor, Dr. Erol, on December 5, 2016 for a little over fifteen minutes.  Our first point of discussion was which methodological approach I would be pursuing as I look forward to 306 and my final research paper.  I have found, with the concurrence of Dr. Erol, that the small-n research methodology will be most applicable to my project.  We also took a few moments to look at my small-n sketch and address a few questions on the justifications for my case selection and the questions for my dependent variable.  Dr. Erol also lead me to a realization that I did not stress one particular justification for my cases well enough.  The justification that was in need of augmentation was drawing attention to the fact that, when it comes down to it, the three cases I chose are simply the only ones that exist for my research question and thus I am exploring all avenues available.  It should also be noted that the limited number of cases I had available to choose from, even when I would only be using a few for my small-n analysis, could represent a tradeoff in my particular case.  Dr. Erol also suggested I look at my terminology and consider changing the term for my small-n research question and dependent variable from “sultanistic” to “tsarist.”  This is based on the fact that sultan has potenitally-misleading cultural connotations.  We discussed that while I do not want to abandon the Linz definition which I believe encapsulates my ideal question, Dr. Erol guided me through the process of defining sultanism, and then combining research on Russian history with a focus on the tradition and cultural component of a strong, often male, Russian Monarch. This adjustment to my lit review and the tweaking of my terminology will allow me to eliminate and confusion tied to the cultural groundings of the word sultan, and may also give me a gender dynamic to explore (however this would likely be seen as a tradeoff, for I could not realistically explore and test the dimension as I lack any variance in potential cases along gender lines).  Our last major point of discussion was focused on the transition to 306, and Dr. Erol provided two main take aways.  The first is the importance to always keep your research question in mind throughout the process. Dr. Erol stressed how many students lose track of their purpose throughout the analysis and research, and then once they get to the conclusion find that they have not actually answered their research question.  The second piece of guidance Dr. Erol provided was the importance of creating a very detailed outline in order to avoid writers block and maintain organization and continuity.  The outline, from what I understood from our discussion, should include a section for each area of the project (intro, methodology, lit review, etc.) but should go even further into sub-sections, including each point you hope to hit in each section and sub-section.  Overall I found my discussion with Dr. Erol very helpful and we discussed how we hope to work more closely on the outline and the paper itself as we move forward next semester.

Research Portfolio Post #2: Mentor Meeting

This Monday, September 12th, I met with my mentor Dr. Ali Erol for approximately 25 minutes.  I found this meeting to be very fruitful and they were able to help me focus in on a central issue that I wanted to explore.  As Dr. Erol pointed out, I brought a concept into our meeting that was actually five separate and distinct research topics and questions.  While I entered our conversation with questions regarding Russian corruption, the powers of the Russian President, the transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation with regards to its continued authoritarian state, and others; I came out with a far more focused concept thanks to Dr. Erol.  As of now the direction I hope to head is that of writing a paper aimed at examining the formation of the position of Russian President, culminating in the creation of the powerful position it holds today, with the use of Vladimir Putin as a case study.  I hope to use Putin as the case study in order to exemplify the power that is currently wielded by the President of Russia, and I believe my research will help answer if that power is strictly inherent to Putin himself or in fact endowed to the position of President.  My only concern at this point lies with Russia’s relationship with transparency and information sharing.  Especially where power is involved there is often a veil of secrecy surrounding the inner workings of any government, and thus I am slightly concerned that I will struggle to find credible proof as to the actual power displayed by Putin, when compared to what should be possessed by the President “on paper.”  Dr. Erol and I discussed how to go about future research and they mentioned multiple high quality sources, including looking at the Russian Constitution or other formative documents.  I plan to follow this advice and begin to create a timeline of political and governmental events starting with the formation of the Russian Federation in 1991.  I hope to eventually use this to construct a chronological narrative of the evolution of the Russian Presidency which will be the central facet of my final product.