Katherine Olsson

SIS Olson Scholars

Research Portfolio Post #2: Mentor Meeting

I  have met with my mentor: Professor Fontes, twice over the course of the semester. I met with him once on the 31st of August and once on September 7th. During the 1st meeting we discussed my general idea for my research project, as well as the perspective that he comes from as an ethnographer. He also gave me provided me with the course syllabus for the course that he teaches on the impacts of the cold war on modern day Latin America as reading material. After that meeting I had a new perspective as well as my concerns; such as separating the impact of the Cold War in Latin America. The second time we met, I had been thinking about the future of my project based on what we had discussed in class. When discussing the various methods of presenting research depending on your approach, I began to think about how I was currently picturing aspects of my own research. After discussing the ideas that I had with Professor Fontes, we considered where I should think about my research going in the future. We were in agreement that a small-n case study was most likely where this was headed based on our conversations. I need to examine an extended period of time, which limits the feasibility of choosing too many countries, making a large-n case study less feasible. I have generally been leaning towards the small-n case study. When considering the 3 articles for next class, Lisa Wedeen’s[1] approach to writing is personally intriguing, but the small-n case study; “Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach”[2], feels like a more functional format for my research. That being said, I have and continue to be open to whatever option I end up discovering is the best model for my research project in the future and have not yet made a decision. In addition, we discussed the different factors that could be beneficial to consider when choosing the countries for case studies. These were factors ranging from who they were colonized by to whether or not they are more or less developed in the modern day. We also discussed the possibility of me creating a “snapshot” of the countries that I chose at different points in time. As I move forward, I know that I need to continue reading and expanding my understanding of the broad scholarship on the subject, and intend to do so. However, I do have some questions and concerns I am trying to address. My mentor tod me that I should start trying to choose my countries, while Professor Boesenecker believes that I should remain broad and focus on the general scholarship In an attempt to follow both of their advice, I’m remaining broad in my general research but also considering how different countries would fit into my research without making the specific decisions. I also am trying to figure out how I would want to go about articulating my research question.

[1] Wedeen, Lisa. “Acting “As If”: Symbolic Politics and Social Control in Syria.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 40, no. 3 (1998): 503-23. http://www.jstor.org/stable/179273.


[2] Wiktorowicz, Quintan, ed. Islamic Activism : A Social Movement Theory Approach. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. Accessed September 9, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.

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    Katherine — it sounds like you had a productive meeting with Prof. Fontes. Keeping in mind (and balancing) the different pieces of advice you receive about the research process is one part of becoming a good researcher! It is not too soon to begin considering ideas for some of your methodological choices (cases, variables, etc.) but you do not want to make any final decisions as of yet since we have a lot of thought, and work, to do to get to the point of being able to make informed choices on those things. Keep reading and researching to establish the broad landscape of your topic area (the “snapshots” that you’ve mentioned) and you should be in good shape.


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