3690: A Journal of First-Year Student Research Writing

Author Image

Meghan Costello Photo


MLA, American culture, American Studies, Politics, Writing


Overview: I am most proud of singing the national anthem. It gave me the opportunity to share my musical gift, building my confidence along the way. I performed the national anthem for over thirty athletic events. I sang for a men’s regional hockey game, a women’s regional volleyball game, three men’s regional volleyball games and for women’s basketball and men’s football games. Every time I sang the national anthem, I felt full. It became an important song to me and a reminder of principal memories. As an influential song to me and many others, it was absurd that athletes abused its sanctity. As I watched the football games every Sunday afternoon, each new protest during the singing of the national anthem set off a rage within me. I never imagined that the national anthem could be used as a protest symbol. I immediately reacted negatively to the protests which would quickly become known as the “Take a Knee” movement.

Author's Reflection: My name is Meghan Costello, and I am currently a sophomore majoring in psychology with a minor in religious studies. I was fortunate to have been a student in the AFAM 199 RW class: Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs. The content within this course was particularly intriguing to me, and I jumped at the chance to discuss such a modern topic. Writing my final research paper was a long but crucial process. I transitioned from writing attributive tag sentences to writing summaries to incorporating rhetorical analysis into my academic repertoire. With the use of these skills, I collectively reported on my research of Colin Kaepernick and the Take a Knee Movement. This movement was at the center of media attention for about three years and still continues to make headlines today. Before researching, kneeling during the national anthem was incomprehensible to me. I could not understand why players were kneeling and how it related to their cause. One I researched more and had put aside the media’s narratives, I found out the true reasons behind the movement’s beginning and continuance. From this information, I developed my research paper about how the Take a Knee Movement and Colin Kaepernick’s role are misinterpreted. Something that was challenging for me was analyzing my sources while not writing pure summaries from the articles I found. I learned to analyze and outline key ideas by using facts from the sources to emphasize my own argument. I had a difficult time staying in one tense while also being careful about sentence structure and grammatical errors. All of these struggles were corrected from my draft editing and polishing strategies. The 199-experience helped me advance the writing skills I had but did not connect in an organized fashion. 199 taught me to create a more cumulative and formulated way for my future academic writing. The culmination of my research paper was incredibly rewarding; there was a sense of accomplishment when I submitted the final paper. Writing this paper was never about getting a good grade for me. I wanted to write a complete paper that was able to educate readers about a movement that is absolutely misinterpreted, even by myself, at first glance. I would advise future students to research early and often on a topic they are passionate about. You will not hinder your progress by getting ahead on preliminary research. I hope you enjoy my research and walk away with a positive outlook on this movement!

Professor Miller Smith's Reflection: Meghan chose to research the contemporary and controversial issues surrounding football player Colin Kaepernick and the Take a Knee Movement. She worked to investigate and present multiple perspectives, and in her paper, Meghan addresses how her own understanding evolved as her research proceeded. She completes her research journey with a better understanding of the motivations of participating players, as well as the historical precedence for their actions and the American public's response. Further, Meghan offers context from the country's political climate, as well as differing perspectives from diverse and, sometimes competing voices. Tenacious in her academic pursuit, Meghan’s research resulted in a paper that includes a balanced and reasonable understanding of the salient issues. Ultimately, Meghan’s research journey led her to understand the true purpose and legacy of an athlete’s emboldened stance that even she initially believed represented unpatriotic disrespect and “proudly hail[ed]” dissonance. “Kaepernick’s Kneel: A Misinterpretation of a Movement” offers 199 and other student writers an example of a contemporary, controversial topic that employs a balance of reliable sources and strong research strategies.

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