3690: A Journal of First-Year Student Research Writing

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Overview: On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln addressed a fractured nation. Standing on the battlefields at Gettysburg mere months after the fatal skirmish that occurred there, he began what would become one of his most famous proclamations.

Author's Reflection: My name is Taylor LaValley, and I am currently a sophomore nursing major minoring in Spanish for the health professions and psychology. When I was a first-year student, I was in the RW course Reconciliation and Recovery from Trauma. Since I plan on becoming a nurse practitioner, I was excited to research topics related to recovery from trauma. However, as I began the research process, I realized this was also an opportunity to pursue my interests in American History, specifically the Civil War.

The summer before I arrived at Fisher, I visited Gettysburg and the museum for the second time, and this helped spark my interest in researching reconciliation and recovery following the Civil War. After choosing this topic, I found it challenging to find scholarly articles and resources that described difficulties faced in reconciling. While I found numerous sources that described racial discrimination following the war, it was difficult to find those that explained why discrimination may have persisted, and what may have hindered reconciliation altogether. As I continued my research, and learned how to use different journals and databases, and how to tailor my searches using such resources, I was able to overcome these challenges. Throughout the writing process, I enjoyed being able to compile my research, and see how different events and perspectives of the people influenced reconciliation. Also, even though the Civil War was almost 200 years ago, I enjoyed analyzing its implications in today's society. If reconciliation had never occurred, what would have been the implications? Overall, the process of writing this paper taught me that most often, the most effective research papers are those done over a period of time. The process of research, writing, and editing takes time, but is necessary for producing the best paper possible.

Professor Bowman's Reflection: Taylor LaValley's research project was, start to finish, a labor of love. Her interest in the project stems from her passion for American history, and you could say that she started the research process the summer before college, when she toured the battlefields of Gettysburg on a vacation that she had asked for herself. The course focus on reconciliation led her into a thesis and approach that was as unusual as it was rewarding. She found a wide array of sources that led her into reading the scholarly work of historians, the speeches of presidents, and even the archival letters of abolitionists who traveled in the antebellum south. As we met throughout the project and discussed her progress, I knew that this project meant something to her, that she was inspired by the topic and the texts. I think great research needs motivation, and she certainly found it in this very impressive essay.

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