In past ENVS courses, we were often asked to imagine what a situated research project would look like using the hourglass model. We were asked to do parts of the hourglass and ponder what we would do if we had the time and resources to complete the project. However, we never actually conducted the project. Until now.
My capstone was the first time I had the space to put my all into a project of my interest and work through the entire hourglass. It took about six months of inquiry, research, and edits to produce a thesis that reflects the full hourglass of my research. Now that I am on the other side I am both proud of what I accomplished but underwhelmed because I know there is so much work to do beyond the hourglass just to answer my specific focus question, how will Portland, OR’s Residential Infill Program (RIP) impact affordable housing in East Portland? While I stand behind the argument in my thesis, I know that to fully understand this question and my broader framing question would take more research throughout the years to see how the RIP develops and what outside factors also may influence housing affordability in this region.
This project taught me how to complete a larger research paper using the hourglass model instead of just making a plan for the work I would do. However, I am feeling a similar way to how I felt when we completed those theoretical hourglass projects in past ENVS classes: unsure how meaningful my work is. It is meaningful to me because I completed a piece of work I am proud of, a piece that goes more in-depth than anything I have written before, a piece that shows I have grown as a writer, researcher, and analyst.
However, I am not sure this translates to meaning in the context of my framing and focus question. I guess that is commonplace for an undergraduate thesis, I’m not trying to get published here. But, to some extent, I thought I would, for the first time, make an argument that would not have a “but” at the end. I thought my argument could stand without a qualifier that if I only had more time or could research this for longer my work would hold more meaning. I guess academics are always faced with this issue, though. At some point, you have to stop cooking and put what you have on the table. Maybe the biggest lesson I learned throughout this process, albeit something I learned while writing this post, is that there will always be more to research, work, and discovery to be done and part of writing an in-depth research paper, especially using the hourglass model, is accepting that and still working to understand your topic with the resources you have.