What Do These Six Questions Have in Common?

Thursday, September 25, 2014
Humanities Writ Large
  • “How does media shape a child’s perception of race, both of herself and others?”
  • “How has domestic and global international policy concerning direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising for pharmaceuticals affected the use of prescription drugs in the U.S. and around the world?”
  • “How do the economic pressures on Broadway affect how new plays are presented to the public? What, in the end, is the relationship between commerce and art?”
  • “What caused the 2008 Financial Crisis?”
  • “Does migration change the relationship between people and their food culture?”
  • “What are the philosophical and legal tensions between freedom of speech and the right to privacy? When they conflict, which should prevail?”

The answer: pSearch Humanities. These questions are at the root of the research projects that six incoming first-year students conceived and developed by the conclusion of their two-week pre-orientation program. Meanwhile, students learned about the vast range of research resources on Duke’s campus, spending time in the Duke Libraries, that Nasher Museum of Art, the Center for Documentary Studies, and the DiVE. They lunched with leading Duke researchers, discussing topics ranging from augmented reality to the history of hip-hop, and did a close reading of Moby Dick with President Brodhead in his home. See their schedule here.

Philip Stern, Associate Professor of History with three students—Chelsea Grain, Brandon Choi, and Lily Zerihun —worked with a group of incoming students to introduce them to the methods, sources, and opportunities for research in the humanities.

Among Professor Stern’s words of wisdom to the students:

  • “Let the research drive you.”
  • “Be curious and find out what you don’t know.”
  • “Just because you are given a topic doesn’t mean you have to attack it head-on; look at it from all directions.”
  • “Every humanities project ends with its introduction.”

As one of the students noted at the end of the program, “It is impossible to complete a research project in the course of three days. Instead, this is the beginning of what could blossom into a great research project. While researching the relationship between freedom and privacy, I came across multiple other cases and historical events that I want to study.” Duke faculty are ready to help this student – and all students – find those questions, and how to answer them.

Referenced People

Associate Professor of History, Co-director, BorderWork(s) Lab