By Sophia Lichterfeld
At Winsor, students are offered two science research opportunities: the Independent Research in Science course, a semester-long class that models a complete research process, and the Winsor Science Internship Program, a program created over 20 years ago that matches students to labs in the Boston area for a summer internship. However, similar opportunities for Winsor students to pursue independent research have not yet been established for the humanities.
According to the Head of the Science Department Mr. Player, the Independent Research in Science Course’s structure is “a lot like being in a lab as an undergrad or grad student; it very much requires independence because… it will be up to the student to do the deep dive into literature, develop a question and their experiment, take the time for pondering sources of error, and be accountable for the hard work of turning resources into discovery.”
Ms. Hussein-Fricke, who runs the course, added that “at the start of the term, students present their projects and then report on their research progress throughout the term by presenting updates, just like you would in a lab. The students learn and engage with their classmates’ work, ask questions, and assist each other with solutions and/or experimental design.”
Caroline Bae ’24, who took the Independent Research in Science class last year, remarked that she gained many valuable skills such as comprehending published journal articles and effectively communicating her data and conclusions. She recounted, “Over the summer, I interned at a neurobiology lab in Boston, and many of the skills from this course… directly translated to my lab work.” Moreover, Mr. Player concluded that one of the biggest benefits he saw to having exposure to research is that “often, a little time in the lab gives students a chance to find areas of study that spark their curiosity and to reinforce the confidence that helps propel us when the science is challenging.”
Regarding research in the humanities, the Head of the History Department Ms. Holland affirmed that “having the ability to dive into primary sources and develop the analysis of those sources is a key skill of a historian… these are skills that have to be practiced over time.” She reported that, throughout their high school career, a Winsor student will write a research paper in ninth grade based on teacher-curated sources, practice an annotated bibliography in the first semester of tenth grade, and go through a full research process at the end of tenth grade.
Lastly, the Global Studies courses in eleventh grade allow students to continue building their skills, with a focus on considering the context in which a primary source was written and understanding the complexities and nuances of these sources when developing an argument. “It really develops that historical skill of analytical writing and research as well as the life skill of time management,” Ms. Holland said. She also noted that “there is no way we can cover all the content, so it is more important that students are able to understand how to research a topic so that later on they will have enough skills to navigate learning about it.”
Several students can attest to the utility of strengthening research skills. For example, Austin Forrester ’23 reflected that during the Global Studies research process she “learned about drawing connections, and analyzing media/literature to find the different perspectives, viewpoints, and biases that were contained within them.” Similarly, Paige Whalen ’24 mentioned that her Global Studies research and her participation in the Winsor Action Research Cohort “increased [her] awareness of different types of sources and their biases.” She said, “I will definitely be able to carry that skill forward into everyday life when looking at the news; considering positionality and bias can really transform one’s takeaways from the news.”
Although the history curriculum incorporates multiple opportunities to grow research abilities, the option of an additional semester-long course or summer internship where students could explore research in fields such as art history, economics, history, literature, or philosophy could be beneficial to students. Amelia Kwak ’25, for instance, said, “I’m highly considering a career in academia, and I think that research opportunities in humanities would be a really good way to see what a research career could look like.” Furthermore, Forrester noted that despite being interested in pursuing research while at Winsor, she did not “have quite enough initiative to seek it out on [her] own—to have Winsor provide a pathway and resources would support a student body with more diverse interests.”
Offering more independent research opportunities in the humanities would give students a chance to explore areas of interest that may not be covered in their courses, further practice their research skills, and get a taste of what working in a research environment could look like.