HON202_H: Capstone Seminar


The Research Process

RWH Group Annotated Bibliography

 Initially, our group focused our research on locally published articles and informational documents which helped us to establish context for our project on rainwater harvesting. I used this as an opportunity to set the pace of collecting and processing the information. In the past I had gathered lots of research data all at once and attempted to absorb much of this information during long sessions. My approach to the research process at this point was much different. I started with a single article, took notes more carefully, and looked more closely at the articles primary data sources. This allowed me to process the information with greater consideration and helped me to direct my research in a more deliberate manner.

As a group we needed to discuss the credibility and relevance of specific sources before we could move on to analyze more scholarly works. This could not be hastened, but needed to happen organically in order to establish a general understanding of what outcomes the research team intended to achieve. Once this had been established, it was no challenge for us to identify credible sources due to our past experience with research in previous honors courses.

However, the more scholarly sources presented a particular challenge for me in that my focus was on local industry. The scholarly sources were not especially relevant to how rainwater harvesting is addressed in our local community, but could only offer generalizations for how the use rainwater harvesting might be affected by the kinds of information available.

The team needed to seek the knowledge and insight of local experts. Using information from the Chamber of Commerce, we quickly sought out those with experience who were available to speak with us and to gained a better understanding of local practices, system development, and current involvement in the industry. To some extent the team had hope to learn more about local interest and involvement in rainwater harvesting. Because we were unable to conduct a survey within the time frame of this project and because permitting is often not required which makes it difficult to quantify this kind of data we had to rely on the accounts of those we interviewed.


Learning Outside the Classroom


Each member of our research team attended the University of Oregon undergraduate Research Symposium and the Oregon State University Honors Thesis Fair. Nathan, our group leader, mapped out the locations of the research projects presented by students which pertained to the use of water resource at the Research symposium. This was very useful for us in the process of learning about the research process and presentation of data.  I very much enjoyed engaging with student who had been focusing on similar project and discovering this form of sharing research findings.

A short time later, many of us from the Honors Capstone Seminar traveled to Oregon State University to explore the Honors Thesis Fair. Events like this were held across campus which generated great enthusiasm for the research process. Again we sought out projects that focused on water usage. It was uplifting to speak with other about a shred interest in our topic of research and to learn how other had approached the subject.

At one point our Rainwater Harvesting research team broke away to investigate the Kelley Technology Center when we were told that it implemented a design for rainwater harvesting. We visited the central office and collected printed information on the building and acquired contact information for faculty and staff who we might contact for more information. We learn that the system collects water through raised beds along the outer walls of the building which is stored in underground tanks. For me, the process of following research leads through contact with others helped me to feel a stronger connection to the scholarly community that would have been unlikely had we not attended the thesis fair.

Communicating Research Findings


 Approaching the Rainwater Harvesting presentation our team worked to synthesis our research findings. In the process we discovered that we needed to reevaluate our counter arguments and assumptions. A statement which I made and thought was unambiguous was challenged. The statement was, “Here in Eugene, we see a reluctant shift toward rainwater harvesting.” At first, I didn’t understand how this could be challenged. We see building projects like the downtown campus of Lane Community College and the WaterShed Building incorporate rainwater systems as well as at the Lane Learning garden and residential locations. Concern for environmental sustainability has become a familiar aspect of contemporary culture here in Eugene and rainwater harvesting is a part of the sustainability conversation. The resistance to this statement was rooted in the fact that we could not produce quantifiable data to support my statement and in truth we could find no way to determine if more people use rainwater harvesting system now than they had 100 years ago. Rain barrels had been used for a long time before water become as cheap and accessible as it is today. I was forced to recognize that this was an assumption, an assumption that we had been operating under all term without having articulated. This was an important moment for me. At no other point had I recognized or identified one of my own assumptions with such clarity. We could move forward from here by admitting that this was an assumption and stating that, “We believe, there is a reluctant shift toward rainwater harvesting here in Eugene.”

 Another statement was made by a team member as we worked to form our recommendations which I contested. This statement was, “Lawmakers and politicians need to make rainwater harvesting more affordable.” But, I don’t believe lawmakers or politicians have the power to “make” things affordable. They cannot force companies who manufacture and sell components of rainwater harvesting systems to charge less for products, especially companies from outside our local area. But, even if companies did charge less for products the cost would not be reduced. The cost in that case would simply shift to the manufacturers. If cost increased for manufacture less of these component would be produced, which would in turn drive the price up again. I couldn’t, however strongly I wanted to, ignore this statement. I needed to uncover the significance and relevance of it. After some discussion it became more clear that the underlying concept related to how rainwater harvesting was addressed in places like Texas, where incentives and exemptions were adopted, and New Mexico, where laws were actually formed, to implement great use in these places. It was a challenge for me but I did acquiesce on this point once we were able to establish how something like this had been done in other places and how it might be relevant to how rainwater harvesting is managed in Eugene.

 Ultimately, I felt that there was some general reluctance to make any kind of recommendations. I felt that the statement about lawmakers and politicians was made in attempt to avoid making recommendations. If we could say its the responsibility of lawmakers and politicians to create the chance that is needed then perhaps the conversation could end there. However, lawmakers and politicians rarely make political moves without support from their constituents. I believed that as a research team it was not enough for us to share information about rainwater harvesting, but that we needed to share our analysis and opinions of the current state of the rainwater harvesting and its potential. I worked to incorporate the role of lawmakers and politicians into our recommendations. We discussed what it would mean to make recommendations and what it might mean if our recommendations were eventually found to be unsound. In order to feel comfortable in making recommendations we had to concede that we could not, in ten week, gather all possible information relevant to our project and analyze all of the outcome that this information might imply. We could however share our findings and offer potential solutions which might create greater involvement in rainwater harvesting while encouraging further investigation. By accepting our own limitations we were able to present recommendations that we felt could achieve this goal.

Final Reflection


 My final reflection offered me a way to articulate the way in which I learned about communicating my ideas. My own learning and the methods of expressing my own learning which I employed is the main focus of my final reflection.

 What I didn’t fully address in my final reflection was my presentation performance. Certainly, presenting my research at this years Honors Symposium was the most obvious form of communication. Though I struggle with public speaking I felt that I could reasonably address the audience with the work I had done by speaking freely and without a scripting because I felt I knew the information well enough. This approach did not serve me well. I clearly need to adopt new ways of preparing for the moments I stand before a group to verbally delineate my ideas.

 Though the presentation was a key element of the course a greater portion of expressing what I learned throughout the term was articulated to my research partners, my classmates, and my instructors over the course of several weeks. I feel that despite minor frustrations communication with others occurred with relative ease. Communication was essential to the outcome of our research project. As a team we communicated through Moodle forums, texts, telephone, in-text editing on Google Drive and through a various of other ways.

 Though these important elements of communication were incorporated into my Final Reflection I feel they were so important that I should expand on them here. Final Reflection is focused more on the broader scope of how in the Capstone Seminar I learned about the ways in which the community of scholars shares research results and how I fit into that community.

Course Goals

In the inquiry class, I learned to more carefully analyze sources and to provide my impression of what they conveyed based on research conducted through libraries, data bases, and other publications.

In the Capstone Seminar I look forward to expanding on my skills by producing original data.

I look forward to the learning that will come as I apply the ideas explored in the Inquiry class of critical thinking, challenging assumption, and shifting paradigms.

I would like to clarify my understanding of evidence and methods as these terms still seem abstract to me.

I would like to learn to refine the research process by learning to narrow down the scope of a research project in a shorter time allowing me to focus efforts more efficiently.

Effectively communicate the findings of my research group to the public in new ways.

I would like to expand on the ideas explored in the Inquiry class of critical thinking, challenging assumption, and shifting paradigms.

Exploring Research

 The following video was an initial introduction for me into rainwater harvesting and the research I would be conducting. For us in the Pacific Northwest we have an abundance of rain, yet fail to use this resource to its full advantage.  This video is a splendid account of what is possible even in areas with limited resources.

 If we can learn from others who have come before us we will be better equipped to provide for our community needs. Please enjoy!

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