Juniors Conquer a Research Milestone: The Literature Review

Twyla, right, with her JRPS advisor Abby

Twyla, right, with her JRPS advisor Abby

By 11th grader Twyla

One of the most notorious experiences of Meridian student life is JRPS, the Junior Research Project Seminar. It’s one of the most challenging tasks that students undertake, especially considering the amount of time and effort that you have to put into it.

In the summer before 11th grade -- and for the first few weeks of the year -- each student decides on a topic for their research. The freedom to pick nearly anything to study for a full year is both exciting and daunting. Who knows if, after nine months, you'll end up sick of the topic? But also, who knows if you'll have found something you want to pursue for the rest of your life?

The first trimester of JRPS is spent doing research, and much of this involves reading scholarly sources, which take time and energy to understand. Often it was frustrating when I spent a lot of time with one potential source, only to deem it not relevant enough to my topic and therefore unusable. Although this could be tedious, the meticulousness of the weekly note writing assignment paid off a lot when it came time to start writing the Literature Review in the second trimester. This is a 20+ page synthesis of our research, and I was nervous before starting. I have a tendency to procrastinate work, and I feared not finishing in time and having to push my project back. But I had forgotten, in the wake of the tiring research period, that I really do like writing about things that I’m passionate about. In the end, the pages came naturally to me.

My paper, titled "The Evolution of Animal Captivity: The Development of Animal Welfare, Exhibit Design, and the Scientific Understanding of the Natural World in the Zoological Community," chronicled all that I had learned about the ethics and history of zoos. My thesis changed multiple times over the course of my writing, but eventually I argued that, with so much to encompass and represent, the notion of zoos as purely entertainment has become an outdated practice. Today, zoos are used for research, education, and preservation, as the zoological community works to design and create zoos, reservations, and programs that will help counteract the damage that has been done to local and global ecosystems.

My final project will be to design and build a 3D model of a zoo exhibit that encompasses all that I learned and all that I think should be implemented by zoos and reservations in the future. Even though it's another challenging piece of work, I am very excited to see how it turns out, and also to be able to say that I've completed something as noteworthy as a JRPS project.