The glamorous life of working academics.

Illustration by Gracie Newton

When I hear the term research, I generally think of the endless realms of discovery found within different areas of study — general studies, psychological and social. But if I am being completely honest, I often overlook the fact that research has to be conducted by somebody. We are surrounded daily by people who have a passion for research and discovery, and who apply themselves daily to the hard process involved within research. Yes, even people right here on our own campus.

Dr. Jennifer March Augustine and graduate student Daniela Negraia, whom she has mentored, are two researchers on USC’s campus who work within the field of sociology. The two have collaborated on several papers dealing with the issue of family inequality.

Dr. Augustine began her research on the topic of family inequality as an undergraduate, when mentor Kathy Edin was looking for an undergraduate student to code and transcribe interviews that she had collected for a project that she was working on. Dr. Augustine became interested in studying questions that she felt could unite the U.S. population. She explains that the topic of family inequality is large and you can only work on portions at a time. No single study solves all of the issues within family inequality, so it often leads to more research. 

Daniela Negraia is a graduate student within the field of sociology who is also currently working on her own independent research. She is at the stage in her graduate career where she is forming her own research agenda; however, Negraia also has a hand in the topic of family inequality.

Research generally helps inform others on topics that may be difficult to generalize, such as the topic of family inequality. According to Negraia, beliefs that have been transmitted over time can ultimately have an effect on people’s lives.

Illustration by Gracie Newton

“You should do this or you should believe that or you have this characteristic, so for you life should be this way or that way. So, I think the research that social scientists do is, in a way, trying to help people make informed decisions about their life, and also trying to help people that design policies make informed decisions,” Negraia says.

For them, research is not only about the passion that they have for it, but also about helping inform other individuals on everyday life issues and decisions. 

Some of Dr. Augustine’s most recent research related to mothers who have gone back to school. She and Daniela have collaborated to write two papers on the research. One of these two papers has been invited to be revised and resubmitted for the consideration of publication.

Something that is often overlooked within the idea of research is the work put into the process of developing research. The process of research is one that is rather strenuous. There are many ways to conduct it, but Dr. Augustine and Negraia both are currently using secondary large-scale data, which means that they are using pre-existing data. “The beauty of it is that you can look at different populations that you otherwise would not get access to as easily,” says Negraia on secondary data.

There is an undeniable passion that lies within both Dr. Augustine and Negraia when it comes to research. Dr. Augustine finds an importance in the idea of conducting research and using different practices to the best of one’s ability. 

“Issues related to the quality and rigor of the research are really important to me, but I’m also really interested in the theoretical aspects of the work. This is something I try to convey to my students a lot when I teach undergraduate research methods and I find it’s a hard sell because theory seems so abstract. But it’s really the way that we connect this gigantic world of scientific research,” she says. 

In the future, Dr. Augustine plans to do a few more papers related to the topic of mothers going back to school, but then plans to move on to something else related to the topic of Family Inequality. Negraia is hoping to continue graduate school and continue research, landing a research position or possibly teaching within the subject of sociology. 

Research is a process that takes the passion of a person who loves discovery. Dr. Augustine and Negraia have an undeniable drive to research ideas within sociology that will proceed to inform and educate others. Their research within the social world explores many different topics and ideas. The beauty of research comes from the informative results you can offer to yourself and to others. The beauty of research is found in the people who have the passion to conduct it. 

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