Where to Begin: Starting Junior Independent Work

December 24, 2022
Hadley Kim

One of the facets of the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree at Princeton is that you are required to complete junior independent work (in addition to the famous senior thesis). Some departments require two, one for each semester, while others only require one for the academic year. As an East Asian Studies concentrator, I have to write two junior research papers, the first of which is written in conjunction with the mandatory junior seminar (EAS 300) and under the guidance of the designated faculty adviser –– the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the department –– while the second is written with any available adviser of the student’s choosing. 

For East Asian Studies, there are no set parameters for our projects for either semester, meaning that we are genuinely allowed to write about anything that interests us. The freedom is both liberating and daunting, especially since I now had to consider my certificate requirements in my independent work. Two of my certificates: Gender & Sexuality Studies and Translation & Intercultural Communication, require me to write about a topic related to my certificate for at least one of my two junior papers. I remember walking into my classroom on the first week of the semester and sitting in a semicircle with the rest of my classmates when one of the first questions our professor asked us was, “Why don’t we go around in a circle and talk about what your junior paper topic is?” My mind went completely blank. I had a vague subject matter I wanted to research, but one that was nowhere near the stage in which I could share it with other people. I blurted out that I wanted to write something about the feminist movement in Korea and then sat around nervously as my peers described (what seemed to be) well thought out ideas for their independent work. 

However, as the weeks passed, my favorite part of the seminar soon became seeing how other people’s junior paper topics changed and evolved –– and how mine did as well. Now, I am writing my junior paper about the historical legacy of the patriarchy in South Korea, comparing the government response to the Gangnam Murder Case of 2016 with that of the general public, namely women. 

Although my junior independent work is far from finished, here are a few tips I have gathered from the past semester:

  • Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm! 
    • The more you brainstorm and think about your project, the easier the writing itself will become. 
  • Work a little every day, whether it be 5 minutes or 5 hours. 
    • You will have accomplished more than you think by the end of a few weeks. 
  • Ask questions, and ask for feedback.
    • Find a few people to bounce ideas off of and tell them to ask you questions to test gaps in your logic. 
  • Don’t be scared!
    • I spent weeks putting off working on my Junior Paper (JP) because I was overwhelmed, but once I started that it really is an enriching experience once you take it one day at a time.