Olivia Johnson, grade 12, shares her experience in AP Research, her research process and details on her project.
AP Research has taught me three important things when it comes to researching: be objective, be flexible and find reliable sources. Without these three skills a researcher has no shot of writing an even remotely accurate and engaging research paper. This year I decided to look at the topic of Food Waste and, more specifically, consumers’ expectations.
When looking for and synthesizing the information, I found it was crucial that I stayed objective. Starting out, I was extremely biased in my expectations. I expected to find certain answers; and that is what I looked for. I only read sources from the same place, Second Harvest Japan and The Japan Times. Eventually I saw my own bias, forced myself to check the credibility of the sources and look in new places. Instead of looking for my answer I instead started to broaden my scope.
Instead of The Japan Times online English articles, I found peer-reviewed journals from databases that had studied the patterns of the Japanese consumers, specifically regarding food. The Japan Times article said that the only thing Japanese consumers care about when it comes to food is looks. The editorial claimed that they need their food to be “pristine, pretty and perfect.” However, one of the aforementioned journal pointed out that Japanese consumers’ foremost concern is actually cost. Aesthetics, as it turns out, is number five on the list. This gap between opinions shows that the first opinion you come across is not necessarily the correct one, nor the most accurate.
This gap between sources and refocusing from my answer to my question forced me to clarify what I was actually looking at. My focus initially involved the politics of American food waste, and ended up on the Japanese consumer and the flexibility of their expectations. As a researcher I’ve learned that you have to be flexible. I don’t live in the States, so to conduct research in a country I am not physically in is a considerable roadblock to overcome. In shifting my focus to Japan, I adapted.
Being objective, flexible and finding proper sources has been crucial to my research. These three main criteria have led me to all the right places and will continue to help me in my project.