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To Research or Not to Research, That is the Question

Over the summer I spent my free time diving into the history books. Now, keep in mind, I am not a very history-happy person. The only reason I did it was for the lovely theatre department. This October, we will be performing Hairspray, an upbeat musical about a Baltimore girl in 1962 that has big dreams and even bigger hair. This production has a cast of about 30 people and a strong production team leading them to some great performances. My job as the Dramaturg is to make sure the entire production is historically accurate. Not only do I have to make sure the actors understand why some of the jokes from that time period are funny, but I also have to make sure things like school bags and phones are accurate. We wouldn’t want to have Tracy holding a smartphone because it wouldn’t be believable. I have to make sure the world we create resembles 1960s Baltimore as closely as possible. This was a challenge I willingly accepted because I had the privilege of being a part of a professional production of Hairspray in my hometown the summer after I graduated high school. After spending a month on that show and dancing till I couldn’t breathe and had blisters all over my feet from the heels, I fell in love with the show. Before that, it was definitely not on my top five list as far as musicals go. After being in it, however, I gained a new appreciation for it. When the Theatre Department announced they would be doing it this fall, I immediately jumped at the chance to do the dramaturgy. Knowing I had a big, crazy schedule to keep track of this semester, I did the majority of the work over the summer.

It was very helpful to be able to use Hoover Library’s resources from home. Besides McDaniel’s 250,000 volumes of books we house on campus, we are also connected to Carol Community College and Carol County Public Library to give us access to over 750,000 volumes in this county. We are also connected with the Inner Library Loan system which means if we find a book we really want to use or read, they can get it shipped here for free from anywhere in the country. These resources were very helpful for me once I got back to campus after this summer. It was a nice way to double check facts and look at actual history books. However, my favorite library resource is the 60+ online databases that McDaniel students have access to. The best part is you don’t even have to be on or anywhere near campus to access them. As long as you are logged into your McDaniel account (via the new McDaniel portal) you can access them from any computer anywhere. I live about two hours from campus and was able to easily search all the databases until my eyes were tired of scrolling through the hundreds of options I had for that one specific topic. These databases not only help students with large projects like this, but they also help me with the smallest of papers. Some of my English classes require that I write reaction papers for books I read that have specific topics. When I am stuck with writers block and need help thinking about that topic, I search it on the databases. It serves as a nice, reliable source to jumpstart my brainstorming. Often, I will even site these journal articles or things that I find because they have such good information.

I don’t know what I would have done this summer without the resources that McDaniel provides their students for research. After working on this project, I feel a lot better about doing research for the Senior Seminar paper I will have to write next year. The amount of research and time I am going to spend in the library and on those databases will be an extraordinary amount of time, but I know it will not go wasted. The research resources we have here are wonderful for any student and a life saver when you are stressing about papers and research projects. After talking to some friends that go to other schools, I really feel that McDaniel is superior in their resources for students both in and out of the classroom. The opportunities the school provides for us allow us to grow in so many different ways.

“I’ve got the whole wide world in the palm of my hands.” –The Muppets (Life’s a Happy Song)

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