Phase 2: Finding Helpful Resources
In the previous Phase 1, I have listed major questions that will guide me during my entire research process. Now in Phase 2, I will be searching for specific resources that will assist me when it comes to answering all of these questions.
To do any further research, I would first need to know what I want to look for. Knowing this, I have generated a few keywords that I would like to focus more on when searching online. These keywords include Happiness in China, Chinese culture/traditions, Xizhou culture/traditions, positive psychology, and Xizhou living conditions. I chose these keywords mainly because, as mentioned before at the end of my Phase 1, I really wanted to dig deeper into my topic by having more of my research be specific to China or Xizhou. My keywords really surround the idea of traditions, cultures, circumstances, and of course, happiness.
Before I begin finding any experts to help guide me on my research process, I double checked to make sure that all of my background research from Phase 1 was done with the use of credible sources. In order to check this, I looked into three specific factors: credentials, time, and content. First off, credentials. I basically scrolled through each website and read through the "About me" or "Author" section. If I could not find a section specifically dedicated to the authors of the context then I would almost immediately ditch the site, and if there is an "About me" section then I would make sure that the credentials of the author qualified to write accurate information on this topic. Secondly, time. LIke the credentials, I look through the website to find the date, month, and most importantly the year of publication. If, for example, the year was 1972 I would very likely discard the article because as time pasts our society and beliefs and studies do too. Studies done years ago are definitely not as recent and up-to-date than studies done in the past few years. Lastly, content. I specifically read through the websites context and the information in it. If the author's claims are backed up from statistics and clear evidence then I would consider the article to be much more reliable.
With these keywords in mind, I began looking through websites relevant to my topic and I ended up narrowing down to three experts that I would really love to get feedback and hopefully learn from.
I was reading an article/blog named "Positive Psychology in China", and I was really drawn to the words of Mr.Peterson. He has had personal experience studying and learning about the concept of happiness in China during his trip to the country itself. He graduated from the University of Michigan, where he was a professor of Psychology. Mr.Peterson is also one of the top 100 widely cited psychologist in the world. With his unique perspective and his credentials, it would be an honor to get some advice or suggestions from him.
Carol Graham, along with others, wrote a report called "Happiness and Health of China: The paradox progress". Reading through it, there was an abundant amount of statistics and concrete information that I think can really back up a lot of my further studies in Xizhou. Ms.Graham talked about the standards in China and how that affects the happiness rate in the country itself. She has a lot of facts and thoughts on ideas that I would definitely agree with, and it is this connection that emphasized just how much I would love to get some feedback from her.
With the desire to ask for some feedback on my questions and possibly some guide to any background research, I wrote both experts an email. The email is shown below:
Hi. My name is Becky and I am currently an 8th grader at Shanghai American School. In a few weeks, I will be journeying off with 15 other students to a small village called Xizhou in the Yunnan province. We will be spending a month there, where each of us will be conducting research and interviews with the villagers to better understand a topic of our interest. Without a doubt, I chose my topic to be about happiness in Xizhou as I was extremely curious about the concepts surrounding positive psychology. I was doing some background research prior to my trip, and I happened to fall upon your article written about happiness and health in China. Your article and expertise immediately sparked my interest and furthered my curiosity.
Mrs.Graham, this might seem quite out of the blue but I really wanted to reach out to you and ask if you would be willing to help me out by taking a few minutes to read through some parts of my project (here's a link to my site: http://www.sasmicrocampus.org/projects/blogs/18166/students).
One Major part of my research was to come up with 10 big questions that I would like to answer during my entire process in Xizhou. Of course, I am definitely not asking you to help me answer any of these questions :). I would simply just love it if you could provide me with some feedback or advice on which direction I could possibly take or simply just reading through it. Below I have written my 10 questions:
1. When do people feel happiest?
2. What, most often, gets in the way of a person's happiness? How does this prevent them from being happy?
3. How does a person's definition of happiness develop throughout their lifetime?
4. Is "being happy" the final goal that people want to achieve in their lives?
5. Can money buy you happiness?
6. Does the society we live in today greatly restrict a person's ability to reach their highest "happiness potential"? If so, how?
7. What actions could the governments take to increase their country's happiness rate
8. Between age groups, what differences and similarities can be found in their perception of happiness?
9. What is the most significant factor that attributes to the concept of happiness?
10. Do specific environment conditions/circumstances greatly impact one's happiness?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this email. It truly would be the greatest honor to have you provide me with your advice. I would appreciate it so much as this means a great deal to me. Once again, thank you! :)
For Mr.Peterson, I looked through the entire website but I could not find any personal emails of his. The only contact information I was able to locate was his VIA institution company mail, and unfortunately, I was not able to reach out to him personally. However, for Mrs.Graham, she quickly responded to my email and she kindly said she would take a look at my questions. I am now waiting for her feedback.
The 3-5s are basically 3-5 minute conversations with 3-5 different people. We simply have a conversation with that person and ask for their advice on our topic. The conversations usually revolve around the villagers that we can contact and some suggestions about where we could go to further our research. Below are the 4 advisors that I contacted.
The first person that I talked to was Ms.Mai. Ms.Mai is here with us on our journey to help make sure that our entire microcampus group stays healthy and well. I chose Ms.Mai first because I strongly believe that happiness has a strong connection with wellness. Since Ms.Mai is an expert on staying healthy, I went to get some advice from her first. When I first explained my topic of happiness to Ms.Mai, she said that she could introduce me to people that she thinks are happy and cheerful in their everyday lives. Here are all of the contacts that Ms.Mai mentioned:
1. Ms.Alin - She has worked at Linden center for 7 years
2. Mr. and Mrs.Zhao - The restaurant owner of Old Town Snacks
3. The two ladies at the noodles shop at Si Fang Jie
4. Security guards at Bao Cheng Fu
5. Kitchen staff at Linen center
Ms.B is one of the first teacher support staff here at the Linden Centre that I met. Although Ms.B has only been here at Xizhou for a year or so, this just means that she has a lot of experience when it comes to meeting new people and making new connections. Talking to Ms.B about my topic, she mentioned that my topic allows for huge flexibility when it comes to the contacts. Happiness is such a large concept and so relevant in our everyday lives that anyone can provide their thoughts on this topic. However, Ms.B did talk about a lot of contacts that could possibly help me along the way. I have listed them below:
3. The Old Man - Fixes bicycles
4. Mr. and Mrs.Zhao - Resturant owner of Old Town Snacks
5. The two ladies that sell sha guo mi xian
6. Lao Mao - Dentist
7. Mr.Yang - Security guard at Linden Centre
Ms.Wang and Mr.Yang
Ms.Wang and Mr.Yang, similar to Ms.B, are also both teacher support staffs that are here to help guide us along our inquiry process. When I first explained my topic to Ms.Wang and Mr.Yang immediately said that they had done a project a while ago that also revolved around the topic of happiness. They mentioned that my topic would be quite simple if I were to just ask them questions about happiness, and unlike most of the microcampus students learning about their project through "cooking or farming", It would be hard for me to actually experience happiness. And so instead of giving me suggestions of contacts, they challenged me to consider new ways of approaching my topic. With that thought, I talked to them about trying to experience the things that the villagers perceive as happiness. For example, if someone were to find drawing as the one thing that brings them happiness, I could maybe learn how to draw from them. Through this experience, I would be able to connect with them on a different level.
Mr.T is the main organizer of the microcampus trip and he has been coordinating these trips for years, and so no doubt he has built some really solid connections with the villagers here in Xizhou. Mr.Tafel was able to give me some great advice and locals to contact. Also, a lot of these contacts that Mr.T mentioned were not contacts that I had heard about from the other teacher supports, and so this expanded my pool of contacts. Below, I have listed all of the contacts suggested:
1. Mr.Duang - He was a part of the military
2. Mr. and Mrs.Huang - Religious people with strong Muslim beliefs
3. Mr.Zhao - Resturant owner
4. Mr.Zhao - Security guard
5. Mr.Du - Antique dealer
7. Evening Dances
After finishing up with Mr.T I knew that I was pretty much set with the 3-5s because I had enough contacts on my list that are sure to keep me busy for the next few weeks. To help me further my research, I would also need to read books that revolve around "happiness" or "positive psychology".
In Phase 2, I have contacted experts and teacher supportstaffs that might help guide me on my research process. In Phase 3, I will interpret the data that I will be collecting. Click here to look through my Phase 3.