Research Curveball

This whole process has actually been pretty interesting because I’ve realized you don’t always end up doing exactly what you plan based on what resources are available to you and time constraints. Originally, I planned to analyze determinants of primary and secondary school enrollment for boys and girls in Bangladesh to understand target areas for education incentive policies. I was going to do empirical analysis using datasets from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to determine the probability of child, household, and community level factors contributing to school enrollment, child labor, and girls’ age of marriage. The second part of my project would have been field research in Bangladesh to conduct a case study on a village in the dataset and compare the empirical data to observations on the ground.

I arrived in DC about three weeks ago to work with John Hoddinott at IFPRI on the empirical part using IFPRI household data. The first day, I walked into his office at 9 AM and talked about my research idea until 11 AM. After discussing my research interests in international development education and the empirical process, I had to face the harsh reality of both data and time constraints. In order to even start using IFPRI household data, it would take me at least two weeks to just figure out which data to select and standardize everything. After that, it would take more time to aggregate all the household data, which I would have to do because there is limited data on social and economic indicators at the village level. Basically, I would spend half the time while I was in DC just putting the data together.

Since I wanted to have some empirical results before going on the ground in Bangladesh, John suggested I take a different route that would still match with my research interests and involve IFPRI data, just at a national level. Therefore, I have spent the last three weeks reformulating my research so that it is more feasible and I can take full advantage of the resources of IFPRI in order to have some concrete empirical results before I travel. I will post more about how exactly I have had to change parts of my research, but I guess this highlights what this whole blog is supposed to be about—the process of undergraduate research. There are definite curveballs that you don’t plan for in your idealized research proposal, but you just have to be innovative to still follow what you want to do and work with what is available!