Kennedy Scholars: The art of research

Author: Joanna Byrne

Book Kennedy Pic

Jane Honerlaw is a Kennedy Scholar in London this semester, researching landscape and adaptations of Jane Austen’s writings. Experiencing the busy London metropolis, and breathing the fresh air of England’s dramatic countryside, Honerlaw learned invaluable lessons about research. 

The Kennedy Scholars Program enables students to discover resources that are available to them outside of the classroom and gives them a taste of what independent research is like. They are taken to libraries, archives and sites of interest, and are encouraged to hunt for the material that informs their chosen topic.  

“It’s a great introduction into the research process and how it’s not really a linear one, but a circle or spiral," says Honerlaw. 

The topics students look at have a UK focus, but aside from that, the area of study is wide. They are taught how to locate and analyze sources such as manuscripts, photographs, newspapers, artifacts and artwork. The diversity of the subject matter means the class trips often go further afield, to Oxford, Bath, or Durham. For Honerlaw, these trips have held particular importance, allowing her to see the physical setting where Jane Austen wrote.  

“It’s really interesting to see where she would have written, where she would’ve walked and visited. Being in the same environment has been really useful to me," says Honerlaw.

The idea of the Kennedy Scholars Program was born when Bill Kennedy worked with the College of Arts and Letters to look at how they could enhance and supplement the academic experience of the London Program. Kennedy believes that the richness of resources available in the UK make it a fantastic platform for students to learn the techniques of research.

“In a world where most people simply Google something, the students are going to original works created perhaps hundreds of years ago to understand their topic better than most people ever will,” states Kennedy.

Kennedy devised this program so that students like Honerlaw can produce great academic work on a topic they're passionate about and also to help them develop a skill that is applicable to most professions.

“I am an investor and I apply very rigorous research methods in all the companies I buy for and the funds I manage," says Kennedy. "Good research goes way beyond academics and these skills can lead to much success in professional life."

The students’ research culminates in a three-day visit to Durham, where students present their work at the University. The journey doesn't end here, as students who take part in the program are eligible to apply for the Kennedy Fellows Grant on completion of their thesis. This allows for the return to Europe in subsequent semesters for follow-on research.

Visit the study abroad website for more information on the Kennedy Scholars Program.