In Summer 2017 the Department of Government ran its annual research internship scheme for undergraduates. The programme provides an opportunity for the Department’s BSc students to develop key skills by working with academic faculty on their research. We spoke to three of our undergraduate research interns about their experience working with faculty on research projects.
Tetsekela M. Anyiam-Osigwe assisted Ryan Jablonski with research projects on ‘How Transparency Affects Distributional Politics: A Field Experiment among Elected Politicians in Malawi’ and ‘Electoral violence in Uganda (2016 elections)’:
“In the summer of 2017, the Department of Government ran a research internship scheme for undergraduates. It presented an opportunity for students to work with a member of the department faculty on their research. I had previously done some research work and having enjoyed and learned so much from that experience, I was eager to apply. I was fortunate enough to get to work with Dr Ryan Jablonksi on both a Malawi-based project focusing on how transparency affects distributional politics and a Uganda-based project, which involved mapping electoral violence during the 2016 elections. Given my interests in the challenges of democratic governance as well as political processes and behaviour, especially within modern African states and the wide scope of case studies in my degree programme, this internship provided the ideal opportunity to be a part of a project primarily based within my area of interest.
Working as a research assistant has helped me to acquire more knowledge about survey design and coding techniques. I was able to gain insights into the quantitative research process, by working on the coding and analysis of survey outputs from the Malawi project involving 500 elected MPs and councillors. I was also able to familiarise myself with the use of Graphic Information Science (GIS). This is particularly useful since political scientists are increasingly making use of GIS technology in their statistical analyses. The Uganda-based project was more qualitative. It involved a meticulous process of going through news articles during the election period that reported on electoral violence and coding the locations of events. With the internship, I was therefore able to engage with data both quantitatively and qualitatively. Moreover, I gained insight into the research analysis process. Dr Jablonski could not directly supervise one of the tasks I had been assigned to do, since it largely involved coding the data that informed his hypothesis. I therefore learnt to be more independent, and conscious of the work I did, making sure my coding and analysis were as accurate as possible. Still, throughout the project, he was extremely helpful in relaying what needed to be done, providing clarification when needed, and giving feedback on the work done. More than anything, this allowed the internship to be a learning experience for me, and made the work I did feel valuable. Undoubtedly, this experience has made me more interested in research work. I would highly recommend students to apply whenever possible for research internships like this. It affords anyone interested in research, even if remotely, a valuable hands on experience.”
Anqi Chen helped John Chalcraft with his research project on ‘Transnational Advocacy and Activism (TAA) in the contemporary Middle East’ :
“My internship experience with Dr. Chalcraft was indeed a very pleasant and interesting one. We met up a few times before the actual internship started to discuss the research topic and how I could contribute to it. Dr. Chalcraft works on Transnational Activism and Advocacy in the context of Palestinian BDS (boycotting, divesting and sanctioning) movement. During the internship (I worked for him over the period of a month), we looked into some of the major players in the movement and tried to measure whether certain strategies deployed by each group have been impactful. Though having all the names and clues at hand, conducting relevant research can still be difficult since some materials are not in English (a big thank you to google translate!) and information is not always widely available. Under the support of LSE’s Academic Support Librarian Dr Paul Horsler, I soon learned to use business platforms such as Bloomberg Terminal and Thomson Reuters to search for information and data, such as whether certain firms’ commercial behaviours were affected by the mentioned activism.
Though the work can be challenging, I also found it extremely rewarding and interesting. As Dr. Chalcraft is doing research on a very recent case, there is very little in the way of academic resources already available. Therefore we had to gather first-hand data from any possible sources, including company press releases and lobbyist forums. Dr. Chalcraft is also a very friendly and patient scholar who explained everything to me and provided as much guidance as possible. As I had been conducting my own research on social movements, assisting Dr. Chalcraft was also hugely beneficial in that it gave me real examples on how to look for and manage a large amount of information, and put them into a clear logical order. I am very grateful to him and the Government Department, who together provided this fantastic opportunity.”
Viktor Salenius worked with Cathy Boone on the task of tracking Land Titling in Côte d’Ivoire for her research project ‘Politics of Land Commodification in African Countries’:
“In Summer 2017 I was a Research Intern with the Government Department, working with Professor Catherine Boone on her project analysing the causes and consequences of land registration reform in Sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, my internship was focused on Côte d’Ivoire, and I was researching and mapping changes in political-administrative boundaries in localities where land-titling reform had provoked political violence.
In every sense, the research internship was worthy of its name. I received helpful guidance for my tasks, but above all the process became a gradual learning experience, allowing me to explore and try out a number of research methods. For example, one assignment was to map out the location of several small villages on the basis of only partial data and satellite images, and I was able to develop new skills in Geographic Information System (GIS) software when working through these challenges. Apart from coordinating with my supervising professor and my co-intern, I also had the opportunity to communicate with researchers and NGO officials from several countries to find resources needed for the project. Overall, I truly received an extensive introduction into what it is like to work in this particular field of political science research. I definitely had the sense that my assignments were worthwhile and closely tied to Professor Boone’s wider project, and that I was given a chance to be part of and contribute to this research as a member of the team.
For my future plans, these experiences over the summer have given me a great deal. Seeing how professionals put theory into practice and having the opportunity to contribute to this over several weeks has reaffirmed my interest in research-based study and in working for research-focused organisations after graduating. I am currently writing my undergraduate dissertation, and although I am now focusing on a different part of the world with a different research question, the experiences I gained are useful: I am able to draw on many insights from my internship experience.
Lastly, the research internship provided me with a new perspective of the Department and of LSE overall. Experiencing campus as a place not just for attending lectures, but also for gathering ideas for a wider research assignment, served as a reminder of the diversity of on-going projects that surrounds us as students but with which we do not always remember to engage. Since the summer this curiosity has stuck with me – I have spent more time listening to staff and students in regards to what they are up to in their own research.”
The next Department of Government research internship scheme will run again in summer 2018. For more information on internship opportunities, please contact our undergraduate programme team on Gov.UG@lse.ac.uk.