Fritz Yarrison, Doctoral Graduate Student, Sociology
What do you research?
I research the experience of individuals who claim what have been termed “Counter-normative Identities.” My dissertation will be examining how and when individuals who are non-religious can use this fact in interaction with others. Previous research has found that many non-religious individuals do not use this component of their self-concept in their everyday interactions because of the negative evaluation they face in American Society. I am interested in examining what kinds of context and personal characteristics make individuals more likely to discuss their non-religious views.
How do you conduct your research?
I mainly employ survey research techniques for my research. For my dissertation, I will be employing a nationally representative survey that includes 1500 individuals who are religious and 1500 individuals who are non-religious.
How did you find this topic?
I became interested in this topic during my time as an undergraduate at Penn State when participating in a research project about how non-religious individuals experienced the stigma associated with their beliefs.
What do you enjoy most about research?
The component of research that I like the most is the process of establishing a research plan. I enjoy the problem of establishing a plan to examine and answer a research question. My knowledge of research methodology and statistics allows me to recognize the importance of the research design before any research has begun. The research design is where the answer to a research question is actually established.
What would you tell a friend who would want to become involved in research?
The most important place to start is to find a mentor who has experience and interest in helping new researchers. Research is not necessarily something that is a talent that some people have and others do not, it is a skill that must be learned. Having a faculty mentor is imperative for individuals to be successful in the process of learning how to conduct research.
How do you think you have grown as a student and/or as a professional as a result of research?
Participation in research has been paramount to my development. It is the best way to experience what academia will expect from me if I obtain a position as a professor. At the same time, the experience of research has developed a vast number of skills that will be beneficial to me in non-academic jobs. Many jobs are available in the workforce that are looking for individuals who have the skills of research and data analysis.