The start of a new semester is usually a good time for research groups to take a quick intellectual inventory of the previous months’ accomplishments and to plan ahead for future work. At our first BAND meeting of the spring semester last week, we spent a chunk of time talking about finishing up a new, big batch of letters for publication, as well as looking ahead to see what projects people might move to after the letters are done.

Obviously, from an organizational level, looking ahead is smart in order to prevent any lulls in productivity. But what about personal goals? Student research assistants contribute to ongoing projects, but how can projects contribute to students?

In order for student RA’s to get the most out their experiences, I think they should create [explicit, specific] personal goals that coincide with the larger activities of their respective projects. It’s a smart, simple way to ensure that learning is happening at the same time you’re grunting out the latest batch of proofreading. It will also help you clarify and talk about your experiences to colleagues and future employers.


For this spring semester, I’m working on my own goals with the Blake Archive. Here’s what I got so far:

  • Continue learning Archive-specific XML tag set
  • Gain better familiarity with Blake biography and corpus
  • Move from letters to other Blake texts
  • Stay current with other DH projects online
  • Look for DH learning opportunities outside of Blake Archive

As you can see, some of these goals deal directly with my involvement in the Archive, and others are more related to individual professional development. In an ideal RA position, I see both areas as mutually beneficial. That’s really the whole point, right?

As a final note, it’s equally important to share these goals with your advisor or project leader. People participate in research projects for a variety of reasons, and advisors can help accommodate personal interests. But they can’t read your mind. So speak up, show up, and work hard.