Working as an intern in a research centre: A peek behind the curtain

Contrary to what the timetable available on the digital work environment of our university may lead us to think, teaching hours are only the tip of the iceberg where the work of a researcher is concerned. This is what I was able to witness when my dissertation director, Dr. Marc Calvini-Lefebvre and his research group “Women and the F-Word” recruited me for a two-month paid internship. The group studies the various spectres of feminism and is part of the research centre of our English Department, the LERMA (Laboratoire d’Etude et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone) which hosted my internship.

My first and primary task was to browse through various online databases such as JSTOR in order to find scientific publications on women’s resistance to feminism. I had only scratched the surface of what research was with my M1 dissertation and this time, I was confronted with hours of research through 5 different databases using 11 different key words, hoping to compile a bibliography that could be useful for my professors. This work was fastidious and time-consuming but a pillar of the research edifice. I learnt to be more efficient in my research, more selective of the information given, and understood how reviews could be useful to grasp the bulk of a reviewed work’s argumentation, especially when said work is not available. I also had to learn to trust my judgement concerning what was relevant or not for I had to upload all my findings in a shared library created on Zotero by Dr. Calvini-Lefebvre. This was probably one of the most trying tasks at hand because as students, we are prone to look for approval before acting and I will gladly admit that I doubted myself quite often.

Compiling this bibliography was not, however, my only task. I looked for recent antifeminist blogs administrated by women and found very few of them which led me to ask the permission to wander on the web, and notably YouTube. There, I found many videos of young women explaining why they rejected feminism. Watching these videos, I was faced with the obvious miscommunication between feminists and the public and realised just how pejorative the tag of “feminist” had become. Somehow, studying antifeminist women in 19th Century England, I had almost forgotten how relevant the subject still was.

After the internship, the “Women and the F-Word” team kept me involved and invited me to a workshop with researchers who had come from England and Australia, researchers I had encountered during my search for articles and books. As I sat in a conference room, surrounded by brilliant minds exchanging ideas, exploring some lines of thought, talking funding too, I grasped just how complex, interesting and intense the job of researcher was. The researcher wears various caps: explorer, administrator, diplomat, teacher and mentor.

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