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Library research award winners are...

May 5, 2011 4:37 PM

This year's University Libraries Award for Undergraduate Research has gone to three upperclassmen who used the libraries’ many resources in highly effective ways.

Christian "Chris" Buckson, a South Carolina Honors College junior from Greenwood who is majoring in history and international studies, took the top prize of $500. Honors College seniors Katharine "Katie" Parham of Irmo and Nicholas "Nick" Williamson of Blythewood each received honorable mention awards of $250. A short awards ceremony and reception was held in their honor in Thomas Cooper Library on May 1.

The University Libraries Award for Undergraduate Research rewards excellence in undergraduate use of library resources and services and demonstrates the contribution of the Libraries to student learning. It highlights the value of information literacy by requiring students to describe their research process as part of the application procedures, and encourages faculty to create assignments that engage students in the use of library resources.

To be eligible to win, applicants must be a USC undergraduate in any discipline, and they must have completed the research project for a credit course at USC within the past academic year. Requirements for the award include a 500- to 700-word-essay describing the research process and use of library collections, resources, and services; a letter of support from a supervising faculty member, a final version of the research project, and a list of sources consulted. A panel of USC faculty and librarians judge the entries. Winning entries demonstrate an applicant's exceptional ability to discover, select, evaluate, and synthesize information in the creation of a project in any media exhibiting sophistication, originality, or unusual depth or breadth in the use of library collections and services.

A history term paper assignment on NATO and American Foreign Policy led Buckson to delve into primary sources at Thomas Cooper Library, piquing his interest in a NATO sub-group, the Parliamentary Council.

"To my knowledge, Christian is the first scholar, professional or otherwise, to address the Council in a paper-length research study," wrote history professor David Snyder in his letter of support for Buckson. He also described the project as a "tour de force that would have been suitable for a tenured scholar..."

Because this topic lacked much previous research, Buckson relied heavily on primary resources. He began his study while on campus but, thanks to a Magellan Scholar Award and an Honors College Research Grant, Buckson travelled to Brussels, Belgium, to continue his research at the Parliamentary Council Archives.

"Without access to the library's resources, both here and abroad, I would not have been able to bring my project to its successful conclusion," Buckson said. He plans to continue his research at Thomas Cooper Library to make his paper, "Pursuing Transatlantic Unity: NATO's Parliamentary Conference," ready for publishing in an academic journal.

Honorable mention recipient Parham is a political science and French major who submitted her senior Honors College thesis, "The Aftershock: The Effect of the NGO Influx in Haiti on the State of Reconstruction, Development Agendas, and Public Policy Discourse After the January 2010 Earthquake." Because the topic was so current, she used many news and Internet sources while also researching the historical role of non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Haiti.

"Katie's completed project does a fine job of describing the extraordinary, and extraordinarily complicated, roles/impacts/problems of NGOs in Haiti in the post-disaster setting," wrote history professor Dan Sabia in his letter of support. "To do so, she relied extensively on the library’s online article databases, including Academic OneFile, JSTOR, IPSA, LexisNexis Academic, World Bank Data, and AccessUN."

Honorable mention recipient Williamson is a civil and environmental engineering major who submitted an 80-page literature review he put together for a research-based independent study course. He investigated traditional and novel materials for overhead transmission line structures.

"Nicholas' review was made up of well-selected references, ranging from refereed journal papers to high-quality conference papers and technical reports," wrote civil engineering professor Fabio Matta in his letter of support. "In addition, Nicholas made extensive use of the interlibrary loan service."

This year's Undergraduate Research Award review panel was made up of seven faculty members:  Marilee Birchfield, Amy Edwards, Gary Geer, Jeffrey Makala, and Sharon Verba, University Libraries; Bobby Donaldson, history; and Richard Showman, biology.

For more information about the award, go to