Ferris State students put their research skills to the test


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BIG RAPIDS – A pair of Ferris State students have pushed their limits and research skills over the past year in search of results on a specific question.

Brendan Sanders and Brody Keizer, now juniors and sophomores – respectively – at the university, recently pitched a research project to some of the country’s top sports minds.

In November 2019, the couple were invited to take on a project by their teacher, Dr Sandy Alspach.

“We understood that we both enjoy working in print and sports journalism and chose a research project from there,” Sanders said.

Sanders and Keizer are both sports communication majors as well as reporters for The Torch, the university’s student newspaper, which made it easy to develop an idea.

The initial question they asked in their research was: Do sports reporting keep local print newspapers alive?

“We wanted to do content analysis on a few different local newspapers,” Keizer said.

Used Sanders and Keizer The pioneer and the Greenville Daily News for their research – the two six-day community newspapers in western Michigan.

Once the project was defined, work officially began. Hours, hours and hours of work went into this project, the couple said.

Together, each day, Sanders and Keizer downloaded the electronic edition of each article and copied the text of the entire edition into a Microsoft Word document. From there, even more work began.

“We could find the percentage of those words that were sports related,” Keizer said.

When Sanders and Keizer began their research in November 2019, they had a deadline for their project to be completed in April 2020 to present it at the International Association for Sports Communication conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“Originally it was a study period of about three months and then a month of data analysis,” Sanders explained.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.

Sanders and Keizer learned that the conference had been postponed until the first week of March.

“We didn’t know when this was going to be postponed until some point in the summer,” Keizer said. “They let us know that the conference will be postponed until this year. But we were waiting a few months to find out if we were going to the conference. “

“We knew it was going to be virtual from the start because at this point traveling is tough,” Sanders added.

After the first initial delay, the duo took a “fairly long break” in their research. However, once classes resumed – and with some encouragement from Dr Alspach – Sanders and Keizer resumed their research and with an extra twist.

Now their research would also examine how a pandemic might have affected a newspaper. The duo were able to look at 12 months of data compared to the original three.

Fast forward to September 2020 where Keizer and Sanders learned the conference was going to be held virtually. The two quickly got to work wrapping up their findings. They prepared a PowerPoint presentation and divided the information into different parts explaining how and why they did it.

“We pointed out the trends in what we found and afterward they were able to ask questions about our findings,” Sanders said.

The conference – which was open to students from across the country and abroad – officially took place earlier this month.

“It was a summit to share research knowledge for sport,” said Sanders. “It’s a four to five day summit for all the best brains to come together and show up.”

“We were the only undergraduates in the entire conference,” Keizer added.

Sanders and Keizer perfectly presented – from their respective dorms and apartments – over a year of research to those who judged the conference and caught the attention of many. They were even asked about the project’s future plans and whether they intended to take it to the next level.

“Even though this project was labor intensive and time consuming, I think it was extremely useful, especially since we are undergraduates and were the only undergraduates there,” said Keizer said. “Gaining that research experience, going through the process and learning even better time management skills, and balancing that with journalism, classes and other things that go on in life – I think it was. really important. “

“Being able to be in the same room with so many great minds from the sports community is a lesson in humility the first time around,” Sanders added. “Just being able to do it again… and being able to partner with someone for so long is awesome.”

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Paul N. Strickland

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