Congratulations to the 2023 Library Research Prize Winners, Niki Alyari and Abby Kane!

Each year, the DePaul University Library celebrates the research of first-year students through the Library Research Prize. This year, we congratulate our winners Niki Alyari for the essay “The Inner Workings of NRMs: An Analysis of the Factors that Lead to Cult Indoctrination and Member Retention” and Abby Kane for “More Than Child’s Play: Uses of Animation as a Medium in Society.”

The Library Research Prize is awarded to First-Year Writing students whose researched essays demonstrate excellence in the application of information literacy skills, including expertise in the discovery, evaluation, and use of information tools and resources. In addition to their essays, students also submitted a research statement that reflects on the use of library research tools, sources, and services at each stage of the research process, emphasizing what was learned. This year’s essays exemplified mastery of library resources in order to investigate their respective topics.

Niki’s essay was written for Delia Pless’s WRD 104 course and explores aspects of new religious movements (NRMs) – groups often referred to as “cults” – using a wide range of resources from the fields of sociology, psychology, criminology, and religious studies. In addition to popular sources, Niki incorporated first-hand accounts and scholarly sources that helped her draw conclusions about the persuasive power of NRMs, explaining that:

“The indoctrination and retention process of members in NRMs is composed of an intricate web of factors and influences that converge to manipulate people into joining and staying in NRMs, even in the face of violence and abuse.”

By utilizing the Sociology Research Guide, Niki was able to access critical sources through the databases APA PsycInfo and Sociological Abstracts. Niki provided a well-structured and detailed examination of the principal social, religious, and psychological aspects of NRMs, including discussion of the darker aspects of trauma and abuse that can “trap” members and coerce allegiance to NRMs.

Abby’s essay was written for Jennifer Finstrom’s HON 100 course and examines the art of animation and its influence beyond children’s entertainment by exploring its educational, social, and therapeutic implications. Abby used the databases listed in the Animation, Game Design, and Digital Media Research Guides to find scholarly articles that enriched her essay. The essay dives into the historical context of animation, including its significance in the Cold War and the importance of animation’s function as a primary source for historical events.  

Abby illustrates how animation can take on various roles in the social landscape, writing that:

“An animated film can serve as educational while also providing social commentary and representation. Animation can be therapeutic while also helping to teach about a subject. It can entertain different audiences while also serving as representation or providing education. These purposes are not exclusive; they can coexist with one another, only adding to the reasons why animation plays such an important role in society.”

Congratulations to Niki and Abby for their excellent examples of research and writing!

Library Research Prize winners Niki Alyari (left) and Abby Kane (center) with Rob Karpinski, Associate Vice-President for Academic and Library Affairs (right)

The Library Research Prize is just one of the awards given to recognize excellent undergraduate work at the First-Year Writing Showcase. Honorees, joined by their professors, family members, and friends, were celebrated at an in-person reception on May 24th in Cortelyou Commons. Many thanks to the faculty and staff of DePaul University’s First-Year Writing Program and Victoria Hohenzy, Assistant Director of First-Year Writing; our Library Research Prize coordinators, Krystal Lewis and Firouzeh Rismiller; the Library Research Prize judges, Firouzeh Rismiller, Julia Wollrab, and Grace Spiewak; and all library staff who teach and support our students and faculty in WRD 104 and HON 100. Your contributions make this collaboration with our First-Year Writing colleagues a success! 

If you would like to learn more about the Library Research Prize for First-Year Writing or the library’s instructional program for first-year students, please contact Firouzeh Rismiller, Instructional Services Librarian.

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