Research Relationships: An Interview with Professor Martin Edwards

Research Relationships: An Interview Seton Hall Professor Martin Edwards

Martin S. Edwards is an Associate Professor & Chair in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, where he teaches classes on International Organizations and Research Methods.


You are an award-winning researcher, you publish scholarly books and articles, you teach, are a media commentator and make media appearances. How do you find time to balance all these? How did you know you were any good at any of this?

I don’t think anyone that says that they have balance in work-life or in their career probably really does—I think they are more telling people they have balance.

What I have to do is realize my limits, and realize that there’s a lot of stuff in the news especially in the last couple of years that I could comment on, but there are other people that can certainly comment on these things and so I’m perhaps better off letting some things go. The one thing I do try to do is realize limits and focus on “media things” that are perhaps unfolding or have yet to pass, that I can comment on. So I try to position myself for those things, and that means that I kind of lie fallow for a while.

During the semester balancing teaching and writing that’s always a challenge—I think that’s a challenge for everybody. Some semesters you just have to realize that “I’m just not going to get as much done” and that’s okay. Our class work is important, especially here, we need to take that seriously.

I don’t think I look back and say “Wow I’m really good at this!” I just think I want to try, especially with media stuff right now. There is so much that the public doesn’t understand about what the U.N. does, about international economic policy. I think it should be our responsibility as learned folk to try to communicate and try to explain these things in a simple manner.

A colleague of mine said that at one point in her career she realized what she could do and what she could not do, and I try to do that. So it’s not a question of me being good it’s just a question of saying “this is a priority, this is something I want to invest time in”, and plugging away at it.

Your book came out last December, The IMF, the WTO & the Politics of Economic Surveillance. Can you talk about the book, and how it grew from your research and your interests?

A book is kind of the sine qua non of scholarship. For a while I didn’t realize that what I had was actually book size. But the more I thought about the phenomenon that I was studying the more I realized that there was a book there.

There’s a lot of scholarly work written on the IMF (International Monetary Fund), there’s a lot of scholarly work written on the WTO (World Trade Organization), and there’s lots of stuff we know about both institutions but there are some things that we don’t know. What I tried to do in the book is shed light on those things that we do not know.

So what does that mean? The scholarship on the IMF focuses on lending. For example: Argentina borrows a large amount of money from the IMF—does that loan make a difference? Does it have bad consequences? So that’s a large focus of the scholarship on the fund. On the WTO side a lot of the scholarship focuses on trade disputes. Are countries more likely to win or lose when they take each other to court in the WTO?

But both those institutions have a more mundane day-to-day role of giving countries economic report cards. For the IMF this is done every year. The one for the U.S. was done last July so there’ll be one this July (2019). For the WTO that’s done every 2 years, for large economies. The U.S. was just done in December (2018).

What do these reports look like? Are these reports read by government officials? Do they make a difference in policy? These things are largely understudied. It seemed to me the stuff of what international organizations do is a lot of this day-today monitoring—human rights, finance, environmental issues—that’s an entry point to understand what monitoring looks like.

I had no intention of originally writing on the WTO, but I realized this is an organization that also does the same thing and it might be interesting to compare a financial organization to a trade organization. And the two of them practice the surveillance very differently, so it’s interesting to think “is there a right way or a wrong way to study these sorts of issues? How should we best design international organizations, moving forward?”

Since the book’s publication, what has been the response from either the IMF or the WTO?

 The IMF is reviewing surveillance next year, they do this every couple of years. And I was actually down in Washington D.C. and walking them through what I had found. And what I had found was—which they weren’t very fond of, but that’s okay— that even in a time that you would expect the fund to have an influence which was in 2011, when we’re talking about raising the debt ceiling and that was at the same time one of these reports was coming out, these reports didn’t make a ripple. They weren’t discussed in congress, they weren’t discussed in the media. Similarly for the WTO you would think a lot of our discussions about what the WTO finds about China would be of interest. That also doesn’t make a ripple on Capitol Hill, it doesn’t make a ripple in the media.

IMF staffers weren’t really pleased to be told “Hey, you guys have some work to do.” They do face a basic challenge of how do you explain details about fiscal policy to a citizen audience that isn’t terribly well-versed in economics?

I’m hoping that there’ll be a bit of an impact; they certainly know that I’m watching them. I’m practicing surveillance of their study on surveillance, and so we’ll see what happens.

How reliant are you on the resources and services Seton Hall University Libraries makes available—books, electronic resources, interlibrary loan? 

If we didn’t have these tools, I couldn’t have written this, period. There are a number of ways in which the library helped. Interlibrary loan helps to leverage what we don’t have and get it for us. At one point last spring I had to re-write the literature review of the book, and there were probably about two dozen requests I placed in a day and a half!

I used the Lexis-Nexis database incessantly, because we had to figure out what newspapers said about these reports. That was a vital tool and if we didn’t have it, it’s not clear what I would have been able to do.

I’ve tried to use my email inbox to make my scholarly life easier. I have alerts for journals that come in. When a journal that publishes on the sorts of stuff that I find of interest comes out, I get those tables of contents. I have Google Scholar alerts that track individuals who are writing on these sorts of things, as well as generic searches for “IMF”, “global governance”, “international organizations”.

Those things pop up in my inbox every morning, and it’s an incredibly easy way for me to stay on top of the field. I’m amazed the technology has made this part of my life simpler.

For students who are new to the research and writing process, or your own students, what advice do you give them? How do you guide them so they don’t get overwhelmed?

For me, when I got to where I went to undergrad, where I went to graduate school, one of the first things I did was just go to the library. Just walking around and getting the lay of the building is really important, just so you can see different things.

For many students these are skills that they were never trained at in high school. What I try to do is model best practice—I remind students that it’s important to stay current in the news. I will send them every Monday a list of links, and these are articles I come up with on social media often and send them in an email, and they get to see the stuff that we talked about in class last week, here’s how this maps out. Being literate in the media does not mean reading the news that comes up in your Facebook feed.

The other things I try to do is walk students through what to use and what not to use. Google is a great tool for getting movie times, but as a tool for research it’s not designed that way. I try to walk students through books versus journals. It’s often common that students will think that they need to read books, and sometimes the empirical work that they need to see for a research project is never going to be in a book it’s more likely in an article.

For us the critical partner for us has been the library liaisons. They are willing to work with students one-on-one, and provide backup in ways both large and small for faculty; it makes my job a lot easier. I have graduate students that might not feel comfortable with how libraries work. It’s nice to be able to have a resource that we go back to. I always have the name of our library liaison in my syllabi, as a way to help students connect the dots, and help students realize where one can go to get further help.

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Research Relationships: An Interview with Monet Watson

Research Relationships: An Interview with Seton Hall student Monet Watson

Monet Watson is a Junior at Seton Hall and is a Triple major in Anthropology, Sociology, and Philosophy.

You are doing a lot of exciting research these days. Can you describe what you’ve been working on?

Most of my time has been spent working on the Woman in the Iron Coffin. I was lucky enough to be able to present the results of the isotopic chemical analysis (looking at chemicals in the body and inferring things based on their levels) at the Women and Gender Studies Conference here at SHU and as a poster at the Society for American Archeology Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before this project I was going to do the same type of analysis on teeth from southern Sudan, but it is a much bigger project than the Woman in the Iron Coffin so decided to forgo that project in favor of the Woman in the Iron Coffin. I don’t know what project I’ll be working on next since I graduate soon but I’m hoping I can continue doing this type of work in the future.

Anthropology – what brought you to it?

I am the youngest of eight by 11 years and my siblings would have me watch the National Geographic channel to keep me busy and out of their hair; after the program ended, I’d have to tell them what I learned. I grew to love National Geographic and wanted to be like the experts on the shows I watch. I learned through National Geographic that the people who were working in Egypt were called Egyptologists. The one I idolized at the time was National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence and Egyptologist Zahi Hawass. So, I decided to be an Egyptologist and take his job when he died. Well, he’s still alive and I realized that more documentaries had many people with anthropologist after their name and I started paying more attention to what they did. Soon enough I was in love with the field and decided to pursue it; by this time, I was 14 years old.

When I got to college, I wanted to be a cultural anthropologist who was going to study Ancient Nubia because their language is like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics but there is no Rosetta stone to translate it. I thought I would go there and crack the language and learn all there is to learn about ancient Nubians. However, ancient Nubia may be flooded soon due to the construction of hydroelectric dams and I would have nothing to study; also, I don’t like large bodies of water. So, I talked with Dr. Savastano, Dr. Quizon, and Dr. Quinn in the anthropology department and that was when I was introduced to the southern Sudan project and biological anthropology.

Afterward, I changed my focus to cultural anthropology and pursuing a curation career, but curators need around 20 years of academic experience to be considered for those jobs and I didn’t want to wait that long. So, projects and analysis became my main interest because if I was going to work for 20 years I might as well know it well and enjoy it. Through that I found more appreciation for biological anthropology and now that is where I want to make my mark, hopefully something of ancient Nubia will still be left by the time I’m ready to go there.

What was your path to working on the Martha Peterson (Iron Coffin Woman) project?

Sometime during the last summer Dr. Quinn emailed me about the Woman in the Iron Coffin project and asked if I’d be interested in working on it and presenting at the Society for American Archeology Conference. After that she gave me papers and articles to read that were relevant to the analysis and Martha’s circumstances. I was ecstatic to work on this project because as a young black woman I’d be helping give a voice back to another young black woman who lived in a tumultuous time of our shared history.

As the analysis started and I learned that she was a free black woman in the 1850s I nearly shouted for joy! It became clear that she was a woman who did not fit the dominant narrative of what so many of us are taught in school. She was free. That was the point of no return for me. Martha Peterson’s story has a piece of me – a fragment of our intertwined narratives, background and existence that speaks to better days on the horizon. I’ve learned a lot from her from this project and I am honored each time I tell her story. The knowledge that she was not alone in being free during this time will help reconstruct the inaccurate narratives we are told about free black people, enslaved black people, and black immigrants in America in the 1850s. What’s more is that Martha may have eaten black eyed peas 148 years before I had some for my first new year. We still practice the same food traditions that we have for hundreds of years and that links us more than anything else.

How do you find time to balance all these activities?

Unfortunately, I cut out going to club meetings and majority of my extracurricular on campus activities. I also assigned specific days for certain projects so I could stay on top of things. I didn’t always adhere to that but when I did it helped calm the feeling of being overwhelmed and allowed me to make headway on my projects. The good thing though, is that I really do enjoy what I’m working on, so the stress comes more from deadlines than the actual material. Finding a balance and staying on top of things is a daily struggle.

In what ways have Seton Hall University Libraries (books, databases, ebooks, ILL service, librarians) assisted your research process?

I used the library to research designs and architecture of the houses of Martha Peterson’s time period. Mainly information I could use to have a deeper understanding of what the 1850s were like. I didn’t need to use the libraries as much for the isotopic chemical analysis of Martha because Dr. Quinn provided all the information I needed to know.

Which library databases are your preferred starting places to begin when you are looking for current research articles?

EBSCO Host (SHU Search), but it’s just because that is what I’m familiar with. If I start a project reasonably early, I poke around in the other databases just to see what’s in there, but as it stands, I start in EBSCO Host (SHU Search).

Many of our students are undergraduates who are just beginning to develop their research and writing skills. Is there any advice would offer fellow student that we can share with them?

Talk to your teachers! I’m not joking! I would not have been given the opportunity to work on the Woman in the Iron Coffin if Dr. Quinn didn’t know who I was. Teachers are people too, and oftentimes they want to help not hurt you. Branch out with what you’re interested in, this is your bachelors. If you want to change your major, change it! If you want to take an art class, take it! Find what you’re interested in now because it’ll just become more difficult to justify the change the longer you wait.

You are in college to network as well as learn, this is your job for the years you spend here. Make connections and meet people, this will help you find friends as well as become familiar with others in your field. For writing, have your essays edited by as many people as you can before you turn it in, however, everything is a suggestion so follow what you want your paper to be. Don’t be afraid of criticism, it’s a facet of life that will help you grow and become certain of yourself, your beliefs, and your arguments. For research, use your resources! The library is more than a study hall, the books there are some that you would not have access to otherwise. If you dislike going to the library bring friends so you can groan about it together. Lastly, enjoy yourself! Yes, your entire future may be hinging on these years but guess what? It’s not! Do you and don’t be ashamed of your decisions if you made them for you, not if they were made for you.

What are your next steps?

Graduate, get a masters, get a doctorate, be stable, work on projects until I can’t anymore. Hopefully, in that order. I would love to continue to reconstruct narratives with geochemistry for other individuals throughout history; I am leaning towards individuals who would be classified as black. I feel that those narratives get lost and are neglected when research is conducted and I want to remedy that. During all of this I would like to teach and share what I know, that is the first step to disseminating knowledge in my eyes and there is a lot of rectification to do.

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In the Libraries: Research Relationships Interviews Dr. Simone Alexander – May 2016

In the Libraries: Research Relationships

Seton Hall is home to world-class researchers whose work denotes a broad array of scholarship. In this space, we share their ideas on research and making the most of the academic experience.

Simone I

Dr. Simone Alexander – May 2016

Dr. Simone Alexander of Seton Hall’s English department, researches primarily in the fields of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Postcolonial Literature, Migration and Diaspora Studies.

For her most recent book African Diasporic Women’s Narratives: Politics of Resistance, Survival and Citizenship (University of Florida Press) Dr. Alexander won the College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award, in 2015. Offering an in-depth study of literature, analyzing selective texts by the migrant writers Audre Lorde, Edwidge Danticat, Maryse Conde, and Grace Nichols, the book has been reprinted and the paperback edition will be available May 3, 2016 (read an excerpt here).

Dr. Alexander took time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about her research.

You research, publish and teach, and, you have received numerous awards and grants recognizing your work. How do you find time to balance all these activities?

I don’t even know how! I go to bed even today at 2am, and I’m back up at 6, 6:30am. I love doing this, I love doing research, and I love when I can connect my research in the classroom. I feel as though I get this special adrenaline.

It has not been easy. I’m raising kids—my kids are older now, so it’s a little easier—but there are times when you have to give up certain things. You can’t show up at some of your kids’ events, you just have to say “You know what, I just can’t do this today.” So I have to find ways and means, it has not been easy.

Trying to juggle being a mom, being a wife, it’s a very difficult space to be in at times. I feel as though having a family, sometimes I’m at a disadvantage and I have to do more just to keep up. Because when you are in the academic space, no one cares what happens behind your closed doors, you have to produce. And I’m still kind of in that moment of “publish or perish”.

In what ways have Seton Hall University Libraries (books, databases, ebooks, ILL service, librarians) assisted your research process?

In my earlier years I physically went to the library to use books. I checked them out, but then I hung on to some of the books beyond their due date. I didn’t like the fact that the library just gave it [the book] to you for two months! And I kept saying “Can you extend this to the end of the semester?” Quite often most of the books that I used I don’t think anyone else was using them.

Recently, I love the fact that you can get everything electronically. You can also do interlibrary loan through PALCI, I’ve been using that a lot. When I’m doing research, for example on Toni Morrison, I get every piece of work that’s been done on her. I also love using ILLIAD. It’s so effective, you can submit a request today and by the following morning you get all of your articles. It has been a tremendous help.

In the past, we had an option if the library did not carry some of the books that we wanted, we could put orders in. I haven’t done any recently, but I’ve supplied different lists [of books] to order. When I first came to campus the library didn’t have much on diaspora studies, transnationalism and migration, they were relatively new fields. So I helped bring in books to build the collection in these areas.

Which library databases are your preferred starting places to begin when you are looking for current research articles?

Always MLA Bibliography, it’s my thing. It has such a volume of different things. Even in my classes I tell students “Go to MLA, you can’t fail.” They give you everything, and then it directs you to JSTOR and everything else.

Many of our students are undergraduates who are just beginning to develop their research and writing skills. Is there any advice research you offer your own students that we can share with them?

Normally I’m considered (by students) to be very challenging—which I keep saying to students it’s not a bad thing, it’s good! I do not allow certain things to slip, I’m very particular when it comes to grammatical construction.

I love the interaction in my classroom; I don’t lecture to students, I want them to talk back to me. I also grade them based on their class participation. I want them to talk, it’s part of their grade. Many of them are very good, they talk, they interact, but when it comes to their writing, it’s different—they don’t engage the same way. This for me is so interesting, because when I grew up, you wrote the way you spoke. For the first few years here I couldn’t figure out “How come you’re speaking this way and then you’re completely not translating what’s here into your writing?”

Again, I would send students to MLA and I would walk them through and show them exactly how to find information—if they’re doing work on Nella Larsen for example. And back in the day visits from librarians were incorporated in the elementary English courses. On these designated “research days” librarians Tony Lee or Marta Deyrup was invited to show students how to use the library website for their research. Now I access the library website and show them everything, and I’ve been encouraging them to use ILLIAD.

Get your research going way in advance so you can sit and read everything. Quite often students feel as though research is just about reading the first page—you have to read about 10 articles even though you may not use all of them. You have to have a very broad perspective of what it is you’re going to write on.

And quite often secondary sources can give you ideas. You may go into a project not knowing; you may say “here’s what I want to work on” and once you’ve read something different it completely will change you, it can bolster your argument much more.

Listen to Dr. Alexander Talking About Her New Book “African Diasporic Women’s Narratives: Politics of Resistance, Survival and Citizenship”

In the Libraries: Research Relationships Interviews Rev. Thomas Guarino – February 2016

In the Libraries: Research Relationships

Seton Hall is home to world-class researchers whose work denotes a broad array of scholarship. In this space, we share their ideas on research and making the most of the academic experience.


Rev. Thomas Guarino is Professor of Systematic Theology at Seton Hall’s Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology. His most recent book, Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty: Vital Statements on Contested Topics explores the key accomplishments of the groundbreaking, ongoing dialogue between Evangelical and Catholic Christians (read an excerpt here).

We caught up with Rev. Guarino to talk about his research.

You research, publish and teach, and, you have been recognized for your work. How do you find time to balance all these activities?

Of course all Faculty members face this same issue—trying to teach well, do your research, write. It’s work, but I think it’s important for the students to understand that nothing in life comes easily. Any type of noteworthy achievement is the result of intensive effort.

I like to mention this story about research:

Jaroslav Pelikan was a famous historian at Yale University, and he used to tell students “If you have a choice between a great teacher who doesn’t do research, and an average teacher who does research, take the latter.” And his point was that even though the person is an average teacher, he or she is involved with the field, is engaged. So it’s always important to stay with somebody who’s doing at least some research.

Do you have clerical responsibilities in addition to your academic work?

Of course I’m a priest, and to celebrate the liturgy is part of who I am as a priest. I also try to be available to people, particularly to those who wish to talk about issues affecting their lives.  So, yes, I try to be available as a priest to all members of the Seton Hall community.

But my main job on campus is to teach, write, and research Theology, so I spend most of my time doing that. I see my life as a priest and my work as a theologian as convergent realities, precisely because I’m writing all the time about this question: “What role does God play in life?”

One of the advantages of a Catholic university is that faith and reason are seen as conjunctive realities. The library is a great representative of the tradition of reason, the tradition of seeking knowledge and truth.  At the same time, one of the axial and bedrock principles of Catholicism is that faith and reason are not opposed. Sometimes in journalistic narratives they’re presented as opposing points of view, but in the Catholic tradition faith and reason are deeply convergent since both are gifts of God. A Catholic university is a special place where faith and reason come together.

In what ways have Seton Hall University Libraries (books, databases, ebooks, ILL service, librarians) assisted your research process?

I’ve moved on from this book and I’m now researching a book on the Second Vatican Council.  The Church just celebrated the council’s 50th anniversary. In many ways Vatican II was the most important ecclesial event of the 20th century—and its ramifications are still being debated. Vatican II gave birth to official Catholic involvement in the ecumenical movement.

The book Evangelicals and Catholics Together is part of a wider spectrum of Catholics being engaged with Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Evangelicals in ecumenical dialogue. Inter-religious dialogue is important, too, with Judaism, Islam and other religions.  Vatican II gave birth and impetus to all of these initiatives, and the library is a great repository of the documents and all of the commentaries that have been published since then. I deeply appreciate those vast library resources.

The databases are excellent; I usually start my own research with Academic Search Premier—I find that to be a comprehensive listing of academic journals. Because of my field I usually then move on to the American Theological Library Association’s (ATLA) Catholic Periodical and Literature Index.  The Philosopher’s Index has also been very important to me. We also have a wonderful database Patrologia Latina, which has all of the writings of the early Christian authors in the original Latin, so you have those original texts accessible. And I just discovered—I think this is a recent acquisition—we have the Digital Library of Classic Protestant Texts which has all the works of Luther and Calvin in the original and, when available, in English translation. It’s a terrific resource for the kind of ecumenical work that Evangelicals and Catholics Together represents.

However I do want to say to students: we’re all seduced by computers and digital research—but there’s a great joy in shelf browsing. How many times have we experienced this: you’re looking for a particular book, but then you see 10 books alongside of it of which you were unaware—books which treat a topic in unique ways you didn’t at first realize.

Even though I spend most of my time in Walsh Library I do want to mention the importance of the Turro Seminary Library. It was built as a graduate theology library. Consequently, it has more resources in Latin, more books from the earlier tradition of the Church, more collections that perhaps would have been inaccessible to undergraduates but would be familiar to graduate students.  Stella Wilkins is the librarian there and she and her staff have been very helpful.

Many of our students are undergraduates who are just beginning to develop their research and writing skills. Is there any advice research you offer your own students that we can share with them?

I think students can easily be intimidated by all that’s available today; it’s almost too much for them to digest. One of the things we try to do in the School of Theology is to conduct Research Seminars during which we introduce students to the library resources. We have not only librarians, but librarians and faculty together involved in these seminars. We go through the resources of Turro Seminary Library, and then the resources at Walsh Library, and try to introduce them to the basics of what library research is all about.

I often tell students one of the most profitable things they can do is take two hours and just go through the digital resources available on the Library website. They will find extraordinary resources they didn’t know existed.

Listen to Father Guarino Talking About His New Book “Evangelicals And Catholics Together At Twenty”