Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fulfillment in Teaching Undergraduates to Conduct Research

Guest Blogger: Jamila Cupid

I have been learning quite a bit about conducting research with undergraduate students.  At first, I was helping students to design their own research studies and then deliver presentations at conferences.  They have produced some impressive work of their own and I merely guided them and helped them package the final products.  It has proven rewarding for the students, as they take ownership over their work.  It is also fulfilling for me to see them grow in this manner.  Just as they have advanced in scholarship, so have I.  Over the past couple of years, I have worked with undergraduates to conduct larger, faculty-led studies.  I have found that it is an excellent opportunity both to train them in additional areas of research and to help me identify segments of the research that need improvement. 
This past year, while carrying out a study on a digital media campaign in popular culture with two research partners, I was able to work closely with several undergraduate research assistants.  They learned how to read articles for background information and create annotated bibliographies, apply theories to research, and implement a quantitative content analysis in order to code images and text.  In addition to them gaining this valuable skill set, they were able to develop greater critical thinking skills beyond that which they exercised in the classroom.  Upon completion, they were confident enough in their accomplishments to present their portions of the study at a conference and in other settings.  The presentation of their work impressed faculty and intrigued their peers.  They actually stirred an interest in a number of their peers who previously thought research to be boring and tedious.  I learned that students are the best marketing tool I have in attracting other students to give research a try. 
Consequently, I have been inspired by these eager, novice researchers to teach future courses focused in training students to conduct studies on a higher level.  I am also strategizing ways to better help students with their individual research projects, now that I have a keener eye on pinpointing pitfalls and strongpoints at their level.  Then, of course, I expect my research minions to multiply and persuade many more undergraduates to join the magnificent world of research!  I aspire to the heights of my colleagues who have a long, robust track record of engaging their students through their scholarship and I encourage those who have never tried it to pull students into their next research project.    

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