Resources for Faculty
This page contains two sections
Recommendations for Faculty Mentors
Many of the suggestions below can be found in Lopatto.
Keep a file on your computer with ideas for student research projects. Every time you have an idea, jot it down. At the beginning of the fall semester, dust it off, add to it, and let students know that you have a few ideas if any of them are interested in pursuing student research with you.
A good research project should: (Lopatto, p. 17)
- have clearly defined goals,
- have reasonable scope,
- be feasible,
- generate data that the student can present,
- not simply consist of cookbook experiments, and
- have built-in difficulties that will be faced after the student has developed some confidence
What are the essential features of student research projects? (Adapted from Lopatto, p. 25)
- Students should read professional literature.
- Students should design some aspect of the project; students should have an opportunity to design and conduct the research; opportunities should exist for exploration of the student’s ingenuity and creativity.
- Students should work independently (of faculty) and have an opportunity to work on a team (of peers); establish a mentoring partnership between student and faculty.
- Students should feel ownership of the project; there should be increased independence in the daily routine and problem solving.
- Students should learn and use standard professional research techniques.
- Students should have an opportunity for oral communication.
- Students should have an opportunity for written communication.
- Students should have a meaningful, focused research question.
- Faculty should provide some structure to the experience.
- Students should strive to produce a significant (or at least an original) finding.
- The environment should be conducive to student research – resources, meeting space, etc.
- Students should have an opportunity for attendance at professional meetings.
Consider mentoring a group of students for a project instead of just one student.
- This could be a time benefit to you, reducing your number of ongoing student research projects.
- Make time for the group to meet without you, so they rely on each other.
- True teamwork includes interactive behaviors, while taskwork is performed by an individual. When a group of undergraduate researchers is assigned to “additive tasks—tasks that people could do separately and then sum up,” the group is not fully functioning as a research team. Rather, the group should become interdependent, by performing tasks that depend on the success of other team members’ work and by becoming aware of the contribution of each member to the team. Teamwork includes communicating, monitoring, and providing feedback between group members. (Lopatto, p. 70. See also Sawyer, K. (2007). Group genius: The creative power of collaboration. NY: Basic Books. (p. 73).)
Consider your leadership style as a research mentor.
- How to lead a student in research? Leadership styles range from authoritarian to democratic. Authoritarian leadership is not best as it mitigates opportunities for student discovery. However, “an overly democratic style may lead to poor decision-making if the group [or student] is inclined to avoid hard work or if the group is not unified.” Construct a well-structured research project – well-defined goals, scheduling and assignment of tasks, options for presenting results – and take the role of “consultant.” Urge and help the students to complete the goals, while recognizing that the research project may change according to the student’s interest, ability, and success. (Lopatto, p. 71)
Strive to be organized and communicate clearly with your student researcher. In an evaluation of eight mentor traits by 384 undergraduate researchers, “organized” and “clear communicator” ranked the lowest. Incidentally, “friendliness” ranked highest, so you probably don’t have to worry about that too much. (Lopatto, p. 73)
Meet regularly with your student so that they (and you!) stay motivated.
Look for regional/nearby conferences where student presentations are possible.
Recommendations for Departments
Be sensitive to the number of preps (and especially new course preps) assigned to those faculty engaged in student research.
Establish “best poster” and “best paper” awards, given to the student researchers with the best poster and, um, the best paper. These awards will be recognized at the CSRC.
Establish a regular department seminar series. (weekly/biweekly/monthly)
- Encourage department faculty to present once or twice a year – topics can range from areas of personal research interest, to fun topics not normally covered in classes. Seminar styles might range from standard lecture style to highly participatory.
- Invite outside speakers - request money at beginning of year from your Dean to give outside speakers a small stipend/reimbursement. [Note: some departments at R1 schools (e.g. Pitt, Penn, etc) will send speakers for free as long as the speaker can also recruit our undergrads for their grad school. This usually entails the students meeting with the speaker for 1 hr over lunch. The schools sometimes even pay for lunch. All we have to do is request that the department send someone.]
- In the spring, the seminar time could be given over to students who will present at the Celebration of Student Research Conference.
- Advertise these seminars regularly.
- Some instructors might use extra credit to encourage students to attend
- At the beginning of the fall (or the end of the spring), one of these seminar meetings can be used as a forum where several faculty talk to students about possible research projects.
- Near the end of the spring, one of these seminar meetings can be used to determine “best poster” and/or “best paper” awards. (The “best paper” awards could also be handled at a department meeting.)
Maintain a section of your department website on Student Research. This is not only a resource for current students, but also acts as an advertisement for potential students.
- Names of past students who have presented at conferences, their titles, maybe even links to their work.
- Names of faculty open to working with students on research projects, together with their areas of interest/expertise
- A timeline similar to the one below, tailored to your department.
- A link to http://www.ship.edu/student_research for more information.
Be purposeful in developing the research skills of students in existing courses. Explore ways to bring elements of research into your department courses.
- Identify or create a senior-level “capstone course” where research plays a major role.
- Consider assigning a poster project – there may be an opportunity in the fall to display class poster projects at the CSRC
- Integrate activities that develop information research skills
- Many more ideas at http://www.willamette.edu/cla/biology/resources/biol244/pdf/execsum.pdf
Display posters from past presentations in your hallways.
- Beginning of fall semester
- Interested faculty should put together a few ideas for student research projects
- Advertise the opportunity for students to do research. Ideas:
- In a public space, post info about those faculty who invite projects,
- Put info on the department website,
- Interested faculty could find a time when they can present student research ideas to a student audience.
- Students (or groups of students) and faculty should start to “pair off.”
- Advertise the student research grants
- End of September
- Look for regional/nearby professional conferences that welcome student work. Use these conferences to motive student research efforts.
- Apply for a Student Research Grant
- Include money request to print a poster or presentation material
- Include money request for student AND faculty for travel to professional conferences where the student’s (students’) work will be presented
- First week of February
- register for the Celebration of Student Research Conference. (Note: you don’t need a Student Research Grant to participate in the CSRC.)
- See if there are any other regional/nearby professional conferences where the student(s) can present. Ask your Dean for travel money if you have not received this through a Student Research Grant.
- Register for SURE
- Departments can invite Academic Services to present on “How to make a research poster” or “How to give an oral presentation”
- April 1st – get that poster printed! No foolin’!
- Early April – give departmental awards to “best poster” and “best paper,” and send the results to Chris Wonders in IPSSP. These awards will be noted at the CSRC.
- Mid/Late April – present work at the Celebration of Student Research Conference