Designing your research work-experience

What kind of project could you do?

A research work-experience module could be developed in any discipline. The underlying idea is that this module should provide undergraduate students with research work-experience, by being part of an authentic academic research team. The project on which the student will be working should demonstrate the development of learning outcomes, skills and knowledge that are aligned with research processes and outcomes specific to their disciplinary and/or interdisciplinary settings. 

 

What would a research work-experience module look like?

We have produced two module proposal forms that have had initial approval by ARCS, which can be downloaded here*: 

- 'Shell' module proposal form: Shell_Modelule_Proposal_Form.pdf

- Pathology Museum module proposal form: Pathology_Museum_Module_Proposal_Form.pdf

* To open and edit this document, we recommend that you need to download it to your desktop. If you have any problems, do contact Dr Ana Baptista (a.baptista@qmul.ac.uk). 

 

How could you assess students taking this kind of module?

In 2016-2017, we piloted 3 assessment components as detailed below. Though the ‘shell’ module proposal form has been approved, it should be considered a starting point. The weights and types of assessment should be considered authentic and relevant to the research project and should thus be seen as flexible.

1) Appraisal: Setting and Reflecting on Personal Learning and Work-based Objectives

We wanted to trial couching each undergraduate’s involvement in the research project within an ‘appraisal framework.’ This process comprises an initial ‘looking forward’ conversation designed to discuss and agree a number of objectives for their work on the research project, and a ‘looking back’ conversation designed to reflect on and evaluate how far these objectives have been met and identify future development needs. In this phase, there is a dual focus on personal development needs (expectations and aspirations) and on the requirements of the workplace, in this case the research project outcomes. We developed resources to help students and project lead/supervisor (please see immediately below).

- Guidelines for staff: 1.1_Component 1 guidelines for staff.pdf

- Explanation of the appraisal for students: 1.2_Explanation of Appraisal for students.pdf

- Appraisal objectives form: 1.3_Appraisal Objectives form.pdf

- Instrument 1 to stimulate reflection, 'Benefits of a research-work experience at undergraduate level': 1.4_Questionnaire_Benefits of Research Work-Experience.pdf

- Instrument 2 to stimulate reflection: 'Conceptions of research supervision at undergraduate level': 1.5_Questionnaire_Conceptions of Research Supervision.pdf

2) Research Practices and Processes

The purpose of this component is to encourage the student to engage fully in research practices and processes appropriate to the project and to provide evidence of their participation. Project supervisors should select three Research Practice and Process Artefacts that act as evidence. They should ensure that these artefacts are as authentic as possible and reflect the disciplinary or interdisciplinary practices of the particular research project. In some instances, these artefacts are simultaneously a record – e.g. making lab book entries or field notes; in others the student may need to create a record – e.g. use audio visual media to document an event or practice and provide a brief written explanation of it. In addition to the three artefacts, students should keep a Weekly Activity Log of their research activity throughout the project/module. You can find more information here: 2_component 2.pdf

3) Public communication

The purpose of this component is to enable students to practice shaping and presenting the research in a coherent and meaningful way – in a conference with other students and project supervisors. The first step is to write an abstract - either individually or as a group. Eventually this might be submitted externally to, for example, the British Conference for Undergraduate Research - www.bcur.org. QMUL now sends student here each year. The abstract will go into a conference programme and form the basis for an oral presentation as part of the conference. The audience will be other students and project supervisors/academics from within the area of study and beyond it. The presentation usually has a length of c.10 mins plus questions. Depending on the number of participants and type of research project this could be an individual or group presentation. You can find more information here: 3_component 3.pdf

 

What else to consider if developing a research work-experience module?

There are three main aspects that need to be considered carefully: scale, workload and pre-requisites.

It would be beneficial for the module to weight 15 credits and to run for 2 semesters, so there is more flexibility to run the project and not collude with exams or coursework deadlines. Flexibility is also important related to timing and timetabling for students and staff point of view, particularly because research projects may have different paces at different times. Nevertheless, the research project needs to be completed within a timeframe.

Ideally, there should not be pre-requisites for this sort of modules. If it is run over 2 semesters, there is the possibility to train students throughout. However, we understand that, in some cases, there might be the need to have pre-requisites though this will not accommodate students from different backgrounds. Issues around pre-requisites also raise issues questions concerning interdisciplinary research projects and the circulation of students between HSS and S&E disciplines.