Hey, bloggy pals. CF and I were talking about this at the end of last semester, and she suggested that I might do a post about this topic to see what folks had to say. At our institution (as I’m sure is the case at many of yours) there is a push toward involving students in research. However, one thing that is … a challenge… in our context is the communication of what “counts” as undergraduate research in our fields.
Long story short: institutional leaders value “involving undergraduates in research” inasmuch as it means having them as co-authors on publications. Which is grand in the sciences. Or even in some social sciences disciplines. Or in Business, or in Health Professions disciplines. It doesn’t make so much sense in the humanities, though. Because, well, we tend to do the whole “single author” thing.
Another complicating factor is the fact that when we humanities folks use students (graduate students or undergraduates, really, but undergrads are really the focus of my questions here), we use them for things like photocopying, reading, compiling, and editing. All things which the powers at be see as “not research.” Except… um… yeah, that’s all intrinsic to what research means in my work. So. On the one hand, I’d really like to involve students in my research. But what that means is having them do shitty clerical-style tasks, which really are a lot of what research means for me, but that doesn’t count as “student research” for those who decide such things. (Worth noting: I had “research” opportunities such as those described above as both an undergrad and a grad student, and I never got a co-author credit, and yet those things were HUGELY important to my professional trajectory.)
So my questions for you all are these:
- If you’re in research that tends to be single-author (humanities folks, but others as well if this applies), have you found ways to involve students in research that are seemingly not clerical, and which your institutions value?
- Is there a way to “spin” the kinds of tasks I describe above as being “valuable” learning opportunities for students to people who don’t see those opportunities as valuable?
- Out of curiosity, for those of you in co-authoring fields, what sorts of things do students do in your research in order to get a name as a co-author? Are they really intrinsic to the idea of the research or to the execution of it? And if they aren’t, then why do those people get authoring credit? (I’m seriously asking: it’s foreign to me, given my field.)
- Generally, what do you all see as the point of involving undergraduates in faculty research? What should our goals be, and what should the outcomes be as a result?
- What are your standards for undergraduate research when working for faculty, and what are the benefits to emphasizing it, both for your own research and for your students?
- What is a reasonable metric for deciding what “counts” as a valuable learning opportunity in relation to participating in faculty research? Is it a co-author credit?
What are your thoughts on this? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?