Senior Retrospectives - Methodology


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Expanded methodology section for Johnson, Singh, & Plattner (2011). Senior Retrospectives on Involvement in Undergraduate Research. NCHC Annual Conference: Phoenix, AZ.

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Senior Retrospectives - Methodology

  1. 1. Senior Retrospectives on Involvement in Undergraduate Research<br />Johnson, M. L., Singh, N. & Plattner, A. (2011). Poster presentation for the National Collegiate Honors Council annual conference: Phoenix, AZ.<br />Methodology<br />Study Purpose and Research Question:<br />The purpose of the study was to determine how involvement with scientific research during their undergraduate career had influenced the academic goals and plans of college seniors. The study was guided by the following research question: How did senior honors students describe the impact of involvement in scientific research throughout their undergraduate careers?<br />Participant sample:<br />The participants were selected for the original study (Behar-Horenstein & Johnson, 2010) from 133 high-achieving first and second year students taking a one-credit “Science for All” course during the Fall 2007 semester. Five first-year students, including two males and three females, volunteered for the study. Those five participants were contacted again during the Spring 2011 semester to participate in a follow-up study. Three of the original five students (two males and one female) volunteered to participate in the current study.<br />Data collection:<br />The researchers received university IRB approval to conduct the follow-up study. An invitation to participate in this study was e-mailed to the original five participants, with three agreeing to participate. The three students participated in one individual, semi-structured interview with the lead researcher. Interviews lasted from 22:46 to 39.53 minutes. Two interviews took place in-person, while the third interview took place via Skype. All three interviews were recorded and transcribed.<br />Interview Protocol:<br />Part 1: Background<br />Describe research-related activities the past 3 years<br />Experiences working with faculty mentors<br />Impact on academics<br />Impact on view of science<br />Personal skills / attributes gained<br />Professional skills / attributes gained<br />Part 2: Future Plans<br />Describe future plans<br />Impact of research experiences on future academic / professional plans<br />Looking back, what would you change / keep the same?<br />Advice to first-year students starting out with research<br />Data analysis:<br />The transcripts from the individual interviews were reviewed by two of the researchers who then coded the data by developing and organizing relevant meaning units and cover terms. The process followed Creswell’s (2003) method for analyzing qualitative data. His approach includes:<br />1) Organizing and preparing the data<br />2) Reading through the data to get a sense of the participants’ experiences<br />3) Coding and organizing the data into meaningful units<br />4) Formulating data into themes<br />5) Transforming themes into a descriptive narrative<br />6) Interpreting and making meaning of the data<br /> In addition to developing and interpreting themes across participants based on the follow-up interviews, the data from the original study (Behar-Horenstein & Johnson, 2010) was revisited to better understand how individual participants’ views of undergraduate research had changed throughout their undergraduate career. Following the same process (Creswell, 2003), a narrative was constructed for each participant based on their first semester in college versus their eighth semester in college. <br />Methods of Rigor:<br />Lincoln and Guba (1985) described several methods to demonstrate rigor of a study, including credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. The researchers in this study utilized credibility, transferability, and confirmability. Credibility was established by using two researchers to code the data at the same time, ensuring agreement among the meaning units established. Transferability was established through the use of thick description – the process of providing the reader with enough description so they can place the experiences in their own context as necessary. Finally, confirmability was established through the use of an audit trail to keep track of all research steps taken throughout the research process. A password-protected wiki was used by all three researchers for this purpose.<br />