Foster, N. F., & Gibbons, S. (2007). Studying students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.
In an effort to better meet the needs of undergraduate students at the University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries, this study was designed with three directions of inquiry (library services, facilities, and library technologies) to answer the question What do students really do when they write research papers? One researcher commented early on One researcher commented “Papers happen,” however no one was sure what processes or practices led to the final product of these papers. An exploratory qualitative approach was adopted and split into sub-teams, with a variety of methodologies, to examine as many aspects of the research paper process as possible from instructor expectations to when and where students access resources. The final report of the study is presented as a mosaic, with each of the eleven chapters shedding light on one aspect of the complex process of undergraduate research.
Chapter 1: Faculty Expectations of Student Research Faculty assign research papers for a variety of reasons, impacting instructor expectation of writing style, resources types, topic choice, and final presentation. To explore the instructor expectations of faculty, semi-structured interviews were conducted during the latter part of the semester while most were engaged in the process of evaluating student research papers. Despite discovering many common threads, there was little significant consistency of expectations, regardless of discipline. Most interviewed expected students to have the research and writing skills without a clear idea of how those skills were acquired. This arm of the Library study produced a new collaborative effort between librarians and the writing center to better support students.
Chapter 2: Asking Students about their Research Student survey and interviews were conducted to investigate the target assignment, student motivation to seek help from the reference desk, and specific research supported needed from a librarian. Many responses from both the surveys and the interviews are included in this chapter to add a sense of student voice to the findings of this sub-team study.
Chapter 4: Library Design and Ethnography Researcher Librarians invited students to creatively contribute their ideas of what would make the library a better place to study, work, and collaborate with peers. Although this chapter is presented as ethnography, the methodology used to design the new wing of the library resembled more of an open sourced approach to the design process, design charrettes.
Chapter 6: Photo Surveys: Eliciting More Than You Knew to Ask For In a photo survey methodological study, participants were asked to photograph their surroundings then interpret what they saw. It is described as a way to connect the concrete reality of the participant with their abstract conceptualization and understanding of their environment. The librarians set up a disposable camera with a set of 20 photo topics, such as “all the stuff you take to class” and “a place in the library you feel lost”. A review of the photographs was followed up by an interview with the participant photographer.
Chapter 11 Conclusion: Creating Student-Centered Academic Libraries Since how a student : writes a research paper is as varied as the students themselves, the researchers present their findings in four student models that explain most students’ processes. Pseudonyms of actual students that were the basis of these models are followed by a third person narrative of their history, study habits, library use style, writing practices, and typical product.
- Chapter 1: The results of this piece of the study directly impacted practices at the Rochester Library. What do you think would be the next steps if this study were expanded to a full action research study?
- Chapter 2: How can direct quotes of participants impact the reader’s understanding or the power of a qualitative study?
- Chapter 4:Using arguments of Barley from last week (“For a Definition of What Ethnography is Not’ article), how is what is presenting in this chapter an ethnography and how is it not?
- Chapter 6: How could this methodology aid a qualitative researcher in developing a thick description of an event?
- Chapter 11 What would be the benefits of using archetypal examples to present qualitative findings?