Teaching Research Methods to Graduate Students
This presentation will explore techniques for teaching students in a Master of Science (M.S.) program how to conduct research using secondary sources. Although students are asked throughout their undergraduate studies to write research papers, 47% of students said they did not feel at all prepared to write a 50-page research paper addressing an original research question and another 24% felt only somewhat prepared. In the capstone course in our M.S. in Environmental Management Program, students write a one-semester literature-based project on a research topic of their choosing. Students can prepare for their project by taking an eight-week course called Research Methods. In this presentation, I will discuss strategies used in Research Methods to prepare students to conduct research. When asked to choose the three most valuable components of Research Methods, 76% of students selected the course's component on learning the logistics of research, including conducting a library search and using a reference manager. In addition, 76% of students selected the course's role in providing a structure to develop research ideas. The students completed weekly assignments and received extensive feedback. Many students commented that the course was more work than other courses. Students also felt that they benefited from writing a research proposal and receiving individual feedback on assignments. The most highly rated in-class exercise was a review of the library repository of past M.S. Projects. The course was taught in a remote format due to the COVID pandemic, but upon completion of the course, only 12% of the students thought that it should be taught entirely in person in the future. After completion of research methods, students felt more prepared to complete their research projects, with 12% of students saying they felt somewhat prepared, 53% saying they felt reasonably well prepared, and 35% saying that they felt well prepared.