Anyone who has written a paper on how to write a paper can sympathize with the challenge facing the Quality Enhancement Plan Development Team – researching how to do research.
Yet the team’s success in this potentially boring task will result not in a grade but in the entire accreditation of the university. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the body that accredits universities in ACU’s region, requires this five-year plan in order to continue recognizing the university’s quality, said Dr. Phyllis Bolin, associate professor of mathematics and chair of the QEP Development Team.
That team, comprising representatives of ACU’s departments and student body, is fleshing out the plan’s focus: “research literacy.” The team is reviewing universities across the South, including Baylor and the University of Houston, to identify other QEP’s “best practices,” Bolin said.
For this plan, every student will be required to know how to find and understand the academic literature in their chosen field. Undergraduate research will become widespread, and more professors will be encouraged not only to produce their own research but also to mentor a greater number of student projects.
All students and faculty will have an opportunity to influence this plan in the fall when the QEP Development Team presents its first draft to the campus. The final draft will be submitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools by February 2011.
While research is conducted in every department, the Department of Physics, McNair Scholars and the Honors College specifically feature research in their pitches to prospective students and produce student-faculty research that is presented at national conferences annually. Representatives from these programs offered a few tips on their own “best practices.”
The Department of Physics
Conducts most of its research during the summer, when six of the eight physics professors mentor students rather than teach classes.
Pairs students new to research with experienced students, allowing professors to mentor more students.
Includes experienced students in project collaboration, though research options are limited to three ongoing experiments.
Received $0.5 million in grants last year. These funds allowed the Nuclear Physics Research Group to support 18 students last summer.
“I don’t want us to make the word ‘undergraduate research’ so watered down that when someone goes to Wiki and writes a ‘research paper’ we call it research. If, on the other hand, faculty that are involved in world-class scholarly work in their field can include students in that effort and mentor them, then that would be wonderful.”
Dr. Rusty Towell, department chair and professor of physics
Offers classes on literature review and research procedures.
Allows students to pick their topic and interview prospective mentors.
Students craft a project that usually spans six months, half of which would be full-time research during the summer.
Schedules monthly, one-on-one meetings with students until the student graduates.
“Research is something that’s very individual and very specific. It’s difficult to create a generic program that will meet every student’s needs.”
Chris Munn, assistant director of McNair Scholars
Requires students to craft a Capstone research project to graduate with University Honors.
Grants three credit hours for the project which can be conducted in one or two semesters.
Advertises research opportunities and matches students’ study interests with professors.
Compensates students and mentors for research and travel.
“Our goal is to get people excited about research rather than know that it’s something they have to do.”
Kelsey Evans, administrative coordinator of the Honors College