Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Faculty Student research?

My campus is pretty into faculty student research. The model comes from the sciences, where junior researchers can learn to collect data and contribute to projects.

I'd like to see a really good model from within the humanities, and specifically, from within the humanities that isn't current popular culturally based.

Because I'm a self-centered so and so, I'd like the research to contribute to my work, learning, research, and to COUNT for something at review time.

I'd also like it to benefit the student(s) in meaningful ways.

One idea I'm starting to toss around: I'm doing a dramaturgy thing with a local high school group for a week this summer, and I'm thinking an undergrad could do some meaningful meta-analysis of reaching Shakespeare/performance to secondary students? Or could, possibly, contribute something meaningful to the dramaturgy aspect of the project?

I'd really appreciate some ideas, because while I'm interested in general, I'm coming up blank with models or ideas I can use.

On some level, it seems to me that the "data" lit people "collect" requires a fairly broad sense of theoretical and/or historical issues, and that sense takes longer than most undergrads have to develop about any given work of literature, much less a field.

Also, most of the super motivated students that I hear about doing science type faculty student research are aiming for med school, and they're really focused on specific work that will help their application(s). We have very few of those type students interested in potential humanities research.

Ideas, please??


  1. No clear ideas--yet. But I'm glad you raised this issue. My undergrad institution had similar interests in faculty-student research but it generally translated into faculty advising students on independent research projects. It was great for me as an undergrad--in the humanities--but now that I'm on the other side, I shudder to think of the time my advisor took away from her own research to guide mine.

    Knowing that research is essential to my future mobility, I too have been thinking about ways to get students involved in research that is more mutually beneficial. The university that I'm headed to has similar interests as well. The more interdisciplinary nature of my work does lend more to "collecting" than literature--I could get students involved in recovery work--digging through archives and things of that nature. But I don't believe faculty-student research should be "fetch and carry" work. Should it?

  2. I would love to be involed in something like this. Maybe I'm one of those odd students that loves researching.

    This: : I'm doing a dramaturgy thing with a local high school group for a week this summer, and I'm thinking an undergrad could do some meaningful meta-analysis of reaching Shakespeare/performance to secondary students? Or could, possibly, contribute something meaningful to the dramaturgy aspect of the project?
    is a wonderful idea.

    Also being involved in research like this would give many students a feeling of contributing to something instead of being another clog in the system. It would also teach them to research what they might not being particularly interested in, a skill that will severe them in well in all their classes.

  3. This is an interesting question, and one I've thought about for the same reasons you mention.

    I have two experiences from my past as a student, which were invaluable to me, but which I think some might call fetch and carry work.

    1. As an undergrad, I helped a professor with research on her book by going through Famous Author's journals (copied) and highlighting all material that related to her book project. This might seem like busy-work, but I actually learned a lot about sifting through massive amounts of material to find what you need, about dealing with the library, and I learned about something that I was interested in (the book related to feminist criticism stuff, and so I was interested in what I was reading).

    2. As a grad student, we had to spend one semester as a "research assistant" for a faculty member, and in that capacity, I ended up editing and checking bibliographic citations for the faculty member's book. Again, this might seem like busy-work, but it was by doing this that I really learned MLA style inside and out, as well as how to translate MLA style into/from chicago style, and it was really good experience. Also, it was good to read a book manuscript in process - to see what that looked like.

    In other words, do I think we should ONLY be sending student researchers to the library? No. But I think that it's a mistake to think that students don't get anything out of being sent to the library or asked to do the more tedious tasks involved in research. The reality is that research in literary studies can be tedious, and if a student is motivated to do this kind of work (as I was) then he/she needs to know that and to be mentored through it, I think. Also, I'd say that this shouldn't take the place of independent study projects like honors theses or whatever, but I do think it can be supplemental to those kinds of projects.

  4. I did research as an undergrad that involved checking a particular newspaper for references to war over the course of 50 years. I learned so much about the country and its culture. Also got my own first publication out of it in an article that started as a seminar paper; I was able to use some of the research project's materials.

    It was great for me and since I was doing it in a language that noone else on the team was doing, I'm sure it was helpful for the research work, too.

  5. Mon, I hope you find your new colleagues and school supportive about this; my school IS really supportive about undergrad research, which is lucky. And if you can bring in undergrads, you can really make a great difference for them.

    History Geek, Come on up the the Northwoods! Seriously, maybe if you look around your school, you'll find an internship or if you have an idea for your own research, you can get someone to mentor you?

    Dr. Crazy, Like you, I did projects as an intern or assistant during undergrad and grad times, and learned tons throughout. My dissertation topic came from reading as a grad assistant, asking why no one cared about X.

    Timna, History using newspapers tends to be just amazing. One of my friends has students do a newspaper project and students learn amazing stuff.

    News update: The theater prof emailed me back, encouragingly, and suggested a couple students. One of those students is in my Chaucer class and is really excited about the possibility.

    So, this may just go forward in some amazing ways! I'm thrilled!