Undergraduate Research: Not Just for the Résumé Is research participation just another extracurricular activity? Actually it’s key to a successful, evidence-based clinical career. Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   January 01, 2015
Undergraduate Research: Not Just for the Résumé
Author Notes
  • Holly L. Storkel, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor and chair of speech-language-hearing at the University of Kansas, co-director of the KU/KUMC Intercampus Program in Communicative Disorders, and director of the university’s Word & Sound Learning Lab. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; and 10, Issues in Higher Education. hstorkel@ku.edu
    Holly L. Storkel, PhD, CCC-SLP, is professor and chair of speech-language-hearing at the University of Kansas, co-director of the KU/KUMC Intercampus Program in Communicative Disorders, and director of the university’s Word & Sound Learning Lab. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; and 10, Issues in Higher Education. hstorkel@ku.edu×
Article Information
Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   January 01, 2015
Undergraduate Research: Not Just for the Résumé
The ASHA Leader, January 2015, Vol. 20, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.20012015.32
The ASHA Leader, January 2015, Vol. 20, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.20012015.32
An undergraduate tells her advisor that she has no plans to work on research because she has plenty of activities on her résumé for graduate school. How should her advisor respond?
A practical and helpful advisor will reply with a strong suggestion to reconsider, because undergraduate research is so much more than just a line on a résumé. Undergraduate research is obviously critical for students planning an academic career, but it’s also key for aspiring clinicians—it lays the groundwork for evidence-based practice and savvy consumption of research.
Keeping up with the research literature while working full-time in clinical practice is easier if you’ve engaged in research before. For example, as a clinician, you might hear that a new treatment is an excellent approach for your clients, but are those claims accurate? If your understanding of research is strong, you will have the tools to evaluate that claim.
To reach that strong understanding, students move through a research skill progression from exposure to experience to expertise. This skill progression highlights the different ways that students can engage in research.
Exposure
At the exposure level, instructors help students develop basic research skills and introduce them to research questions and methods in the field—so students gain an appreciation for scientific inquiry. Examples include:
  • Gain statistical literacy. By taking an undergraduate statistics course, students learn the basic statistical tools used in the field, with an emphasis on how to interpret statistics and spot problematic data.

  • Learn to read journal articles. By reading research articles with instructor support, students learn what to look for in a research article to help them understand it, and then learn to think beyond the article—by explaining its connection to clinical practice, for example. Students become comfortable reading journal articles and are prepared to investigate specific research areas down the road. They also see examples of the types of questions and methods used in the field.

  • Simulate basic research methods. Students read an article prior to class. In class, students re-create the research task, administer the task to one another, score their classmates’ responses, create graphs of the data and explain how the graphs answer the research question. This activity gives students a clearer idea of what different research methods entail so that they can more fully understand the implications and limitations of research studies.

Experience
At the experience level, students gain broader and deeper understanding of research by learning about the scientific process and by applying it to an issue in the field. At this level, students begin to think like researchers.
  • Complete a research methods course. Students learn the basic steps in scientific research.

  • Write a research proposal. Students apply their understanding of theory and research to ask and answer a question. They consider all aspects of a research project, even if they don’t carry them out.

Expertise
At the expertise level, students undertake hands-on research involvement, becoming novice researchers.
  • Conduct a mentored individual or group research project. This project builds on the experience level. The student needs all the same skills to begin the project but now is confronted with practical issues: For instance, how do you motivate a 4-year-old to name 30 pictures? These practical issues require creativity and problem-solving.

This research skill progression highlights the importance of the skills students are ready to acquire at different points in the undergraduate curriculum. It also provides multiple, repeated chances for students to engage in research to build a strong foundation for EBP. Responding to a student who sees research as just another extracurricular activity involves helping the student understand that research is a core component of EBP and that research engagement will set the stage for successful clinical practice.
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January 2015
Volume 20, Issue 1