Undergraduate Research – Just Do It

Admittedly, I wasn’t always the best student.  At the same time, I was interested in writing and research: I double majored in English and Political Science – both research intensive majors; I wrote a senior thesis for honors; and I briefly published an alternative campus

My alma mater – Alma College

newspaper called the Voyeur.

My professors encouraged me to do research and use the library, but I realize that they didn’t really teach me how to conduct research. Nobody clearly articulated the differences between qualitative and quantitative research. And nobody ever explained to me how these research practices could apply to my own writing.

So, when I decided to attend the Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies conference as a mentor, I was a little dubious. I couldn’t really comprehend why we needed two-days to cover my “look in books” undergraduate research education.

Of course, after experiencing this workshop and meeting a bunch of really smart and interesting students, I’ve learned that there’s a lot undergraduate researchers can do.  I’ve listened to students interested in multimodality & ESL writers, code-meshing, supporting working writing-students, and transference. What’s more, this workshop is providing them tools to refine and pursue these research questions.  They’re getting feedback from peers and faculty who want to see them succeed.  It’s been a remarkable privilege.

But, as my mind begins to turn back to Memphis and Christian Brothers University, I realize that I need to redefine the way I teach research to my students. I need to encourage more work outside of books and the classroom. My class design and pedagogy needs to create space for surveys, focus groups, interviews, and corpus analyses. I need to rethink my approach.  As I think more about the ways my classes can engage in public advocacy, it seems more essential that I integrate more research.

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