June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Literature recognizes that a research project’s initial stages, including identifying and selecting a research topic, are the most challenging steps of project development for college students in the U.S. Nevertheless, a very limited body of literature exists on topic identification and selection, especially for undergraduate studies in STEM fields. While the possibilities of using the web for teaching, learning, and discovery are limitless, students frequently report being overwhelmed by the superabundance of information combined with limited available time. Therefore, a key question is, Do online tools exist that can help students identify and select a topic that both interests them and is worth pursuing in terms of research and practice? The transportation engineering field offers a unique opportunity to explore this question using the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) extensive research needs statements (RNS) database.
The goal of this paper is to identify opportunities to improve instruction around the use of the RNS database as a means to identify and select a course project topic in transportation engineering. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the TRB RNS database has never been used directly as an educational tool. Typically, for term projects in similar introductory transportation classes, either students select their topic based solely on their interests or the instructor assigns specific topics.
To achieve the research goal, the overarching research question being addressed in this paper is, What is the interplay among students’ topics of interest, the RNS selected, the proposal developed, and students’ individual experiences with the RNS database? This paper uses data collected in the spring 2016 offering of Introduction to Transportation Engineering, an elective undergraduate-level course offered every semester at Purdue University. This paper addresses the overarching research question through the description of three group cases of significance. In addition, a cross-case synthesis uses a simple qualitative comparison to compare and contrast the results from the case description components.
Findings are used to make recommendations about using field-specific and/or more general resources in an undergraduate engineering course to guide selection of a project topic.
Pyrialakou, V. D., & Diefes-Dux, H. A., & Gkritza, K. (2017, June), Board # 29 :Research Needs Statements for Project Topic Selection: A Pilot Study in an Undergraduate Civil Engineering Transportation Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27823
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