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Engaging Graduate Students with an Images of Research Competition

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engaging Students with Creativity and Innovation

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

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Paper Authors


Alison Henry University of Alberta

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Alison Henry is the Engineering Librarian at the University of Alberta. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University and spent several years working in Environmental Health and Safety in the Chemical Industry before obtaining her MLIS. Her research interests focus on research impact analysis and information literacy in engineering education.

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Lucinda Johnston University of Alberta

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Lucinda is a Public Services Librarian specializing in Music and Drama, who values non-traditional, creative, arts-based research activities and communications. She currently serves on the University of Alberta Libraries' Images of Research committee.

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Background In the fall of 2014, librarians secured a grant from the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund to implement programming in support of graduate student professional development and community building. As part of this initiative, the Images of Research competition was launched in partnership with the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, and has grown into a much-anticipated annual campus event.

Purpose This competition leverages library expertise and spaces to promote the varied types of research occuring on campus. In addition to providing graduate students with the opportunity to tell the story of their research to the broader campus community, the Images of Research competition allows them to improve skills in succinct communication while fostering community and enhancing student experience.

Method Once a year, graduate students are invited to submit a high-resolution image plus a short, plain-language description explaining how the image relates to their research. All images that meet the technical requirements are adjudicated by a judging panel consisting of faculty, graduate students, and (when possible) a communications professional. Entries are judged on their originality, aesthetic appeal, relationship between the image and the student’s research and clarity of the accompanying description. The top 24 images are selected as semi-finalists and subjected to online voting to determine a People’s Choice award winner. Competition organizers use a variety of online tools to facilitate competition submission, judging and voting. People’s Choice voting has in some years been restricted to our university community and in others left open to the wider world; graduate students have indicated a preference for university-only restrictions. All competitors grant permission to include their entry in our Open Access institutional repository, and the winners and semi-finalists are uploaded after the conclusion of the competition.

Results Prize winners are announced at a catered reception in the library, and an exhibition of winning and semi-finalist entries remains on display for approximately one month. Prize winners are not eligible to enter future competitions, but other entrants, including semi-finalists, are welcome to re-submit with a new image. Organizers view the presence of repeat competitors over the years as a measure of the competition’s success. Entrants are surveyed after the competition so that their feedback can guide future iterations of the event, and the overall response has been extremely positive.

Conclusion The resulting images have been featured in our alumni magazine, on social media, as displays for meetings and in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research offices. The involvement of campus partners is a significant contributor to the ongoing success of the competition.

Henry, A., & Johnston, L. (2019, June), Engaging Graduate Students with an Images of Research Competition Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32719

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