June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.630.1 - 15.630.25
Graduate Student Qualifying Exam Approach: Course to Guide Students Through Writing a Research Proposal
This paper describes a new course at Mississippi State University that provides structured guidance on writing an NSF research proposal. Course development was guided by personal communications with David F. Ollis and his 1995 article1 in Chemical Engineering Education on “The Research Proposition.” The endearing premise of this proposal-based qualifying exam is that writing a research proposal is a learning tool that teaches tangible research skills which students do not gain in their traditional graduate coursework. This course was focused for first to second year Ph.D. graduate students in chemical engineering and doubled as the Ph.D. qualification exam. This semester-long course included incremental milestones for the student and regular feedback from the instructors. The final product of the course was a 15 page NSF style research proposal and a 20-minute oral presentation on the proposal before a faculty committee. As students progress through the course, they are taught and then asked to demonstrate the tools, skills and knowledge to: • Assimilate information from a comprehensive (yet succinct and thorough) literature review on a given research topic, • Identify and articulate knowledge missing from the research field, • Develop a well-defined hypothesis that probes an important and relevant research problem, • Describe a detailed method of approach (experimental or otherwise) to obtain the missing knowledge, • Outline data analysis / interpretation as well as the nature and impact of expected results, • Contextualize the importance of their proposed idea within the larger research field, • Craft supporting documents such as the Budget, Biosketch, and Facilities and Resources.
In addition to evaluations of each student by a committee of faculty, the students and faculty were asked to complete formative assessment surveys. All surveys, procedures, and tools were approved by Mississippi State University’s Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects. The 6 students enrolled in the summer 2009 course were asked to complete pre- course and post-course surveys on their self-measured skills and attitudes. Individual responses were recorded and paired between pre and post surveys; group trends were then compiled. Responses for questions were all cast on a 5 point Likert scale with 5 being the highest rating, 3 as neutral and 1 as the lowest rating. The faculty were asked to assess the student performances and to compare them to prior years where students were required to write a research proposal, but were not given guidance on developing the proposal. This paper will describe the course structure and then discuss the assessment tools and results for the summer 2009 cohort compared to ~3 years of qualifying exams without the course instruction.
Expectations and skills needed to succeed in graduate school are different than in undergraduate curriculums. However, many graduate programs still use proficiency on course-derived
Minerick, A., & Hernandez, R. (2010, June), Graduate Student Qualifying Exam Approach: Course To Guide Students Through Writing A Research Proposal Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16403
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