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Interpreting Student Constructed Study Guides

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

ERM Potpourri I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.955.1 - 12.955.10



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Paper Authors


Donald Visco Tennessee Technological University

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Don Visco is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Tennessee Technological University. He received his Ph. D. from the University at Buffalo, SUNY, in 1999. Don has taught many course offerings at Tenn Tech including thermodynamics, process optimization, process dynamics and control, introduction to chemical engineering, chemical engineering process analysis multi-scale modeling and math methods in chemical engineering. Don's technical research is in computational thermodynamics and bio-informatics.

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Saravanan Swaminathan Tennessee Technological University

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Saravanan Swaminathan is currently working on his Ph.D degree in Chemical Engineering at the Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN 38505. His research is to critically evaluate the pure component parameterization methodologies in equation of state modeling and their effect on mixture phase predictions. He received his B.Tech degree from University of Madras (India) and his MS degree from Tennessee Technological University.

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Lisa Zagumny Tennessee Technological Univesity

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Lisa Zagumny is Assistant Professor of Qualitative Research, Educational Anthropology, Foundations, Tennessee Tech University, Box 5042, Cookeville, TN 38505; email Her research interests overlap with a concern for social justice, particularly in education, through the dynamics of gender, race, class, and religion. Philosophical and theoretical perspectives from a post-positivist stance inform her research on the history of education and gender and racial inequity in higher education.

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Holly Anthony Tennessee Technological University

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Holly Garrett Anthony is Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education, Tennessee Tech University, College of Education, Box 5042, Cookeville, TN 38505; email Her research interests bring interpretivist and poststructural theories to bear on a range of overlapping interests: mathematics teaching and curricular reform; ongoing professional development of teachers; qualitative research methodology; practices and conditions of teaching; integration of technology in mathematics teaching; and the implementation of context-based curricular materials.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Interpreting Student-Constructed Study Guides Abstract In this work we explore how ten Tennessee Tech chemical engineering students in a second- semester thermodynamics course prepare and utilize self-constructed study guides for use on class exams. Qualitative research methods were used owing to the information desired and the small number of participants. Results indicate that many strategies exist and “goodness” of study guides does not necessarily map onto successful exam performance. Also, students may need detailed training on how to develop a useful study guide. Finally, we have found that there may be a benefit to peer-sharing of study guides.


Course examinations are ubiquitous throughout highereducation, regardless of the subject area. When an instructor announces an exam, one question is sure to follow: “Can we use our book and/or notes on the exam?” [That this is asked, and not some default assumed, speaks to the various answers that students often receive to the question above.—this sentence is awkward]

One approach used across fields is to disallow students access to their notes during an exam, but allow some form of reduced or modified notes as a resource. When students are given the opportunity to prepare these notes (heretofore called a “study guide”), this constructivist approach may provide revealing insights on a number of related topics, such as what and how the student prepared this study guide, how they used the study guide, their feelings pre and post exam and so on.

In this work, we examined student-constructed study guides in a second semester undergraduate thermodynamics course taken by 10 chemical engineering students. The goal was to determine how the guides were prepared (re: strategies, etc.) and how they were used on the exams. One hope, at the conclusion of the study, is to provide (if possible) an inventory of best practices for study guide preparation.

Owing to a small class size and the local nature of this research, qualitative methodologies were used. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with students individually over the course of the semester. The first interview took place after the first exam and the second interview took place after the third exam. Focus groups were conducted after the second exam. Fieldnotes were taken during the interviews. Interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim and discussed with the students for accuracy. Categorizing strategies were used to code data. Categorizing strategies in qualitative research were done to fracture or split the data in order to rearrange it into categories that enhance the comparison of data within and between categories and to help in the development of theoretical concepts. In addition to interviews and focus groups, the students’ self-constructed study guides were analyzed. This research uncovered strategies students used in constructing their study guides. By understanding how students constructed their study guides, the course instructor could potentially help future students to enhance their academic performance through the construction of “better” study guides.


Visco, D., & Swaminathan, S., & Zagumny, L., & Anthony, H. (2007, June), Interpreting Student Constructed Study Guides Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1818

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