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Promoting Undergraduate Research By Creating A Research Option In A Technical Communication Course

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1040.1 - 10.1040.9



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Paper Authors

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Michael Alley

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Jenny Lo

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Bevlee Watford

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

Session 1526

Promoting Undergraduate Research by Creating a Research Option in a Technical Communication Course: Initial Project Phase*

Michael Alley, Jenny Lo, and Bevlee Watford Engineering Education Department Virginia Tech


Although many institutions such as the National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Research Council have called for more undergraduate research, incorporating significant research experiences into undergraduate engineering curricula has proven to be challenging. This paper presents the initial phase of an experiment in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech to address this problem by means of a research option in the traditional technical communication course. In this research option, students have the opportunity to prepare for and to document a summer research experience. To that end, the research option of the course is divided into two segments: (1) a spring segment to prepare students for a summer research experience, and (2) a fall segment to teach students to how document that research experience. This research option culminates in an undergraduate research symposium that is to show other undergraduates the benefits of and opportunities for a research experience. This paper documents the initial phase of this experiment—namely, the recruiting of students into the research option. Included is a discussion of a pilot symposium on undergraduate research that served as an advertisement for the research-option course and that provided lessons for next year’s symposium. Also included are the statistics on the number, diversity, and quality of undergraduates who have applied for this research option. Twenty of the twenty-five slots for the pilot course were filled, the students have been of high quality (an average GPA of 3.7/4.0), and 11 of the 20 students are from underrepresented groups in engineering. This recruitment phase demonstrates that such a research option appeals to students who are qualified to attend graduate school. In addition, the course appeals to groups that are underrepresented in engineering.


The Boyer Commission Report has urged universities to “make research-based learning the standard” for the education of undergraduates [1]. Also calling for more research by

* This work is supported by the National Science Foundation: Grant 477128.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Alley, M., & Lo, J., & Watford, B. (2005, June), Promoting Undergraduate Research By Creating A Research Option In A Technical Communication Course Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14309

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