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The Undergraduate Research Experience As It Relates To Research Efficacy Beliefs And The Imposter Phenomenon

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Using Teams, Seminars & Research Opportunities for Retention

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1333.1 - 11.1333.10



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Paper Authors


De'Jeune Antoine Xavier University of Louisiana

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De'Jeune S. Antoine is a dual-degree Physics and Biomedical Engineering major. She actively participates in several clubs and organizations, including National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and youth mentoring. De'Jeune's research interests include cardiovascular instrumentation
and engineering education.

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Mica Hutchison Purdue University

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Mica A. Hutchison is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department Engineering Education and the Department of Chemistry with research interests focused on engineering education and the retention of engineering students. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Idaho in 2002. Her research is directed by Dr. George M. Bodner and Dr. Deborah K. Follman.

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Deborah Follman Purdue University

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Deborah K. Follman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 1994 and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from
North Carolina State University in 2000. Her research interests include engineering education and gender equity, specifically regarding self-efficacy, issues of gender on student cooperative learning teams, and curriculum

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The Undergraduate Research Experience as It Relates to Research-Efficacy Beliefs and the Imposter Phenomenon Abstract

Studies associating gender with self-efficacy beliefs and studies on the Imposter Phenomenon (IP) are great in number. This study seeks to further investigate the relationship between gender, self-efficacy, and IP by examining the research self-efficacy beliefs and imposter feelings of students in an eleven-week undergraduate summer research program. The results are from a voluntary survey offered in the ninth week of the program offered at a large Midwestern University. The qualitative/quantitative survey was designed to determine students’ research-efficacy (i.e. their confidence in their abilities to succeed in the research program), their definitions of success in the research program, and their imposter status as measured by the Clance IP scale. Quantitative questions measured how successful students felt they were in the program, their efficacy for achieving success in the program, and the intensity of their imposter feelings. Qualitative, open-ended questions called for the participants’ views of what it meant to be successful in the program and factors that influenced their definition of success. The results and conclusions presented here offer insight into the research experiences of both female and male students, as voiced by the students themselves.


Studies have shown that the retention rate of women in STEM fields is significantly lower than that of their male counterparts1. Moreover, research done by Seymour and Hewitt has shown that often there is no apparent difference in the achievement and attitudes of students who persist in the fields and those who leave2. Many women who persist in STEM programs note a lack of assurance in their abilities, regardless of high grades earned and other commonly accepted indications of success, as a barrier to their overall success in the fields3.

This degree of certainty in one’s ability to perform a designated task is called self- efficacy. Self-efficacy has been linked to student interest, achievement, and retention in STEM fields4,5. Bandura’s work on self-efficacy6 explains the sources of such beliefs by placing them in categories: mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasions, and physiological states. Mastery experiences involve the influence of people’s self-evaluation of previous performances on similar tasks while vicarious experiences involve the influence of the outcomes achieved by others when performing comparable tasks. Social persuasions develop through verbal judgment and appraisal of others. Physiological states include stress, anxiety, fear, and emotions that impact confidence in one’s abilities.

Clance and her colleagues discovered a psychological phenomenon that directly relates to the fear of success. The impostor phenomenon (IP) is a psychological syndrome that stems from intense feelings of fraudulent success and achievement7. Not to be confused with self-esteem, which “measures a broader domain of attitudes and feelings about the self than does the impostor phenomenon7,” IP leads its victims to define their success by a single factor. Despite past performances and successes, it is this one factor that weighs heavily upon the mind of an IP sufferer. If this factor is achieved, they attribute their success to some external force, such as

Antoine, D., & Hutchison, M., & Follman, D. (2006, June), The Undergraduate Research Experience As It Relates To Research Efficacy Beliefs And The Imposter Phenomenon Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--815

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