In an effort to improve recruiting and retention, our institution has focused on expanding the Honor’s College experience. The Honors College us working with each of the individual colleges to develop honors experiences specific to that college’s needs. Within the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the goal is to focus the Honors experience on undergraduate research with an aim of broadening research opportunities and competitiveness of student applications for summer research programs, NSF REUs, internal/external research funding applications, participation in undergraduate research conferences, and preparing the students for graduate school. Historically, many students (inside and outside of the honors program) have received credit for completing undergraduate research, but this is often a “stand-alone” course with no additional preparation and ill-defined outcomes. While this approach may provide a laboratory experience, the research experience is greatly dependent on the research laboratory and the research advisor. The significant increase in expected students performing undergraduate honors research also suggests that a group mentoring approach may be required in order not to require additional time from the research mentors. In an effort to improve the undergraduate research experience, we will be initiating an Engineering Honors Research Methods course for the undergraduate Honors students during the Spring 2020 semester as a pre-requisite for subsequent undergraduate research.
The Research Methods course will be broadly focused by providing a general approach to research and graduate school preparation appropriate for all majors in the Engineering College. Alternative approaches from the literature that are used to teach students how to conduct research will be compared and contrasted. Course topics will include: finding a research mentor, literature search skills, using the scientific method for approaching a research problem, developing a research methodology, writing a funding proposal, delivering a research presentation, and selecting and applying for graduate school. The motivation for this work, course details, learning objectives, course schedule, and course assignments will be presented. Assessments and student outcome tracking for the course will be discussed. Experiences, outcomes, feedback, and lessons learned from the initial offering of this course will be presented.
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