F6-BR3-3 - Students’ Perception of a Method for Identifying Topics for Research Questions

3. Research Full Paper
Allen Zheng1 , Vetria Byrd1
1 Purdue University

In this Research Full Paper, the results of an approach for identifying research topics are presented. The initial step in developing research questions is identifying an interesting topic. The challenge is making the transition from an interest to a topic specific enough to support a research project. The purpose of this study is to assess students’ perception of a method designed to help with identifying research topics. In this paper we examine, compare and present results from undergraduates who used the Activity Worksheet Method to identify research topics for semester projects. The main research question is “How do students perceive the usability of the activity worksheet method for identifying topics?” A higher order thinking framework and elements of information literacy framework are used to address two key important aspects of identifying topics: 1) articulating what is known and 2) identifying lack of knowledge about a topic. The activity worksheet for identifying topics was completed by 45 students enrolled in two sections of an undergraduate data visualization course at Purdue University. After completing the worksheet students were asked to provide feedback on the usability of the worksheet. This feedback was provided as a Likert scale rating from 1-5, with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree. Results show 63.7% of responses were “agree” or “strongly agree” that the worksheet is helpful in identifying topics. This research is significant because it helps students to think critically about topic selections for research projects. As students understand what they know and need to know about topics they choose, their understanding will inform the types of questions they ask in the next stage of the developing research questions process: transforming topics into questions. The contribution of this work is a methodical approach to assist, in any discipline, in helping students to develop sound research questions. The implications of this work will help students to build skills in recognizing a need for information and data to answer a specific research question - a practice that is required in engineering and computing education.