Sunday, October 14, 2007

Undergraduate Research?

Do you think undergrads can do research? Do you promote research among undergrads with whom you work? Do those of us whose job is primarily among undergrads by definition miss out on supervising and promoting research projects among students? Are there limitations with undergrads that prohibit research on the New Testament and Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity?

Perhaps you are like me and believe that while there are clearly limitations at the undergraduate level on the depth of research, it is possible and commendable to supervise and promote research among undergrads. I would like to know if you are supervising research with undergrads and what lessons you have learned in the process. What are the limitations you have discovered?

I am working on a Research Assistant Program in corrdination with our university which is beginning to encourage (provide financing in other words) for undergraduate research. Here is a draft description of the program I am seeking to establish.

Research Assistant Program

Professor Joel Willitts, Ph.D.
Biblical and Theological Studies
North Park University

Learning is best done in community and for this reason students and professors benefit from pursuing academics in relationship. An undergraduate setting is an ideal time for students with interests in graduate work in biblical studies to begin developing skills in the basics of research method and critical thinking. Strong graduate programs in biblical studies are highly competitive and demand increasingly better preparation at the undergraduate level. What is most needed for an exceptionally prepared application to graduate school is (1) a developing research facility and evidence of critical thinking sometimes evinced in a piece of written work and (2) a strong academic recommendation. In addition, professors in undergraduate settings like NPU have significant course loads and the ability to continue working on research projects becomes acutely challenging. A research assistant program, then, can be an effective tool for both student development and professorial research.

The student will assist in research projects and the more general academic responsibilities of the professor as well as be responsible to conduct individual research on a topic in the area of the New Testament or Second Temple Judaism.

Student Responsibilities
1. Student will have taken one year of Greek.
2. Student will purchase the following books:
  • Booth, Wayne, Gregory G. Colomb and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research, 2nd ed.(University of Chicago Press: Chicago) 2003 (ISBN: 0226065685)
  • Turabian, Kate L, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed. University of Chicago Press: Chicago) 1996 (ISBN: 0226816273)

3. Student will work between 5 and 10 hours a week. This may vary significantly from week to week but the balance of personal research and assisting the professor will demand time.
4. Student will assist the professor in research and writing projects in whatever capacity is needed. Professor will seek to match gift and skill sets to particular tasks.
5. Student will assist the professor in academic administrative duties, e.g. data entry.
6. Student will present their research at an academic meeting, e.g. University Symposium and/or ETS/SBL regional meeting


James Gregory said...

This proposal sounds great and would be a great opportunity for undergrads who have further academic ambitions to gain some experience in research.

At Simpson University where I was an undergraduate, the Theology and Ministry department has a Bible Honor's Program for those students who want to do research at the graduate level while under the undergraduate degree.

Here is a short excerpt from their website (Simpson University - Theology and Ministry):

"If you are a Bible and Theology major, you may be able to choose the honors program. To take part in the honors program you have to have the approval of full-time Bible and Theology faculty.

The honors program requires three supervised research and writing projects and receives special recognition at graduation. As an honors program student, you will be supervised and advised by a member of the faculty.

Admission is limited by the availability of the faculty supervisors. If you are interested in the honors program you should apply as soon as possible. You need to have a cumulative 3.0 GPA and a 3.5 GPA in at least 12 hours of Bible and Theology courses you took under the foundation studies requirements. You also need to have a 3.5 GPA within your major by graduation to qualify. Contact your advisor for more information."

Your proposal also allows for more professor/student interaction than does Simpson's, while Simpson's requires three papers and yours only one. In either case, it truly is a fantastic opportunity for graduate research within an undergraduate degree.

Joshua said...

Turabian is out in a 7th edition: 9780226823379

Craft of Research will be out in a 3rd edition in May 2008: 9780226065663

Michael F. Bird said...

Good idea! Here's my two cents.
1. I think this is more like a research internship. Any chance we can get making coffee or tea part of the program? I can imagine you saying to Heather R: "Go make 20 cuppucinos and bring me the best one! And it better be low-fat!!".
2. What you need to include along the way is some work on research methodology on general (arts and humanities) and specific (biblical and theological studies) areas. A bit more than reading Booth et. al. is required.
3. The student should also have a research project that they have to do of at least 10 000 words minimum.
4. Giving a paper would be a good idea but it will scare the skubala out of some students.
5. Another thing you should cover is how to maximize your chances for entry into grad school.
6. You could also give them a lecture on "the importance of justifying paragraphs and using pretty font colours" :-)
7. A good format for the ten hours per week would be:
a. 1 hr reading about research and seminar prep
b. 2 hrs assistant to prof.
c. 5 hrs research
d. 2 hrs seminars on method and research writing

There we are.

hrobins said...

Haha--too bad I can't make cappucinos...

hrobins said...

...or spell "cappuccino"

mike aubrey said...

I wish I had something like this as an undergrad...