Thursday, December 25, 2008

Getting Students Involved in Research

Happy holidays!

Some schools are interested in getting students involved in research, e.g., working with professors and getting involved in their projects (if not much more independent research). This would be easier in some fields (e.g., some sciences), but this seems like it would be more challenging with philosophy for a variety of reasons. I wonder if anyone has had much success in getting students involved in their research and, if so, what they did and how they did it.


  1. I co-authored a book review with a student who was planning on going to grad school. And I wrote a paper with a student who had just graduated for a conference, which we then jointly presented. But that's the most I've been able to do.

  2. A good question, Nathan. I always get a little antsy when people talk about "involving" students in faculty research. The most natural model for this is in the experimental sciences, where students can be trained to perform specific tasks (interviewing in psychology, etc.), but are not usually responsible for the "big stuff" (experimental design, for instance). It's an intriguing question whether this promotes student learning in any meaningful way (Does washing dishes in a bio lab help students learn about biology? Perhaps!). But that model clearly won't work in philosophy and other humanities, because the research is not as segmented. That is, it's hard for me to see what part of the research process could usefully be 'farmed out' to my students. For this reason, I think that humanists need to shift the talk away from getting students involved in faculty research toward finding ways to have students conduct research according to the methods of their disciplines.

  3. I recommend reading Hasok Chang's article : “Turning an undergraduate class into a professional research community”.
    While the course he teaches focuses on topics in the history of the physical sciences, this pedagogical experiment should be of use to teachers of philosophy.
    The syllabus of Hasok Chang's current course, following this model, is also online.

  4. My college prides itself on student/faculty research and it is a wonderful thing in the social and natural sciences. But if a school wants it to be an institutional practice, thus requiring that the worth of the humanities be judged by this standard, it is a threat to the humanities. We need to be more clear about the nature of our research, i.e., that it requires many hours of being alone and many hours of conversations with other experts.

    That being said, I have taken advantage of my college's generosity in funding student/faculty research. They offer several thousand dollars - both for the faculty member and the student - in the summer to do research. I worked with a student on consciousness, reading through and discussing literature I had to catch up on anyway. Two things made it worth the time: first, the student was exceptionally bright and so our conversations were philosophically fruitful; second, I hadn't read the literature myself, so we were really working out the material together.

    Two of my colleagues have published several papers that they co-authored with undergraduate students using the same program. True, you do a lot of editing and probably more of a share of the writing, but this is not atypical for collaborative work. Both of them have reported really enjoying the experience.


If you wish to use your name and don't have a blogger profile, please mark Name/URL in the list below. You can of course opt for Anonymous, but please keep in mind that multiple anonymous comments on a post are difficult to follow. Thanks!