Using Students as CoResearchers

I just had two students sitting on the couch in my office. They both had big smiles on their faces. The reason for the smiles was that I had just shared with them the instructions for obtaining ethics training for human subjects research.


One of the students had been asking about helping me on whatever I had going on with my job--interning, he had called it. So he hovered behind me after class this morning and explained that I was his for the rest of the morning. Another student was also hovering. "Wait, what's he get to do?" 

I explained, all hopeful like, that he was interested in helping me on my research. She explained that she had nothing going on at the moment, and that she was also interested. So they followed me back to my office, and I explained the projects I was hoping to begin over the next few months. They didn't start adjusting uncomfortably in my Freud couch (faux-velvet sofa), so I took that to mean they were still interested. I went on to explain how they could be ethics-certified for doing research on human subjects, and they reflected on how cool that certificate would look on the cinder-block wall in their dorm room.


Freud Couch

These two students represent about 20% of students who have wandered into my research plans over the last year. I have students helping me write literature reviews for an article on autonomy supportive teaching; students transcribing interviews about chronic absenteeism; students who have presented with me at conferences and co-authored articles; and about five who have just reached out to me about getting some research experience. It is honestly a little overwhelming.

So here is what I'm going to do: I brainstormed the projects I am interested in, and began thinking about how students might assist me. I will delegate a portion of the project to each of them, then I forget about it. I will check in with them periodically to see how it is going. At least that is what I am thinking.

Here was the carnage left in the wake of my brain storm:

That's three projects and plenty of work that will take the next two years or so. (Some of my interested co-researchers are sophomores or juniors! I will try not to corrupt them.)

I have a fun article I wrote for our university magazine about how to work with student co-researchers. I wrote it over a year ago and it still isn't in print, but I will share it once it is. I mostly make fun of myself for always changing the precise focus of my work. Research, at least in my experience, is almost never linear. My research looks more like a game of pick-up sticks. In case you've never played, here is Lowe'ses representation of the game:

The narrative arc of my research, in diagram form.

For those of you who are following along, I will update you as to how the research project go and what I will no doubt learn from my co-researchers.