Differences in students’ experiences of research involvement: study years and disciplines compared

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Integrating professional research into higher education is supposed to intellectually benefit students. However, the literature suggests that students in different academic disciplines experience differing research opportunities. Previous studies have shown how junior students of natural sciences have less opportunity to engage in research than students in ‘soft’ disciplines. To investigate research involvement, undergraduate students (N = 2192) of all seven faculties of a university filled out a survey that included the Research Experience Scale. This scale provides four types of potential research involvement comprised of passive involvement and three types of active research involvement. The categorisation of disciplines was based on the framework constructed by Anthony Biglan, with its distinction between hard/soft and life/nonlife criteria. All disciplines included in this study were applied, thereby excluding Biglan’s pure/applied distinction. A betweengroup analysis showed that each of the types of research involvement yielded a different pattern for students from different study years. The ‘students-as-researcher’ type in particular showed that students of lower study years in the life disciplines were systematically less involved than more senior students. These findings highlight the importance of more precise definitions of research involvement, as well as clearer distinctions between disciplinary differences in research and curriculum design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-466
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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