This series of posts presents ten simple suggestions to help you change your units or parts of your units to develop students’ research skills and competencies that you can adapt to suit your particular context.

10 easy ways

  1. Change an assessment to an inquiry
  2. Change a laboratory class to guided discovery
  3. Engage students in gathering or working with data
  4. Turn your unit of study into a conference
  5. Arrange for students to interview researchers
  6. Invite students and staff to research speed-dating
  7. Get students to write an abstract
  8. Change essays into academic articles
  9. Turn the class into a hypothesis-generating forum
  10. Create a competition

5.   Arrange for students to interview researchers

If you’re in a big department with lots of research covered, a great way to get the students interested in and knowledgeable about the range of subjects covered in the discipline is to provide a strategy for students to interview members of staff. Research on students’ knowledge of research in their university shows that undergraduates are generally ignorant of the research being done in their university and are often unaware that any research is taking place at all.

Academics love to talk about their research and having a small group of people asking intelligent questions about it, is bound to put smiles on a lot of faces. It’s important that students prepare for their meetings by reading some of the work of the individual staff member that they are going to interview and devising some interesting questions. They could research the articles of the chosen member of staff in their own time with class time used to discuss questions. Or some questions could be prepared for them. But the important point is that students should show some basic knowledge and ask intelligent questions. It’s a good idea for students to be in small groups when they interview the member of staff in order to avoid awkward moments in the encounter. This also gives students a chance to experience working in teams.

You should provide a way for students to prepare a report on what they have found and to share this with their peers. This is a great way for the class to get a feel for the subject that they are about to study overall and is a useful inquiry process for early in their course.


“Students in teams of five first read three research papers by a staff member and then, when they have discussed and agreed a series of questions, interview the staff member about their research. Each student individually writes a report on what they have found”. (University College, London, UK)

Posted by Angela Brew

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