Data is all around us. In practically any subject there are numerous ways in which students can engage in collecting and working with data. Perhaps you have a research project on the go that requires more people to collect more data, to observe a phenomenon, to record samples, for example, or to examine a particular species in a given geographical area, or to find out how people in society think about a particular issue. The possibilities are endless. Data can also be gathered through internet searches of course.

There is also the use of existing data sources. From linguistics, to accountancy, students can work in analysing data to understand particular phenomena. Discussions of how to analyse the data collected or worked on can help students understand and critically evaluate theories.

Remember that if students help you to collect data that you subsequently publish, you must acknowledge their contributions in your published work. Also remember that collecting some forms of data may need ethical approval.


“First year Pharmacy students investigate the way different pharmacist shops are laid out. They pool their responses and in doing so learn about important aspects associated with the practice of pharmacy” (University of Sydney, Australia).

“Pharmacy students examine research evidence from a research project where a mystery shopper posed as a member of the public with a particular ailment and went into a number of pharmacies to examine how the pharmacist explained about the particular medication” (University of Otago, New Zealand).

Students in an early childhood unit are all asked to take photos of “Childhood” that they notice around them, in the street, on noticeboards, wherever they happen to be. The students take hundreds of photos and then display them all together. The unit then consists of students analyzing this data utilizing the different theories of childhood which is the focus of what they have to learn” (University of Northumbria, UK).

This article was first published in a series of posts presenting 10 simple ways you can adjust your units, or parts of your units, to develop students’ research skills and competencies, which you can adapt to suit your particular context. You can read the original post from Professor Angela Brew here. Or, if you want to read more about what research undergraduates are doing, visit the Australasian Council for Undergraduate Research, which is chaired by Professor Brew.

Posted by Angela Brew

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *