Many University classes — particularly those in psychology and communications — require students participate in research studies for class credit. The aim: expose undergraduates to research in their fields and give them the opportunity to help the University fulfill its research mission.
For example, students in 100-level Psychology classes register with Sona Systems, a platform for recruiting student research subjects. Students enrolled in Communications 102 sign up for a similar service.
Scott Campbell, professor of telecommunications and associate professor of communications, said the required research study component of his Communications 102 class exposes students to research within their field. The system allows researchers to post studies online and lets registered students choose studies they qualify for and want to participate in. If students are under 18, the program requires parental consent before participating in any research study.
“By giving them some direct, hands-on experience, for some students, it peaks their interest and fuels that fire,” Campbell said. “In the past, many students have asked me if they can be a research assistant of mine or if they could help run these studies. That’s a benefit to the subset of students that become interested in research. That’s not probably most students, but an important chunk of them. The rest of the students get a sense of how we do our research.”
He added the experience differs for each student.
Though students are technically required to complete research participation in many psychology and communication studies classes, Campbell said there are alternative written assignments for the minority of students who decide not to participate.
“I think that’s an important component too; to provide students with a choice,” he said. “Students in my class, by and large, do not choose the alternative assignment.”
However, some students aren’t thrilled about this type of requirement.
As a student in Psychology 112, LSA freshman Spencer Marlow is required to either participate in research studies or write alternative essay assignments.
“I feel like it doesn’t really add to the class or help me in any way,” Marlow said. “My experiences have been fine, but just boring and they don’t add anything to my knowledge of psychology. Studies could focus more on relating ideas they have to what we’re working on in the class.”
The studies Marlow participated in included a quiz about how he judged traits of people based on information about them and one aimed at understanding the effects of viewing specific pictures.
According to the Psychology Department website, a large part of the department’s mission is to encourage research in creating new scientific knowledge and using graduate training to produce “tomorrow’s leading researchers.”
“As a research University we believe that active participation in all aspects of the research process provides students with a unique, hands-on learning experience — deep learning experiences and opportunities that sharpen critical thinking skills,” the website reads.
Campbell said due to the University’s position as a major research institution, it’s important that students gain firsthand experience on how faculty conduct their work.
“They get the concept that by participating in research — by participating in actual studies — actual research and actual studies that result in publication, that are presented in classes, it gives them more of a hands-on experience, which is a much more direct understanding of how we go about doing our work,” he said.
LSA junior Sara Rochman said she learned valuable information from her research participation freshman year, yet did not always understand the overall premise of the research she was participating in.
“I definitely got a better understanding of how psych studies work,” Rochman said. “I really had no idea how that worked at all, how they got their data and since I was a participant I got an inside view into the process of research. But I didn’t really have a lot of information into what I was being studied on — what the purposes of the studies were. If they could have told me more, that would have been better.”
Campbell said implementing research components to introductory courses not only further educate students on class topics, but help them understand a key aspect of the University’s mission.
“The professors are helping to fulfill the mission of new discovery and the students are participating in the University’s mission of new discovery,” he said. “So in that sense, I think the students get some benefits out of it, the faculty gets some benefits out of it and the University gets some benefits out of it by helping it fulfill its mission.”