Developing research capacity among graduate students in an interdisciplinary environment

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Texas A&M University Libraries]On: 14 November 2014, At: 23:35Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Developing research capacityamong graduate students in aninterdisciplinary environmentMaureen M. Ryan a , Rachel S. Yeung b , Michelle Bass c , Meg Kapild , Suzanne Slater a & Kate Creedon ea Department of Nursing , University of Victoria , Victoria ,Canadab Department of Psychology , University of Victoria , Victoria ,Canadac Department of Sociology , University of Victoria , Victoria ,Canadad Department of Educational Psychology , University of Victoria ,Victoria , Canadae Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies ,University of Victoria , Victoria , CanadaPublished online: 20 Apr 2012.

    To cite this article: Maureen M. Ryan , Rachel S. Yeung , Michelle Bass , Meg Kapil , SuzanneSlater & Kate Creedon (2012) Developing research capacity among graduate students in aninterdisciplinary environment, Higher Education Research & Development, 31:4, 557-569, DOI:10.1080/07294360.2011.653956

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2011.653956

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Developing research capacity among graduate students in aninterdisciplinary environment

    Maureen M. Ryana, Rachel S. Yeungb, Michelle Bassc, Meg Kapild,Suzanne Slatera and Kate Creedone

    aDepartment of Nursing, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada; bDepartment ofPsychology, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada; cDepartment of Sociology, Universityof Victoria, Victoria, Canada; dDepartment of Educational Psychology, University ofVictoria, Victoria, Canada; eDepartment of Educational Psychology and LeadershipStudies, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada

    A critical review of research to date suggests a need to explore the developmentof graduate student research capacity from the standpoint of graduate students.Six members of an interdisciplinary graduate student colloquium at the Centrefor Youth and Society (Victoria, Canada) offer their perspective. Our researchinvolved four phases, each illustrating the processes that refined our understandingof the components that contributed to the development of our graduate studentresearch capacity. First, we engaged in several round-table discussions and createda conceptual map depicting components that were meaningful in developing ourresearch capacity. Second, we examined previous work on graduate studentresearch capacity development and compared this data to the conceptual map.Third, we conducted a thematic analysis of secondary data of graduated studentswith similar interdisciplinary training and involvement in the Centre. Finally, thedata analysis was used to refine the conceptual map that may benefit educators andfuture graduate students. From the standpoint of students themselves, we discussthose components perceived as best contributing to the development of graduatestudent research capacity and highlight the importance of an interdisciplinarycontext and writing process.

    Keywords: graduate students; higher education; interdisciplinary studies; researchcapacity; research training

    Introduction

    The Centre for Youth and Society (CYS: http://www.youth.society.uvic.ca/) is the firstuniversity-based interdisciplinary research centre in Canada to focus on promotinghealth and reducing harm for youth from diverse social and economic backgrounds.Through university-community collaborations involving an interdisciplinary groupof faculty, graduate students and community groups, the Centre has addressedcommunity concerns including bullying, street youth and girls sexual health. Tofoster the research capacity of graduate students, the CYS sponsors a three-hour col-loquium each month where members of the aforementioned groups connect. A gradu-ate student facilitates the colloquium with the support of a faculty mentor. Theinterests of graduate students guide colloquium topics, including discussions on

    ISSN 0729-4360 print/ISSN 1469-8366 online

    # 2012 HERDSAhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2011.653956http://www.tandfonline.com

    Corresponding author. Email: mmryan@uvic.ca

    Higher Education Research & DevelopmentVol. 31, No. 4, August 2012, 557569

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    http://www.youth.society.uvic.ca/

  • different methodological approaches within various disciplines, building effectiverelationships with community-based organizations and ethical issues when collectingdata from youth.

    We, the authors, attended the colloquium as graduate students for two years ormore. We are one doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Nursing, two Masters studentsin Counseling Psychology and Nursing, one has completed a Masters in CounselingPsychology, and the others have completed PhDs in Sociology and Life-Span Devel-opment Psychology. Five of us held research assistantships with Centre faculty andwe have all completed research methodology coursework in our respective disciplines.As a result of our shared experience, we wondered to what extent the interdisciplinarycomposition of the colloquium influenced our research capacity. Consequently, weengaged in a collaborative research project to identify components that contributedto our research capacity development in an interdisciplinary environment. In thispaper, we discuss the four phases of our research project. We go on to propose a con-ceptual map of the components that facilitated the development of graduate studentresearch capacity. We close by considering the benefits of both our map and projectfor educators and graduate students in interdisciplinary environments.

    Phase I: development of a conceptual map

    Our participation at each colloquium exposed us to multiple disciplinary perspectiveswithin the social sciences including a range of research methodologies and methods tar-geting at-risk youth. We discussed and exchanged our observations of those perspec-tives in three separate two-hour round-table discussions. Round-table refers to ameeting of peers for discussion and exchange of views (WordNet Web, 2010) andseveral authors cite the effectiveness of this approach in clarifying group experiences(Arvay, Banister, Hoskins, & Snell, 1999; Saludadez & Garcia, 2001). In our initialdiscussion, we identified components that contributed to our research capacity. Wedid this by asking and answering the following questions: What is research capacity?How has the colloquium contributed to my research capacity? What else is contributingto my research capacity? What impact does our interdisciplinary composition have onmy research capacity? Each of us chose a component(s) and conducted a preliminaryliterature review on research that defined and discussed the component as it relatedto graduate student research capacity and within an interdisciplinary training environ-ment. We brought our findings to the second discussion for critical analysis and sevencomponents were identified. We developed individual conceptual maps depicting therelationship between the components and graduate student research capacity. Webrought our maps to the third discussion. Through a process of discussing, comparingand reading, we completed a conceptual map from the perspective of current collo-quium participants.

    We defined research capacity as a process of individual and institutional develop-ment which leads to higher levels of skills and greater ability to perform usefulresearch (Frontera et al., 2005, p. 69). In addition, we recognized the CYSs interdis-ciplinary research environment as, a cooperative effort by a team of investigators, eachexpert in the use of different methods and concepts, who have joined in an organizedprogram to attack a challenging problem (Marts, 2002, p. 502). To locate our ideaswithin existing perspectives, we conducted a more extensive review of previousstudies that examined each of our components.

    558 M.M. Ryan et al.

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  • Phase II: literature review

    Research training, the acquisition of practical skills associated with conducting research,reportedly increases confidence and self-efficacy in graduate students (Szymanski, Oze-govic, Phillips, & Briggs-Phillips, 2007). Recent inquiry into graduate student researchcapacity suggests the benefit of mentoring relationships between experienced research-ers and graduate students. Specifically, collaborative knowledge-sharing and supervi-sion contribute to graduate student research capacity (Malfroy, 2005). In addition,graduate students perceive support from peers and mentors to be beneficial to theirresearch training across various disciplines including psychology (Love, Bahner,Jones, & Nilsson, 2007), physics, geography, English (Robertson & Blackler, 2006),education (Wood, 2006) and gerontology (Webb, Wangmo, Ewen, Teaster, & Hatch,2009). Further, one-on-one student mentoring reportedly increases research productivity(i.e., research publications and submissions), research career commitment andself-efficacy of doctoral science students (Paglis, Green, & Bauer, 2006; Wayne et al.,2008). Overall, there is some agreement amongst researchers in different disciplinesabout the benefit of research training and mentorship in increasing graduate studentresearch capacity. However, in our literature review we ascertained that there is littleinvestigation into the contributions of multiple and interdisciplinary senior and peermentors to graduate student research capacity development.

    Emerging research suggests that interdisciplinary research training opportunitiescan benefit graduate students who are interested in complex socio-environmental pro-blems (McAlpine & Norton, 2006; Rhoten & Parker, 2004). For instance, doctoral stu-dents from natural resources, agriculture and life sciences and environmental sciencedisciplines reported that interdisciplinary training involving cross-disciplinary course-work can mitigate differences in research methods, disciplinary jargon and paradigmsamong team members (Morse, Nielsen-Pincus, Force, & Wulfhorst, 2007). In a surveyof North American approaches to doctoral education across disciplines, Walker, Golde,Jones, Conklin-Buesche and Hutchings (2008) call for the development of intellectualcommunities by which several faculty members mentor graduate students in order tobuild their research capacity. Moreover, Aboelela and colleagues (2007) found thatinstitutional commitment and faculty leadership are necessary for the success of inter-disciplinary graduate student research capacity development. However, little researchhas identified specific components that mentors can focus on that support researchcapacity development among graduate students.

    Our research extends beyond these discussions by identifying specific componentsto building graduate research capacity. We discuss 12 students experiences of researchcapacity within an interdisciplinary research training and mentoring environment. Wedescribe how our interdisciplinary environment allowed us to consider complex socio-environmental health issues among youth from both our respective disciplinary stand-point and epistemological perspectives from other disciplines. We were afforded anopportunity for interdisciplinary discussion with senior faculty about the merit ofthose differing perspectives in addressing youth health issues. Thus, we offer a graduatestudent perspective on multiple mentoring relationships by presenting students percep-tions about the different ways that they experience mentoring and the benefit of thesedifferences. We note the benefits of colloquium participation in providing a consistentmentoring experience and space to be mentored, and in fostering the development ofstudent-driven initiatives resulting in, for example, the research project on which thispaper reports.

    Higher Education Research & Development 559

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  • Phase III: data analysis

    The third phase of our research aimed to answer the following research question: Is ourconceptual map reflective of previous CYS graduate students ideas about what contrib-utes to research capacity development in an interdisciplinary environment? To answerour question, we analyzed secondary data from six past colloquium participants fromthe disciplines of applied psychology, sociology, education, educational psychologyand counseling psychology. Secondary analysis is the re-use of existing data, collectedfor prior purposes, to investigate new questions (Heaton, 2004). Former colloquiumparticipants were contacted one year following their graduation and invited to partici-pate in a 1.5-hour semi-structured interview. Apart from the absence of nursing gradu-ate students, this cohort was similar in composition to our current colloquium group.Questions that they had responded to included the following: In what capacity didyou participate in the CYS? In what types of knowledge exchange did you participateas a member of the CYS? What was your experience of university-community...

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