How do students' perceptions of research and approaches to learning change in undergraduate research?

Research paper by Rintaro R Imafuku, Takuya T Saiki, Chihiro C Kawakami, Yasuyuki Y Suzuki

Indexed on: 13 Apr '15Published on: 13 Apr '15Published in: International journal of medical education


This study aimed to examine how students' perceptions of research and learning change through participation in undergraduate research and to identify the factors that affect the process of their engagement in research projects.This qualitative study has drawn on phenomenography as research methodology to explore third-year medical students' experiences of undergraduate research from participants' perspectives (n=14). Data included semi-structured individual interviews conducted as pre and post reflections. Thematic analysis of pre-course interviews combined with researcher-participant observations informed design of end-of-course interview questions.Phenomenographic data analysis demonstrated qualitative changes in students' perceptions of research. At the beginning of the course, the majority of students ex-pressed a relatively narrow definition of research, focusing on the content and outcomes of scientific research. End-of-course reflections indicated increased attention to research processes including researcher autonomy, collaboration and knowledge construction processes. Furthermore, acknowledgement of the linkage between research and learning processes indicated an epistemological change leading them to take a deep approach to learning in undergraduate research. Themes included: an inquiring mind, synthesis of knowledge, active participation, collaborative and reflective learning. However, they also encountered some difficulties in undertaking group research projects. These were attributed to their prior learning experiences, differences in valuing towards interpersonal communication, understanding of the research process, and social relationships with others.This study provided insights into the potential for undergraduate research in medical education. Medical students' awareness of the linkage between research and learning may be one of the most important outcomes in the undergraduate research process.