Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Exploring Graduate Students' Attitudes towards Team Research and Their Scholarly Productivity: A Survey Guided by the Theory of Planned Behavior

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Exploring Graduate Students' Attitudes towards Team Research and Their Scholarly Productivity: A Survey Guided by the Theory of Planned Behavior

Article excerpt

Introduction

Graduate students' scholarly productivity is critical to their future careers. Graduate education is considered to "put a great emphasis on research skills and research-based decision making that is beyond the capabilities of most undergraduate students" (Moore, Tatum, & Sebetan 2011, p. 67); Posselt and Black (2012) also noted that the mission of postgraduate education is the training of the next generation of researchers. Therefore, expectations are placed upon graduate students with regard to their scholarly productivity. For example, many leading academic departments have required their graduate students to publish at least one or two research articles in scholarly journals as part of their graduation requirements (Lei & Chuang, 2009). Although universities may have different requirements for master's and doctoral students, Bourke and Holbrook (2013) indicated that their research theses are not evaluated using qualitatively different criteria, though doctoral students in general receive higher quality grading. Based on a U.S. sample consisting of both master's and doctoral students, Barrick, Easterly, and Rieger (2011) also found that the largest portion of these graduate students indicate their career goals to be in research and development. A graduate student, whether pursing a master's or doctorate degree, gets immersed in a research-oriented environment upon entering graduate school.

Naturally, these research-oriented environments differ in the level of collaboration. Collaboration is defined as "the coming together of diverse interests and people to achieve a common purpose via interactions, information sharing, and coordination of activities" (Jassawala & Sashittal, 1998, p. 239). In a graduate school setting, new incoming students tend to be more technology advanced than the existing faculty, and the existing faculty and graduate student population is more diverse in terms of needs, expectations, backgrounds, and levels of commitment and interests. The acquisition of knowledge and skills is thereby an important function of collaboration, and graduate students may benefit from participating in team research. As Fox (1991) described research as a highly social and political process of communication, interaction, and exchange, graduate students may better fulfill their ambitions through participating in team research. With the involvement of graduate students, research teams are beneficial in terms of research output as well as students' personal developments. An example was given by Hilvers (2012) about the research teams at the Loyola University's Centre for Urban Research and Learning, which had completed 150 research projects since 1996. Most of these teams included community partners, faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and staff. Graduate students were the ones who served as engines of these teams and faculty and community partners were there only when needed. Graduate students processed daily work, mentored undergraduate team members, contacted professors and community partners as needed, and worked closely with the staff of the Centre. Considering the cost of having professors and community partners do all research work and how little time they had, the Centre encouraged all parties to engage graduate students in research. Team research experiences provided a great opportunity for graduate students to learn by practice. Such practices are described by Hilvers (2012) as "throwing graduate students into the 'deep end' of research as a way of teaching them to swim" (p. 22).

Every discipline has its own context and approach to graduate student preparation (Becher, 1984; B. R. Clark, 1987). Particularly, each program has its specific way of conducting research, keeping balance between teaching and research, and the level of collaboration among scholars. While a professor of history or English tends to conduct research alone, a professor of medicine or engineering is more likely to work with a group of colleagues or graduate students (Austin, 2002). …

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