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Chasing the research question with data: The development of a data assignment for undergraduates

Presenter 1
Katharin Peter
University of Southern California

For many students, the Library’s contribution to the research process begins and ends with the literature review. In these cases, librarians might assist students with pre-defined research questions or broad research topics to locate existing literature, primary sources, and data. However, as studies have shown, students often struggle with the first step of research: developing a viable question. This presents a unique opportunity for librarians and, especially, data librarians to provide guidance while at the same time supporting campus-wide initiatives to improve critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and information literacy skills. Specifically, a small, data-based assignment for undergraduates could be employed to help students identify a research question. This paper will present the results of a series of pilot projects in which undergraduate international relations students were tasked with developing research proposals based on exploratory analyses of statistical databases from international and non-governmental organizations. The paper will discuss the development, outcomes, and assessment of data assignments piloted over the past two years and including traditional lectures, hands-on data labs, and online modules.

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