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Extracurricular scholarship? But…I already have so much to do!

Since joining the MSP faculty in 2012, I’ve had the privilege of working with and mentoring students through inviting them to collaborate on my research.  But, with so many chapters and articles to read, and with so many papers to write, what value is there in doing even more reading and writing?!  

Recently, students from my research team were asked to speak about their experiences of engaging in research as part of my team.  This opportunity allowed for a unique opportunity to eavesdrop on their thoughts about how being involved in research has added to their professional development.  

While discussing their experiences, students shared that they felt their critical thinking skills had been sharpened by assisting in study design, analyzing literature and preparing IRB applications.  While one student shared that the way she thinks about things has shifted and she now has “more questions” she’d like to explore.  Another noted that being involved in research helped demystify the publication process and he found that “it’s not as hard as I thought it was.”  Students shared that their involvement helped them better understand statistics or improved their writing skills.  Most noted that they felt more confident about conducting their own dissertation studies than before they joined the research team.  Some students also felt that presenting at conferences improved their ability to speak in front of others and felt that having presentations at a professional conference or publications on their curriculum vitae would give them an edge and something to talk about while completing interviews for internships or jobs.

While the benefits of engaging in research appear clear, they do come at a cost.  In addition to the many noted benefits, students shared that participating on the team required them to practice good time management skills and be planful about when they would complete team-related versus class-related responsibilities.

As the new school year begins and as we welcome new faces to the MSP campus, I’d like to encourage our incoming and current students to consider what scholarship/research-related goals they have for the next year.  For those interested in becoming engaged in research, I’d suggest the following:

  1. Consider what skill(s) you hope to improve through engaging in scholarship
  2. Identify faculty and advanced students that share your interest in a topic
  3. Be open to learning about topics outside of your interest area
  4. Read and become familiar with current theories and findings that can help you shape your research question
  5. Settle on a specific, clear research question so that the project stays manageable in terms of design complexity and time requirements
  6. Build a relationship with a faculty mentor who can provide critical feedback and guidance on how to improve and complete your study


Dustin Shepler, PhD psychology associate By: Dustin K. Shepler, PhD, Core Faculty at MSP