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    ECON 300

    ECON 300: Introduction to Research Methodology

    Use of blogs to narrate each student’s research process. Originally each student had their own blog, but this allowed students to avoid seeing each others’ posts. A better approach is to use a multi-user blog where all posts appear in a common space. (This could be done with individual blogs and an aggregator.)

    The blogs serve four purposes:

    It enabled students to see that others in the course were running into similar difficulties. The blog allowed me to leverage my efforts by answering common questions once, rather than each time a different student ran into them. It also provided a means for students to help each other by responding to questions or suggesting solutions to problems. The blog helped me identify students with problems in their research earlier than I would have without the blog. More generally, the blog really did provide a window into the students’ research processes.

    1. Students did see that they were running into the same problems. This year no one asked, “What’s wrong with me?”

    2. Blogging really did provide a window into the students’ research processes. It was very clear who was working and who wasn’t.

    Research is unlike most other assignments undergraduates face.

    The principal difference is that research has no clear answer; indeed, some research questions may not have any answer.

    This makes research tough for undergraduates. For this reason, I’ve looked for ways to develop community or team spirit in the students.

    Every time I teach this course, about 2/3 of the way through the term a third to a half of my students come to me with the same issue:

    They have worked and worked and worked on some problem and have made no progress. What’s wrong with them, they want to know?

    The answer is nothing is wrong with them, rather that’s the nature of an ill-structured problem, which is what genuine research is.

    I’m hoping that the research blog will help students see that others are having the same problems;

    I should be able to comment on one student’s blog instead of speaking separately to a number of students.

    2. I’m hoping that by reading the blog postings I will get a better sense of how students are progressing in their research.

    3. The blog should also provide incentives for students to make a substantive start to their research earlier in the term, since if they haven’t done any work, it should be fairly apparent in their postings.

    I had intended to blog along with the students, but I’ve actually taken it a step further. It occurred to me that I could model the parts of the research process they were involved in.