This Work in Progress (WIP) paper will detail a mixed methods approach to exploring undergraduate student researcher identity. In recent years, the notion of engineering identity has increased in popularity in engineering education research as a consideration for career choice and persistence in the field. While this explosion of engineering identity work has laid the foundation for a variety of perspectives on the topic, one area which has been less explored is mixed methods approaches to analyzing identity. Our work focuses on the concept of undergraduate research identity in engineering and explores students’ experiences through a quantitative survey and connected qualitative interviews. Our analysis aims to answer the research question: What are the differences between how students conceptualize their researcher identity in a survey and in interviews? With this information, we hope to better understand researcher identity and better support students in their career choices related to research.
Undergraduate research has been identified as a high impact practice, which has the potential to significantly enhance a student’s academic experience. However, little is known about the impact of these experiences on a student’s identity as a researcher. Through this multi-phased, multi-institution research project, we aim to better understand engineering students’ identity development with respect to their researcher identity. Our data set includes surveys and interviews with 20 undergraduate researchers. For this WIP, we are specifically analyzing the responses to the survey question “Do you see yourself as a researcher?” to which students could answer on an anchored scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being “No, not at all” and 7 being “Yes, very much.” We pair these results with interview questions aimed at understanding students’ current view of their researcher identity and their reasoning behind their survey choices. The interviews often led students to think more deeply about their researcher identity and delve into the ways their own skills and interests match or do not match their research mentors and colleagues.
Findings from our work include an overview about the similarities and differences between the survey and interview responses along with explanations to why some changes occurred from the perspective of the participants. Findings also include a categorization of research identity based on a continuum which developed through our mixed methods techniques. Additionally, this work explores the ways that a mixed method approach can reveal inconsistencies between qualitative and quantitative findings that provide insights from the data that would not be possible using quantitative or qualitative analyses alone.
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