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Reed College Receives Grant to Fund Research Skills

Portland, Ore (March 14, 2013) — Reed College has received a $150,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation for a collaborative project called From Evidence to Scholarship: Building Bridges for Undergraduate Research led by the library and computing & information services (CIS).

Traditionally writing a thesis is a graduate-level enterprise, but Reed students are required to write theses during their senior year containing original contributions in their chosen subject areas. The assumption has been that during their first year students would acquire foundational skills that enable them to declare a major their third year and begin doing intense research for a thesis their senior year. This project builds a bridge from first-year introductory courses to the competencies students need to conduct senior-level thesis research in their disciplines.

Dena Hutto, Norman F. Carrigg College Librarian, and Martin Ringle, chief information officer, are the principal investigators on the project, and will work with a team of staff members to implement it.

“It has become obvious that waiting to gain a mastery of digital scholarship skills is counterproductive,” says Ringle. “While many aspects of research skills have traditionally resided in the library, today you have to be equally adept at navigating through digital corridors. Bringing together the expertise of the library and CIS, just makes perfect sense.”

Over the course of the project, eight faculty members will identify essential research competencies for their mid-level science and social science courses, and integrate instruction about these skills into their classes.

New personnel will be added in the library and CIS to support faculty in training students to handle data analysis programs and organize and present resources in a logical way. In addition, new hardware and software will be acquired that aid in citation, the creation of bibliographies and visual data such as maps, graphs and charts. Software currently licensed for creating bibliographies and citation is complex and loads onto individual computers.  Increasingly students favor working on Ipads, creating a demand for accessible software that lives in the cloud.

Scholarly research in any discipline requires a facility with both digital and traditional resources as well as understanding how to evaluate findings, annotate and cite references. This program will help students discriminate between good materials and bad materials, and learn how to marshal those materials in preparing assignments and papers.

“If we can bring in tools with less of a learning curve, we can open it up to students in other majors who are interested in working with data,” says Hutto.

Established in 1954 by William Myron Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company, the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles is one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations. The foundation is primarily focused on making grants in the areas of medical research, science, engineering and undergraduate education.