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OU offers resources, guidance to encourage student research

Ohio University offers many different research materials accessible to students. As an academic institution, students conducting research is not only possible but encouraged. Additionally, there is a wide range of types of research that can be conducted for both personal and academic reasons.

The Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections at Alden Library allows students to learn about OU-specific history as well as other great insight into historical events, literature and people.

The university archives specialist, William Kimok, seeks to provide students with useful information for a variety of purposes such as a project or paper.

"The archives hold 220 years of university history,” Kimok said. “It ranges from the really boring stuff like the Board of Trustees meeting minutes, president papers and Faculty Senate papers, to the more important student-related material like scrapbooks, yearbooks and student newspapers." 

Right now, Kimok is doing a Founders Day exhibit showcasing World War II as told by The Post, illustrating what campus life was like at OU during the war.

Another component of the Mahn Center focuses on rare books. Miriam Intrator, the rare books specialist, described the importance of the rare book collection when referring to the medieval manuscript collection.

“Every manuscript is unique, they were all hand-crafted completely and each one shares its own history," she said.

Intrator also highlighted other rare book collections such as the techniques of bookmaking and history of papermaking to understand how books have evolved. Other rare book collections include, 17th through 19th century British and American literature which includes many women-authored books, history of science and artist books.

The manuscript archives specialist, Greta Suiter, said the majority of manuscripts are relating to military history. One of the biggest military history manuscript collections comes from Cornelius Ryan during WWII. In addition to writing three books during the war, Ryan collected an ample amount of data.

“He interviewed people that were actually there via questionnaires that he would have them fill out,” Suiter said. “We've got thousands of these questionnaires that give us an everyday person's perspective of the war." 

The archive specialists discussed the importance of the archives by emphasizing the benefits of getting information from primary sources.

“People get to see the records and make their own decisions about what this thing means and its significance,” Kimok said.

Another form of research frequently done through the university are research studies. Research studies involve gathering data, testing hypotheses and interpreting results, rather than using documents to learn more about a topic and are typically done by graduate students. 

Orhan Kocatas, a graduate student in the Patton College of Education, recently conducted a research study about asynchronous and synchronous online classes. Kocatas described the beginning stages of a research study as a long process. 

“Researchers should start earlier than they planned," he said.

Before a research study can begin, the area of study must first be approved by a professor to ensure the student took all the appropriate classes beforehand.

After approval, Kocatas said the student must take a comprehensive exam, which contains four questions. The comprehensive exam asks students to create a literature review of their research topic, state theories for their research, list methods and explain proposals. Students get around two weeks to complete their comprehensive exam which typically is 60-80 pages long.

After passing the comprehensive exam, the study must be approved by a board of professors and the Institutional Review Board. A student brings their proposal to the board of professors, proposals include what was written in the comprehensive exam but are more thorough. 

"They give you some feedback, comments, and you need to fix that," Kocatas said.

Once approved by professors, the proposal must be approved by the Institutional Review Board, an ethics committee that has to approve studies with human participants. That step, Kocatas said, can take the longest, and varies from study to study.

After getting approval from both boards, the student must find participants and start their study, Kocatas said. It can be difficult, but many people choose to do research studies through the school because it is easier to get many participants and data. Kocatas said he struggled to find participants for his study. He said he originally wanted 1,000 participants, but has only received feedback from 380 participants.

Some classes require students to participate in research studies which helps researchers in collecting a sufficient amount of data. Melanie Horn, a junior studying aviation, participated in an in-person study last year. Students have the opportunity to receive credits for participating in research.

“I had a psychology class, and they required six credits for it,” Horn said, “I went back three times, but it was over a three day period. The first day I went there one time and one time again and then three times on the third day.” 

Horn described the researchers she interacted with as formal, and said participating in the study felt like going to a doctor’s appointment. Still, overall she preferred it to the online studies.

Kocatas has finished his data collection and is now onto the final steps of a research study, results and discussion, where he will analyze and discuss the data he collected. The research study will then be concluded, Kocatas said, and he will publish his findings. 

OU offers additional research methods to students and staff, such as engineering and technology research through the Russ Research Center, sponsored research programs and laboratory animal resources. The archive specialists said OU students, staff, as well as Athens residents are all encouraged to check out the archives and learn more about any documents that seem interesting.


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