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EDITORIAL
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Student research projects: Are we achieving the intended outcomes?


Spring Physiotherapy Centre and CEBNR, 985 Lakshmana Swami Salai, KK Nagar, Chennai - 600 078, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication19-Jun-2018

Correspondence Address:
K Hariohm
Spring Physiotherapy Centre and CEBNR, 985 Lakshmana Swami Salai, KK Nagar, Chennai - 600 078, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/PJIAP.PJIAP_21_18

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How to cite this article:
Hariohm K. Student research projects: Are we achieving the intended outcomes?. Physiother - J Indian Assoc Physiother 2018;12:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Hariohm K. Student research projects: Are we achieving the intended outcomes?. Physiother - J Indian Assoc Physiother [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Sep 23];12:1-2. Available from: http://www.pjiap.org/text.asp?2018/12/1/1/234688

With increasing thrust on academicians to improve their research productivity during the past decade, student research projects are now increasingly being published in peer-reviewed journals. Overall, this trend can be seen as a positive sign as it reflects higher research productivity of Indian physiotherapists working in academic settings. Student research project is a significant component of physiotherapy curriculum, especially in postgraduate programs.[1] Student research project serves key objectives of physiotherapy curriculum. Introducing physiotherapy students to research process as a core element of physiotherapy curriculum can help to (a) develop critical thinking ability and understand the relationship between clinical practice and research; (b) hone their skills in critically appraising published research; and (c) expose them to “hands-on” research experience. Further, student involvement in research projects with experienced and competent faculties can foster productive interactions and promote enriched learning experiences to both faculties and students. These objectives and the intended outcomes can be well achieved when students take part in different stages of research project, such as critically reviewing research literature, developing a research problem, designing research method, collecting data, and writing the manuscript for publications.[1] However, many physiotherapy postgraduate programs require students to assume primary role in the research project and faculties act in a supervisory role as a “guide.” This can pose serious challenge to both the students and the faculties guiding the research projects and eventually undermine the value of research process and the original purpose of introducing student research projects in the curriculum.

Student-led research projects have inherent challenges which are difficult to overcome within the existing academic scenario. The primary responsibility of conducting research includes designing research, adhere to ethical principles and standards, and safeguard the rights and welfare of all human participants and more. Students who enter into the postgraduate program often have minimal or no prior experience in designing or conducting research. Thus, expecting students to be primary contributor of a research project can be an unrealistic burden, and it can interfere with fulfilling their primary educational requirements of postgraduate program. Students have neither expertise nor skills to carry such major responsibilities.

Student research projects are typically obligated to be completed within short period, usually about 6–8 months which is insufficient to design, conduct, analyze the data, and submit final report. The primary focus is on completing and submitting the research report within the given period. Consequently, key elements essential for conducting good research such as a comprehensive and critical review of existing literature corresponding to the research area do not receive adequate time and attention. Measures to improve methodological rigor such as randomization, blinding, a priori sample size calculation, and adequate follow-up of the study participants are overlooked; fidelity of the research methods including data analysis based on a priori hypothesis is compromised. Some might argue that not all student projects meet the same fate. This argument might also be true. Such student projects, however, are more likely to be an exception. Overall, given the existing system and conditions within which student projects are conducted, the potential of these research works in making valuable contribution to the existing body of knowledge is questionable. Thus, publication of such student projects in peer-reviewed journals may not be justifiable.

Jules Rothstein, Editor-in-Chief, Emeritus of the Physical Therapy Journal (1989–2005), recommended that physiotherapy education programs should discontinue the practice of requiring research projects of professional students.[2] He argued that “within the confines of professional education, students cannot possibly understand the nuances of questions, assimilate the background literature, develop theoretical bases, and comprehend measurement and design issues.” (p332)[2] Although his recommendation might sound radical and outlandish, it is something we cannot totally reject. We need to rethink our current methods through which students receive training and exposure in research environment. Student's role in research projects needs to be redefined. Students taking a significant part in research projects lead by experienced and competent faculties need to be encouraged not the vice versa. In academic institutions with shortage of faculties with research expertise, students can be assigned tasks such as reviewing and critically examining research literature on the theoretical bases for treatment and evaluation and implementing scientific rigor in the documentation of treatment and outcome.[2] We need to initiate discussions and debates among academicians and researchers about revising current education system and academic regulations governing student research projects, especially at postgraduate level. How student research projects can be made valuable in achieving learning outcomes of postgraduate programs should be one of our priorities.

 
  References Top

1.
Connolly BH, Lupinnaci NS, Bush AJ. Changes in attitudes and perceptions about research in physical therapy among professional physical therapist students and new graduates. Phys Ther 2001;81:1127-34.  Back to cited text no. 1
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2.
Rothstein JM. Living without student research projects. Phys Ther 1992;72:332-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
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