Relevance: Undergraduate Student Interest

If your department is like many most it offers an introductory no-prerequisites course. It’s the course to recruit (or select out) department minors & majors. It may even be a “core” course required for all students in your “school.” Can you picture students who take that course?

Next, think of a research paper you’re working on. Given 20 minutes in front of that undergraduate course audience could you contextualize, describe, and facilitate a compelling discussion of your research?

If you answered “yes,” congratulations! Well done. If you answered “no,” is it because (a) your research is still too fuzzy, (b) the topic is too arcane or (c) your work make a strong theory contribution in a sub-discipline with little practical relevance?

It’s a fair response that undergraduate student interest may be an irrelevant objective anyway. Nonetheless, it seems to me answers (a) and (b) don’t bode well for publishable research. Answer (c) looks like a juicy rationalization. So perhaps it is a question worth considering.

What do you think?

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2 Responses

  1. I agree Steve. Some may argue that undergraduate student interest may be irrelevant, but we should consider the fact that undergrads will one day be managers and users of IT. Another good (and perhaps obvious) audience is practitioners. One difference between undergrads and practitioners is that we can assume that practitioners will be better able to appreciate the aim of our research. The reasoning is that many undergrads, especially those in the traditional age range of 18-22, live in a vacuum. Undergrads most likely do not have a working knowledge of the business world. Therefore they may not be able to determine the relevance of our research. Perhaps we could use undergrads as a first litmus test to determine the “feasibility” or “logic” of our ideas. Then based on their feedback, we can throw our ideas to practitioners.

  2. You can do the same test with an MBA class.

    Another way to ask the same question is to think about how what MBA student are taught should change based on what you are learning in the course of doing your research.

    If the answer is ‘not at all’ then you either have discovered an completely new area (so design the course to go with it), you are doing pure replication (i.e. low impact research), or you don’t have good grasp of what MBA’s are being taught…

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