Entering Research Curriculum

Entering Research Conceptual Framework

The Entering Research conceptual framework is grounded in the literature on research trainee development and research program effectiveness. It includes learning objectives in seven areas of trainee development that incorporate several theories shown to be relevant to various aspects of research trainee development. For a full description of the conceptual framework, see Branchaw, Butz and Smith (2020).

The Entering Research curriculum is available from Macmillan or the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research.

Seven Areas of Trainee Development

  1. Research Comprehension and Communication Skills
    • Develop Effective Interpersonal Communication Skills
    • Develop Disciplinary Knowledge
    • Develop Research Communication Skills
    • Develop Logical/Critical Thinking Skills
    • Develop an Understanding of the Research Environment
  2. Practical Research Skills
    • Develop Ability to Design a Research Project
    • Develop Ability to Conduct a Research Project
  3. Research Ethics
    • Develop Responsible and Ethical Research Practices
  4. Researcher Identity
    • Develop Identity as a Researcher
  5. Researcher Confidence and Independence
    • Develop Confidence as a Researcher
    • Develop Independence as a Researcher
  6. Equity and Inclusion Awareness and Skills
    • Develop Skills to Deal with Personal Differences in the Research Environment
    • Advance Equity and Inclusion in the Research Environment
  7. Professional and Career Development Skills
    • Explore and Pursue a Research Career
    • Develop Confidence in Pursuing a Research Career

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Entering Research Curriculum

The Entering Research curriculum is a collection of nearly 100 evidence-based activities for undergraduate and graduate research trainees that can be mixed and matched to create new customized curricula or be integrated into existing research training program curricula. Each activity is aligned to the Entering Research conceptual framework and contains trainee materials and detailed facilitator instructions to guide implementation. The curriculum is designed to create inclusive learning communities that structure the research experience, clarify behavioral and performance expectations, and develop the social and cultural capital in trainees needed to successfully navigate the research environment.

Purchase comprehensive curriculum from Macmillan

Download individual activities from CIMER

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Entering Research Learning Assessment (ERLA)

The Entering Research Learning Assessment (ERLA) was developed to align with the Entering Research conceptual framework. It expands upon the scope of previous undergraduate research assessment tools and includes two surveys, a trainee self-assessment of learning gains and mentor assessment of trainee learning gains. The parallel surveys can be used with both undergraduate and graduate trainees to measure learning across the seven areas of trainee development. Survey results can be aligned and compared. See Butz and Branchaw (2020) for evidence of content validity, internal structure validity (confirmatory factor analysis and factor loadings), convergent validity, and internal consistency of the instruments.

The ERLA, along with other research experience assessment and implementation evaluation tools, is available in the Entering Research book.  In addition, trained facilitators of Entering Research and our research collaborators are eligible to access online versions of these instruments and aggregate reports of their data free of charge. To inquire about research collaboration opportunities, please contact enteringresearch@education.wisc.edu.

Entering Research Scholarly Products and Publications

Branchaw, J.L., Butz, A.R., and Smith, A.R. (2020) Evaluation of Entering Research: A Customizable Curriculum for Apprentice-Style Undergraduate and Graduate Research Training Programs and CoursesLife Sciences Education.

Branchaw, J. L., Butz, A. R., and Smith, A. R. (2020) Entering Research: A Curriculum to Support Undergraduate and Graduate Research Trainees, 2nd ed., Macmillan.

Butz, A. R. and Branchaw, J. L. (2020). Entering Research Learning Assessment (ERLA): Validity Evidence for an Instrument to Measure Undergraduate and Graduate Research Trainee DevelopmentLife Sciences Education.

Balster, N. J., Pfund, C., Rediske, R., & Branchaw, J. L. (2010). Entering Research: A course that creates community and structure for beginning undergraduate researchers in the STEM disciplinesCBE Life Sciences Education 9(2) 108-118.

Branchaw, J. L., Pfund, C., and Rediske, R. (2010) Entering Research Facilitator’s Manual: Workshops for Students Beginning Research in Science, Freeman & Company.

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The Future of Entering Research

To understand which Entering Research curricular activities are most effective with trainees from different backgrounds and at varying career stages, a dissemination and implementation research project Is underway to investigate how and with whom the curriculum is being used. Research training program directors interested in using the Entering Research curriculum and collaborating on this research project (or other research projects!) are encouraged to contact the authors at enteringresearch@education.wisc.edu.

The History of Entering Research

The first draft of the Entering Research curriculum was created as documentation of the activities used by the UW-Madison’s Institute for Biology Education’s summer research program for undergraduate students. Seed funding for this project was provided by the Institute for Biology Education and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professors Grant awarded to UW-Madison Professor Jo Handelsman in 2005. In 2007, funding to create a formal curriculum was awarded by the National Science Foundation as part of an Undergraduate Research and Mentoring in the Biological Sciences (URMBS) grant (NSF DBI-0731564; Branchaw, PI). The first edition of the Entering Research curriculum was published in 2010 (Branchaw, Pfund & Rediske, 2010).

The first edition of Entering Research was designed as a two-semester course sequence for undergraduate students beginning research in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). Testing the impact of this curriculum showed that students enrolled in the Entering Research course reported statistically significantly higher gains in their skills, knowledge and confidence as researchers relative to a comparison group of students engaged in undergraduate research, but not enrolled in the course (Balster, Pfund, Rediske and Branchaw, 2010).

There was general enthusiasm from the research training community about the first edition of the Entering Research curriculum and specific feedback revealed that many of the activities were being used successfully with beginning graduate student researchers, not just undergraduate student researchers. From the feedback, it became clear that reorganizing the curriculum to provide more flexibility and support to users in identifying activities that would be most useful to their trainees would make it more accessible and customizable for practitioners. This feedback guided revision and development of the second edition of the curriculum.

Funding to support the revision and development of the second edition of Entering Research was provided as part of a National Institutes of Health grant to establish the National Research Mentoring Network (NIH U54RM13017; Burgess, Pfund, Okeyemi & Vishwanatha, Co-PIs) and by the UW-Madison Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement (WISCIENCE, formerly the Institute for Biology Education). A team of STEM research training practitioners and social scientists from across the country was assembled to contribute to and guide the development of the second edition (Branchaw, Butz and Smith, 2020).

All of the original Entering Research activities were updated and many new activities were created for the second edition. To ground the curriculum in the literature, the Entering Research conceptual framework was developed from research on trainee development and was refined to maximize use by research training program directors by the development team. The conceptual framework allows training program directors to identify and select appropriate activities to use with their trainees based on need and career stage. The second edition was extensively pilot tested at training sites across the country (Branchaw, Butz and Smith, in review).

In addition to the curriculum, a new learning assessment instrument (the Entering Research Learning Assessment, ERLA) to support research training program directors to measure their trainees’ learning gains was also developed and evidence of validity was collected (Butz and Branchaw, in review). The ERLA is available as part of the published curriculum from MacMillan and will soon be available on the CIMER Common Assessment Platform as part of the Entering Research project group.

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Janet Branchaw
Amanda Butz
Amber Smith