There is a growing emphasis on using systematically-collected data to inform institutional planning and decision-making at Cornell. As a result, our faculty, staff and, to an even greater extent, our students are increasingly asked to take part in a variety of research activities, particularly web-based surveys. However important and well intentioned these research efforts, this greater volume of research activity increases the likelihood of duplication in the types of data being collected and decreases the likelihood that people will agree to participate in a given research project. The Student & Campus Life Research Group was established to address these concerns.
To promote best practices in the design, implementation and use of research conducted within the division of Student & Campus Life by:
- Cataloging and coordinating research activities
- Increasing awareness and use of existing data
- Providing consultation on research design
- Providing formal review of research proposals
- Promoting the use and dissemination of research results within the Cornell community
Scope of Activities
The intent of this committee is to co-ordinate, support and review the conduct of research within Student & Campus Life (SCL). Any research activity conducted by or within Student and Academic Services falls under the purview of this committee. Studies of Cornell students conducted by SCL professionals constitute most of this activity, but research involving Cornell faculty and staff as participants is also of interest. External requests to collect data from Cornell constituents that are directed toward an SCL representative should also be brought to the attention of this committee. While web-based surveys are the most common research methodology proposed, the committee focus includes and encourages the use of other data collection methods such as interviews or focus groups.
Calendar of Campus Research Activities
In an institution as large and decentralized as Cornell, it is difficult for researchers to be informed of other research activities that have been or soon will be conducted. To address this issue, the committee maintains a web-based calendar of S&CL-based research activities, as well as research projects that originate beyond SCL, when known. The intent of the calendar is to provide a snapshot of the nature, timing and volume of ongoing research. We encourage researchers to consult this calendar in the early stages of planning their own projects, and to inform the committee of the dates and foci of their own research projects so these can be added to the calendar. Researchers should contact Marne Einarson to have their projects added to this calendar.
Support for Research Activities
SCL researchers are encouraged to seek guidance from the committee for any research project, large or small. Depending upon the scope of the project and the nature of the advice being sought, researchers may request and receive such guidance very informally – for example, by e-mailing or talking with one or a few committee members. In other instances, the researcher may benefit most from presenting his/her proposed research plan to the committee as a whole.
For projects that stand to impose a significant burden on participants, formal review and approval by the committee will be required. More information on when and how to submit a research proposal for formal review by SCLRG is available here.
In addition, other resources intended to support the conduct of research within SCL are available through the committee web site including: guidelines for surveying students; and links to other research-related web pages within Cornell, such as the Institutional Review Board for Human Participants, the University Registrar, the Survey Research Institute, and the Office of Institutional Research and Planning.
To take full advantage of the committee’s resources, we encourage researchers to allow ample time – we recommend a minimum of three to four months – to develop and fine tune their research plans. Even more planning time may be needed if the researcher is unsure about the methodology he/she wishes to use or is developing a new instrument.
SCL researchers are also expected to be familiar and in compliance with relevant University policies such as those concerning electronic mail use (Policy 5.2 Mass Electronic Mailing; Policy 5.5 Stewardship and Custodianship of Electronic Mail) and data security (Policy 4.5 Access to Student Information; Policy 4.12 Data Stewardship and Custodianship).
Dissemination of Research Results
The committee provides opportunities for researchers to share the results of their projects with colleagues. This can take the form of presentations scheduled as part of the committee meeting time or in a separate venue such as a “brown bag” lunch session. Survey instruments and summaries of research results may also be posted on the committee website.