Evolving Attitudes Toward Research in Undergraduate Nursing Honors Students

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Shana Porter, BSN
Paige Mocek, BSN
Desiree Hensel, PhD
School of Nursing, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA


While there is a growing body of literature that supports the use of undergraduate research to capture student interest and to create enthusiasm that leads to higher levels of engagement, there are many unanswered questions about what models lead to best student learning outcomes. Q methodology, or Q for short, is a set of philosophical principles, data collection techniques, and statistical procedures to study subjectivity that can be used to generate theory, test theory, or evaluate program outcomes (Hensel, 2016a; Ramlo, 2015; Ramlo, 2016). When used for undergraduate research, Q is thought to contribute to positive student and faculty outcomes (Hensel, 2016b). The purpose of this project was to evaluate changes in attitudes about research among a cohort of five nursing students who conducted Q methodology studies as part of an undergraduate honors program.


Institutional Board Review (IRB) was obtained to conduct this Q methodology study. The five nursing honors students generated a set of statements, referred to as the concourse, which reflected both positive and negative beliefs about undergraduate research. Statements from the literature research supplemented the naturalist concourse. After reviewing all statements for range and repletion, 36 statements were retained and printed individually on a deck of cards for sorting. The 5 nursing research honors course students were asked to rank order their level of agreement and disagreement on a -4 to +4 sorting sheet with each statement based under two conditions of instructions. First they sorted the items based on their current attitudes about research, after having participated in one semester of the nursing honors program. During this semester students had completed their literature review, designed their Q study and submitted their proposal to IRB. One student had collected data, but not yet analyzed it. Next students completed a seconded sort based on how they felt about research before they began the honors program. Data analysis, including principal component factor analysis, was completed using a standard process described by Watts and Stenner (2012) with Ken Q software.


Participants generally disagreed with the statement “research isn’t important for my career.” A 2- factors final solution explained 70% of the variance. Factor 1 explained 42% of the variance and was characterized by the statements “undergraduate research could distinguish me among other graduates,” and “doing undergraduate research could help me get into advanced education programs, like graduate school.” Seven sorts loaded on Factor 1, including all sorts completed under the current attitudes conditions of instructions. Factor 2 was characterized by the statements “undergraduate research is intimidating” and “I don’t have enough time to participate in undergraduate research.” This factor explained 28% of the variance with 3 positive loading of sorts done based on attitudes before engaging in the honors program..


This is the first study to look at outcomes from using Q methodology for undergraduate nursing honors research. This study found that while students had overall positive attitudes toward the importance of research, it was intimidating to some. After engaging in one semester of an honors program and designing a Q study all students strongly believed that they benefited professionally from participation in the program. The structured processes associated with doing a Q study are thought to support meaningful research that can be completed by undergraduates (Hensel, 2016), but what role study design played in the shifting of three students’ perspectives is unclear. Future research is needed to understand how research design impacts student success in undergraduate research.