Undergrads Co-Author Research Methodology Book

From the August 2013 Desktop News Three undergraduate students in the College can now add “published author” to their resumes after a recent book project with their mentor, Dr. Mark Lanier, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice. The book, Advanced Research Methods for the Social Sciences, was published by Cognella Academic Publishing this year and will be used for the first time this fall in criminal justice courses at UA and other universities such as San Diego State University.

Lanier set out to publish a research methodology textbook for students that would be accessible and make the topic more interesting to students. Lanier has published 12 other books and used other texts to teach research methodology. For this book, Lanier took an unusual approach to make the text more student-driven. He recruited students to compose many of the book’s essential sections because he felt students can best gauge what other students can comprehend and how they think.

“Professors should strive to help students reach their full potential. With enough hard work and training, bright and motivated students can accomplish great things and prepare themselves for future graduate studies and careers,” Lanier said. “Undergraduates are just as capable, and often more motivated, to take instruction and work hard. That is the foundation of good research.”

Lanier chose three students based on their outstanding classroom performance to be his co-authors. Jonathan Reid, a recent graduate who majored in criminal justice, wrote the chapter on qualitative research. Katlyn Stricklend, a senior double majoring in political science and criminal justice, wrote the chapter on quantitative methods. Catherine Ford, a recent graduate who majored in criminal justice, composed the section on mixed methods.

Reid, who is originally from Kingston, Jamaica, says his work for the book helped him build confidence in his writing abilities. He did not anticipate that his resume would include “published author” – among other titles such as 1st Team All American for track and field, 1st Team Academic All American, and member of the Junior Olympic team for Jamaica. Reid graduated from UA this month and will enter the doctoral program for criminal justice at Florida State University this fall.

Stricklend, from Arab, Ala., also felt the experience helped her academically. Originally daunted by the task of a 20-page research proposal for her methods course, Stricklend found that writing for the book helped her synthesize her own research into a format that both she and other students could understand. While at UA, she has maintained higher than a 4.0 grade point average and she participates in numerous extra-curricular activities: mentoring at-risk youth at Holt Elementary School, serving as ambassador for Capstone Men and Women, and working with the SGA. Stricklend is scheduled to graduate in 2014 and plans to attend law school.

Ford, from Key West, Fla., was a crew athlete and worked at the University’s Recreation Center while completing undergraduate coursework at UA. As her book chapter’s introduction explains, she did not consider herself to be an above average student, only one who hoped to complete her course requirements. After her collaboration with Lanier and her co-authors, Ford found that she could offer readers a unique perspective on such an important part of social science. Lanier said he found that her writing ability exceeded that of most graduate students and even some instructors. Ford is now employed in Washington, D.C. for the second largest IT staffing firm where she works on creating intelligence analysis positions for the U.S. government.

All the proceeds from the international sales of the textbook will be donated to a scholarship that has been set up by Lanier to benefit students in the College of Arts and Sciences. If you are interested in learning how to contribute to this fund, please contact Kathy Yarbrough, director of development for the College, at kathy.yarbrough@ua.edu.