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Developing Research Competence in Undergraduate Students through Hands on Learning
Evidence-based practice is the foundation of nutrition and dietetics. To effectively apply evidence-based practice, health professionals must understand the basis of research. Previous work has identified the lack of involvement of dietitians in research. As part of a curriculum redevelopment in undergraduate nutrition and dietetics courses, research skill teaching was enhanced. This study evaluated the effect of a new, year two level nutrition research methods unit on the perceived research skills of students. The unit consisted of two key components: a student-led class research project and a small group systematic literature review. Prior to commencement and on completion of the course, students completed a modified version of the Research Skills Questionnaire. Results demonstrated that self-perceived competence increased by a small degree in a set of specific research skills as well as in broader skills such as information gathering and handling, information evaluation, ability to work independently, and critical thinking. The new research unit was also evaluated highly on a student satisfaction survey. Despite these positive findings, students indicated that their general feelings towards research or a career in research were unchanged. In summary, this unit enhanced students' perceived research skills. Further exploration of students' attitude towards research is warranted.
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