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Student perceptions of relevance in a research methods course

Leanne Owen (Department of Criminal Justice, Neumann University, Aston, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 3 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that a deliberate effort to link course content to students’ personal or professional goals results in increased student perceptions of relevance.


Self-report data were collected using questionnaires that were administered to students in a research methods course over a period of three semesters. Results were compared in order to determine whether the introduction of guest speakers, hands-on activities, and pertinent video clips fostered greater perceptions of relevance in specific learning units.


Although there was some variation, data revealed that students reported the greatest increases in their perceptions of specific course content as relevant if that content was explicitly and clearly linked to a potentially practical professional application.

Research limitations/implications

The sample size was inconsistent and self-report studies may be viewed as unreliable. The instrument used may benefit from the inclusion of concrete behavioral frequency statements.

Practical implications

If faculty members can make explicit connections and persuade students’ perceptions of the relevance of course content, students may develop greater motivation to learn, a deeper understanding of the material, and a propensity for long-term transfer.


Although a number of studies have investigated the causal link between perceived relevance of course content and the attainment of academic or professional goals, none have tracked changes in student perceptions of relevance as a direct result of deliberate faculty efforts to make the relevance of course content explicitly clear for students.



Owen, L. (2017), "Student perceptions of relevance in a research methods course", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 394-406.



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