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First steps into research

13 June 2019

Profile image of Holly Parfett and Myfanwy Morgan Jones
Holly Parfett and Myfanwy Morgan Jones

Myfanwy Morgan Jones and Holly Parfett, final year undergraduate students at the School of Geography and Planning, are celebrating the publication of their first ever research paper.

The paper, titled Home-grown foreign language anxiety: Experiences of Welsh university students studying through the medium of English was published by the Wales Journal of Education in March 2019.

During the second year of their undergraduate degrees, Myfanwy and Holly, while studying a Research Methods module, investigated how Welsh students who completed their primary and secondary education in Welsh perceived their undergraduate university experience compared with those who completed their formative schooling in English.

This was a subject area with which Myfanwy and Holly had first-hand knowledge and experience and one which they felt was “particularly relevant from a social, cultural and educational standpoint, given Wales’ focus on reaching 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050”.

Using online and in-person questionnaires, they surveyed 125 Welsh undergraduate students studying at a Welsh university about their academic background, and three core areas of their university experience: attendance, background, and satisfaction.

Results showed that students educated primarily in Welsh were less likely to contribute to discussions than their first-language English counterparts – a common outcome of foreign language anxiety. Although this lack of comfort and confidence did not appear to impact grade satisfaction, it could be related and lead to further barriers and challenges regarding mental health, academic performance and post-graduation prospects.

Myfanwy and Holly wanted to share the findings and encourage a greater dialogue around the issues raised. They spent the summer of 2018 drafting and re-drafting an article based on their research, guided by Dr Maxwell Hartt.

Dr Hartt was impressed with their professionalism and how they had developed and nurtured new skills throughout the research process and the paper preparation.

“I often find social science students to be ‘quant-phobic’ and that they have accepted that maths is not for them, a notion I reject completely. At the end of the day, research methods are just tools. Qualitative or quantitative doesn’t really matter. Conducting research is about finding, and telling, stories."

He continued: “While neither Holly nor Myfanwy would label themselves as particularly strong in quantitative subjects, they both showed a good understanding of storytelling and how to ask (and answer) questions. This is what shaped and informed their research and the paper they have recently published. They worked hard to write and polish the paper, taking on feedback, and challenging themselves to develop and improve their narrative with each new draft. This is a significant achievement for two undergraduate students and a testament to their commitment and work ethic. It was a pleasure to work with and support them.”

Read the full paper and Myfanwy and Holly’s blog about the road to publication.

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