Early year undergraduate researchers’ reflections on the values and perceived costs of their research experience

Gaye D. Ceyhan, John W. Tillotson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Prior research reported that motivational beliefs that individuals attach to specific tasks predict continuing interest and persistence in the task. A motivational approach may be particularly useful for understanding undergraduate students’ engagement with research in their first and second years in college. The current study utilizes the expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation to qualitatively explore how much and in what ways early year undergraduate researchers value their research experience and what kinds of costs they associate with it. Results: The results revealed that intrinsic value had the highest expression in participants’ motivation to engage in research. The second most expressed value type was the utility value of undergraduate research with regards to obtaining the desired outcomes, and attainment value played the least important role in participants’ motivation to engage in research. Findings also indicated that some of the participants associated a cost(s) to their research experience. The highest mentioned perceived cost was opportunity cost, where participants commented on losing other valued alternatives when engaging in research. Participants commented on the time, effort, or amount of work needed to engage in research, and a few participants commented on the emotional cost associated with their research experience in terms of the fear of failure. Conclusion: As perceived cost is the least studied in the expectancy-value framework, this study contributes to cost values within college students, particularly about early year undergraduate researchers. The findings of this study can form the basis for future work on exploring ways to increase the values and decrease the costs students experience in their undergraduate research experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54
JournalInternational Journal of STEM Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Expectancy-value theory
  • Motivation
  • Undergraduate STEM education
  • Undergraduate research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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