Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQ, is dedicated to answering questions that you, as a Student or Faculty Member, may have about the Civil Grand Jury Lab.

FAQ for Students

I never thought of research, why should I now?

When I was in high school, I associated “research” with finding primary sources for class papers. I never thought of research as a process of asking questions and using the scientific method to answer these questions. And as a first-generation college student who made the choice to attend community college, I was not thinking of research either. It was not until I was invited by a professor to collect data for his research project that I unknowingly began to research.

I believe you should think of research now for the following reasons:

  1. You can be a researcher! Researchers exist across a variety of fields. When I search O*NET for the term “researcher”, it yields 354 unique occupations.
  2. The knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) you obtain by researching will serve you well in your coursework at community college, 4-year university, and in life.
  3. Research KSAs, coupled with experience serving as a member of the Civil Grand Jury Lab, will help you differentiate yourself from other transfer applicants because research labs are uncommon at community colleges.
  4. Research is conducted at 4-year universities by faculty, so researching while you are in community college will prepare you for opportunities at your transfer institution, such as being an undergraduate research assistant.
  5. Research now to give yourself more academic and professional opportunities later.
    • For example, if an entry level research position is open at your transfer university, you can confidently apply for it because you have experience from your time as a community college student.
    • Another example: if you learn about research in years 1 and 2 of your higher education experience, then you start to find that pursuing a masters degree, and particularly a doctoral degree, is rooted in engaging and conducting research.
Why is asking questions about questions is important?

When I was asked for the first time: “are you a first-generation college student?” I responded: “What is a first-generation college student?” I didn’t know I was a first-generation college student because neither my mom or dad graduated from a 4-year university in the United States.

And part of the reason I went to community college was because my mom attended community college as a full-time mom raising me and my two brothers, and my dad worked full-time in downtown. I attended community college because I felt welcomed there. I took the city bus to campus, enrolled in classes I was interested in, met students like me, and asked professors questions.

Right now, you are probably asking yourself: “Why would I ask you a question about asking you a question?” Asking questions about questions is important for three reasons.

Reason 1: Questions: The Heart of Research

First, questions are the heart of research. In the most general sense, when we search, we are looking for an answer. But when we research, we are looking for questions. These questions help reveal knowledge to ourselves and others. And with this knowledge in mind, we can ask other questions to further grow our knowledge.

Reason 2: Applying our Bank of Questions

Second, we can apply our growing bank of questions to a person, place, thing, or idea. The seed questions are: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? If we apply these root questions to a person, place, thing, or idea, then we can grow our knowledge about that specific persons, places, things, and ideas about them.

For example, let’s consider the idea of political science. Now, let’s apply our question bank. What is political science? Who help found political science? What does political science do? When was political science founded? Where is political science taught and learned? Why is political science important? How does political science apply to my daily life?

Our seed questions about one idea, in this case political science, spawns new questions, and from these questions, new questions are discovered. This process of questioning can go on and on and on.

Reason 3: Accumulating and Creating Knowledge with Questions

Third, questions are our way of accumulating knowledge and creating new knowledge. From the example above, we can see how we are accumulating knowledge about the idea of political science. At some point, after levels and levels of questions, we have accumulated sufficient knowledge about the core of a person, place, thing, or idea.

With core knowledge firmly rooted in our mind, we start to ask levels of questions with no answers yet. Now, you are at the frontier of knowledge, and you get to decide whether you want to create new knowledge by seeking answers to answerless questions.

What is a research lab?

A research lab is a place where individuals work together to ask questions and seek answers using the scientific method.

Laboratories are typically associated with biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer science. However, more laboratories are being established in the arts, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences.

What is an undergraduate student?

An undergraduate student is a person enrolled at a 2-year college or 4-year university who is seeking an associates degree or bachelors degree in a general or specific field of study.

General fields of study can be “Liberal Arts” or “Social Sciences” while specific fields of study include: biology, economics, psychology, or political science, to list a few.

What are the benefits of undergraduate research?

According to the Council on Undergraduate Research, benefits of undergraduate research include:

  • Enhances student learning through mentoring relationships with faculty.
  • Increases retention and graduation in academic programs.
  • Increases enrollment in graduate education and provides effective career preparation.
  • Develops critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and intellectual independence.
  • Develops an understanding of research methodology.
  • Promotes an innovation-oriented culture.
What is an undergraduate student researcher?

An undergraduate student researcher is a person enrolled at a 2-year college or 4-year university who is seeking an associates degree or bachelors degree and volunteering or working with a professor conducting research independently, as part of a group, or as part of a laboratory or center.

What are essential skills for an undergraduate student researcher?

Dr. Franco believes the essential skill is willingness to act on your interest in research. From this seed of willing action, you can learn other essential skills. According to the article titled “Five Essential Skills for Every Undergraduate Researcher”, other essential skills include:

  • Creativity
  • Judgement
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Persistence
What research conferences can undergraduate students present at?
Why are undergraduate student researchers more common at 4-year universities?

Currently, undergraduate student researchers are more common at 4-year university, and far less common at 2-year colleges. There are at least three reasons for this.

  1. First, faculty members at 4-year universities, such as the University of California, are largely devoted to conducting research. UC faculty teach about 1-3 courses per academic year. And California State University faculty teach about 4-6 courses a year. On the other hand, faculty members at 2-year colleges, such as California Community Colleges, are almost exclusively devoted to teaching. CCC faculty teach 10 courses per academic year.
  2. Second, since 4-year universities largely consists of research professors, as opposed to teaching professors, they have the physical space, staff, and resources dedicated to conducting research activities. Physical space includes labs that are wet or dry. Wet labs are where biological or chemical agents are used, while dry labs are where computers and technology is used. Staff includes research administrators, research faculty, graduate student researchers, undergraduate student researchers, laboratory assistants, and other technical staff. And resources include time and money, with the federal government investing hundreds of billions of dollars year into research.
  3. Third, almost all research faculty members have a Ph.D. in their field of study. Ph.D. stands for Doctor of Philosophy and means that you produced an original contribution of knowledge to your field of study through your dissertation. Thus, research faculty are striving to continually produce original contributions to their fields by continually conducting research.
What is an Associates degree?

An associates degree is the document conferred to an person who completes 60 semester units of course work. There are two types of associates degrees: Associates of Arts (abbreviated A.A.) and Associates of Science (abbreviated A.S.).

Is there a specific “Civil Grand Jury Lab” course I can enroll in?

Not yet. At this time, there is not a specific “Civil Grand Jury Lab” course you can enroll.

Dr. Franco will be proposing a new POSC 198/199 Directed Studies course that will be available starting fall 2022. Below is a working catalog description.

A course to provide opportunity for individual research and field projects under the direction of a faculty member in a given department. With the guidance of the faculty member, students prepare and carry out a written learning agreement describing the purposes and outcomes of the project. Students should expect to meet with the supervising faculty member one to two hours each week for conferences. Credit is based upon the number of hours in the semester expected to complete the project (1 unit for 54 hours or 2 units for 108 hours). This course may be taken a maximum of 2 times. For selected disciplines, UC transfer credit may be possible after admission to a UC campus, pending review of appropriate course materials by UC staff. See a counselor for an explanation.

Dr. Franco, if research is not your job, then why have a lab?

When I was in high school, I did not know the practical differences between a community college, the California State University, the University of California, or private colleges and universities. I knew that UC campuses like UCLA and UC Berkeley were more “prestigious” than CSU campuses like Long Beach State or Cal State Los Angeles, and that CSU campuses were more “prestigious” than attending community college. However, prestige really did not interest me. Instead, I wanted to stay home, save money by attending community college, and give myself time to think about what I wanted to study and where I wanted to transfer to.

During my two years at Cerritos Community College, I had the opportunity to be a volunteer undergraduate student researcher. I completed directed studies credits with political science Professor Bryan Reece. At the time, Professor Reece was completing his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California, and he invited me to help him collect data on California city government websites. I was not aware of it at the time, but I was helping Professor Reece collect data for the dissertation he was writing to fulfill the requirements of the USC political science Ph.D. degree program.

Fast forward 15 years later. Now, as a full-time faculty member at Cuyamaca College, I do not get compensated to conduct research, and I do not even get evaluated on it as apart of my tenure review process. I do it because I believe students who attend community colleges should have the opportunity to conduct research in a space that is welcoming and supportive with a faculty member who is conducting research themselves.

I believe this so much that I created a new course on political science research methods when I first arrived, co-authored a free open education resource (OER) textbook on political science research methods, secured a grant to purchase statistical data analysis software for students to use, authored a free OER workbook on using this software, funded a scholarship to support students who successfully complete the new research methods course, and now founded the Civil Grand Jury Lab at Cuyamaca College.

Community college students should know there is a world of careers out there that utilize “researcher” knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). Just because you decided to attend community college first does not mean you should not have access to the same opportunities as your peers at the CSU, UC, or private 4-year universities, particularly when it comes to learning about research, conducting research, and deciding for yourself if research can be a career for you.

I have a question, but it was not answered above. How can I ask a question?

If you have a question, but it was not answered above, please email Dr. Josh Franco at josue.franco@gcccd.edu or complete the form below.

FAQ for Faculty

I am a faculty member at a community college or 4-year university in California. How can we collaborate?

Great! As a fellow faculty member, I am interested in collaborating with colleagues at 2-year community colleges and 4-year universities.

Please contact me via email at josue.franco@gcccd.edu and we can schedule a time to chat and discuss how we can collaborate directly, or how we can facilitate the participation of your students with the work of the Lab.

One of my students independently found out about the Lab and shared it with me. How can I support my student?

I am glad your student independently found out about the Lab and share it with you. There are at least three ways you can support your student and their work with the Lab:

  • Connect with Dr. Josh Franco at josue.franco@gcccd.edu to learn more about the Lab.
  • If your campus has an Independent Study course that students can enroll in, please inform the student of the opportunity to earn academic credit for their work with the Lab.
  • If your campus does not have an Independent Study course, consider creating one for future students to enroll in if they do work with the Lab or some other academic or co-curricular endeavor.
  • Consider allowing your student to integrate their Lab work into existing course work. For example, I permit my students to use their Lab work as an alternative to the Simulation or Public Policy Project that students can complete.
  • If you have other ways of supporting your student, please let me know so I can add it to the list here for other faculty members to consider.

Grow Knowledge, Ask a Question!

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