Article Text


Student experiences and perceptions of compulsory research projects: a veterinary perspective
  1. Jacqueline M Cardwell1,
  2. Kirsty Magnier2,
  3. Tierney Kinnison1 and
  4. Ayona Silva-Fletcher2
  1. 1Department of Pathobiology and Population Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK
  2. 2LIVE Centre, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jacqueline M Cardwell; jcardwell{at}


Background Although research underpins clinical work, many students training to be clinicians are not inherently interested in developing research skills.

Aim To characterise and understand veterinary student experiences and perceptions of compulsory research projects.

Methods This was an explanatory sequential mixed-methods study, with a questionnaire survey of an entire cohort informing purposive selection for focus group discussions. Student views were triangulated with staff questionnaire data.

Results About a third of the cohort felt that the project had not been worthwhile or had not fostered useful skills. Focus group data analysis identified fragility of motivation and lack of clear schemata for the research process as key themes. Students were easily demotivated by typical research challenges and lack of schemata contributed to a poor understanding of the rationale for the project, encouraging highly extrinsic forms of motivation. Triangulation with staff questionnaire data indicated that staff understood students’ challenges, but were more likely than students to consider it to be a valuable learning experience.

Conclusions Findings support ongoing curriculum development and emphasise that, to optimise motivation, engagement and learning, students training to be clinicians need a clear rationale for research, based on development of critical inquiry skills as a core clinical competency.

  • education
  • research
  • mixed methods
  • curriculum development
  • motivation
  • student engagement

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from


  • Contributors JMC designed the study, distributed questionnaires, analysed questionnaire and focus group data, and prepared the manuscript. KM conducted the focus groups and reviewed and verified their analysis. KM, TK and AS-F assisted with manuscript preparation. JMC is responsible for the overall content as guarantor.

  • Funding The project was funded by the Royal Veterinary College.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the RVC Ethics Committee (project code 2013 0070H).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The authors do not have ethical approval for further data sharing.

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.