Background: Research experiences for undergraduate and graduate students have the potential to provide significant learning experiences, but most research of these experiences focuses primarily on their outcomes. To better design such experiences for a diverse range of students, it is important to understand student narratives of researcher development and identify significant experiences in their development as researchers.

Purpose: In this study, we explored narratives of researcher development for seven US civil engineering students in an eight-week research experience in Australia. Through these narratives, we sought to identify categories of significant experiences to characterize the early stage of the researcher development process.

Method: Each student participated in a series of interviews throughout the program, which were used to construct narratives about their research experiences.

Results: We identified several common significant experiences across the students’ narratives but observed that students navigated their fit within the research environment in different ways. We interpret these differences in the narratives using Person- Environment Fit theory and argue that this theory can support a complex analysis of students’ experiences in educational environments.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that assessing Person-Environment Fit is an important part of the early stages of researcher development. We recommend that the design of research programs should intentionally consider different levels of the environment and ensure sufficient challenge and support so that students can assess their fit with research as a career.


This is the Publisher PDF of Davis, K., Holloman, T., Deters, J., & Knight, D. (2023). Exploring Narratives of Researcher Development for Student Researchers Abroad. Studies in Engineering Education, 4(1): 1-25. Published CC-BY, it is available at DOI: 10.21061/see.85.


research experiences, researcher development, narrative inquiry, person-environment fit

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