Characterization of intellectual merit and broader impacts criteria in NSF graduate research fellowship program applications

Catherine G.P. Berdanier, Monica Farmer Cox

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This research uses content analysis and discourse analysis methods to study the "Intellectual Merit" and "Broader Impacts" criteria described by 50 engineering graduate students in 11 disciplines in their successful applications to the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program. This research analyzes the characterizations of "intellectual merit" and "broader impacts" within their proposed research across the engineering disciplines as an indicator of disciplinary identity and disciplinary culture. Academic Literacies Theory guides the analysis, which posits that graduate students learn the discourse patterns which are embedded within social (disciplinary) structures of the individual disciplines as they establish their own disciplinary identity. Analysis of the discourse within the research proposals shows what the graduate students identify to be the values and impacts of their discipline, and how they envision their future graduate work fitting into the ideals. Rather than seeking to "define" each discipline, this research provides insight into the trends in emphasis which different disciplines in engineering across the U.S. place on various indicators of merit or impact. Findings related to the distribution of disciplinary values may provide engineering educators more insight on how to best "match" student engineering ideologies with an appropriate discipline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Jun 26 2016
Event123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jun 29 2016


Other123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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