Training the next generation of migration researchers
Students and faculty from various Lebanese universities converge at LAU Beirut for an Institute for Migration Studies workshop on quantitative research methods.
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LAU’s Institute for Migration Studies hosted a four-day intensive workshop on the Beirut campus on October 27-31 in order to introduce students and faculty to quantitative methods used in migration studies, and make them more comfortable using their own survey data to further their research.
The workshop was organized by the Paris-based National Institute for Demographic Studies, a specialized research institute working in the field of population studies.
Participants included 18 undergraduate seniors and graduate students from LAU, Université Saint-Joseph, and the Lebanese University, as well as four LAU faculty members, all interested in honing their quantitative skills for future research projects.
Four INED associates — Cora Mezger, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Sussex, Sorana Toma, a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford University, and Lama Kabbanji, researcher at the Institute of Research for Development — led the training, which introduced quantitative migration research methods and analysis of macro- and micro-level data. Throughout the course the participants had hands-on sessions with Microsoft Excel and the quantitative analysis software SPSS.
Dr. Paul Tabar, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at LAU Beirut and the director of IMS, says that the purpose of the workshop was twofold.
“The first, more straightforward aim was to show students and faculty how to construct a survey question and use SPSS to analyze data collected from that survey,” he says.
“The other aim was to raise awareness among faculty about the need to teach these kinds of skills in a more in-depth way in their own courses, to make our students who are embarking on a master’s degree program better equipped with quantitative research skills,” he adds.
Tabar would like to see students writing their master’s theses using both qualitative and quantitative research. “Without both of these components, their theses will simply be pieces of argumentative writing,” he says.
Ph.D. student Mariam Hasbani says that the regression analysis (modeling and analyzing multiple variables) portion of the training was most useful. “Since I’m planning to conduct a survey for my own Ph.D., I may consider the migration topic because the theories we discussed were very interesting, and of course the practical part we did on SPSS will be very helpful.”
One of Tabar’s students, Mira Mawla, a senior political science/international affairs major at LAU, decided to participate because there were a lot of concepts in quantitative research that she wasn’t yet familiar with.
“I had forgotten how to work with Excel, so this was a good refresher. Also, I’m sure I will use the SPSS program soon, especially for my senior study,” Mawla says.
The participants clocked 26 hours of class time over the four-day span, which is more than half a semester’s workload, according to Tabar.
“Despite its intensity, one cannot expect such a workshop to replace a one-semester course — but given the time limitations the instructors did an excellent job,” Tabar says. “They managed to convey how important quantitative research skills and SPSS are for any student’s future research.”
IMS gave the attendees a certificate of completion at the end of the workshop to “make student attendance useful,” says Tabar. “This can also be added to their CVs and make them more attractive candidates later on.”
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