Purpose: The aim of this research paper is to expose better methods of conducting research for undergraduate students at the university level especially in a developing country like Nigeria.
Design/methodology/approach: An Exploratory Research Group (ERG) was set up in the Department of Computer Science. The existing project methodologies were understudied and problem areas identified. By using the structured systems analysis and design approach, the ERG guided some undergraduate project students towards successful completion of their project work. Secondary sources of data were analyzed for final year students in project for 2005/2006 to 2007/2008 sessions to see the performance of both ERG and non-ERG groups.
Findings: A total class size of 238 for 2005/06; 209 for 2006/07 and 241 for 2007/08 were surveyed while the ERG size was 35 for 2005/06; 31 for 2006/07 and 37 for 2007/08 academic sessions. From results obtained, the performance of ERG undergraduate students (65.7% in 2005/06; 70.97% in 2006/07 and 75.68% in 2007/08) surpassed those of the non-ERG students (31.09% in 2005/06; 24.4% in 2006/07 and 28.63% in 2007/08). A probable reason was the close supervision, exposure and adherence of the students to best practice methods in undergraduate research.
Research limitations/implications: The research methods were innovative for the ERG because they were exposed to hands-on research. The students were able to work in teams, adopt current project management techniques and their creative abilities were rekindled.
Practical and Policy implications: Students were able to adopt a more practical approach to independent research. The end result of the exercise which was commended by the departmental External Examiner (a Professor invited yearly from another University whose responsibility is to moderate the final year results) for the 2005/2006 session gave credence to the introduction of a 3-unit course titled Research Methodology.
Social implications: Over the years, there have been complaints from the Industry on the cost of retraining computer science graduates. This ERG approach we believe, will enhance the quality of graduates and improve their performance in the industry as time goes on.
Originality/value: The ERG group has never existed. It was an attempt to improve the quality of undergraduate research.
Keywords: undergraduate research, best practices research, exploratory project work