What is undergraduate research?
Undergraduate research (UGR) is scholarly study in any discipline in which inquiry, discovery and creativity culminate in advancements in science, technology, the arts or humanities. It is the behavioral endeavor employed only by humans and, in this case, it is undergraduates who work under the mentor-ship of proven scholars, experts and professionals. Any undergraduate chosen by a mentor may participate in UGR. Students from all disciplines – from anthropology, history, design and English to physics, microbiology and turf grass management – can engage in the excitement of scholarly research.
Examples of scholarly research projects
- Going on archeological digs to learn about past cultures, societies or the evolution of life on Earth
- Designing complementary art for unique architectural settings
- Developing new ways to manage wildlife and plant populations and their habitat
- Studying ancestral lineages using the tools of modern genetics
- Defining product design based on marketing data
- Reinterpreting a literary author’s intentions based on the site where it was written
- Finding ways to grow more food on less land with less water, fertilizers and pesticides
- Predicting stock market shifts based on uncertainties of the last four years
- Developing inexpensive textile fibers that are soft, durable and easily cleaned
- Engineering nano-machines for administering potent drugs in small amounts into the body
- Is research only for science students?
- Is research only for students who want to go to graduate school?
- Isn’t my course work enough?
Answers – No, no, and maybe not.
Research is the systematic gathering of information to help you answer a question or solve a problem. Research is going on right now all over the university and all over the world in libraries and laboratories, in rain forests and hospitals, and in courtrooms and archeological sites.
Undergraduate research can help you:
- build a relationship with a faculty mentor
- take your learning outside of the classroom
- explore post-graduate and career options
- improve your communication skills
- find opportunities to present and publish your ideas
- test your determination and perseverance
- develop creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual independence
Independent research with the goal of creating a publicly-accessible product is beneficial for all undergraduates, regardless of discipline or future career plans. A recent survey of employers demonstrates that skills and aptitudes gained through research (or applied learning) are highly valued in the workplace.
Employers strongly endorse an emphasis on applied learning and view student work on applied learning projects as valuable preparation for work. Students agree that applied learning projects are valuable.
- 73 percent think that requiring college students to complete a significant applied learning project before graduation would improve the quality of their preparation for careers.*
- 60 percent think that all students should be expected to complete a significant applied learning project before graduating.*
- 87 percent of employers agree that they are somewhat or much more likely to consider a graduate as a job candidate if she or he has completed a senior project.*
- 89 percent of students agree that doing an applied learning project would increase their likelihood of being hired.*
In a previous 2013 survey, employers in the survey specifically endorse curriculum that has students “conduct research and use evidence-based analysis.” Independent research fosters innovation and critical thinking (favored by over 90% of employers). When students direct their research toward a capstone project that will be presented to the public, they develop their written and oral communication skills, which 80% of employers prefer more emphasis on in undergraduate recruits. The survey also indicates that 79% of employers want undergraduates to “complete a project prior to graduation that demonstrates their acquired knowledge and skills.” [From “It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success,” Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2013]
Take a look at Five Essential Skills for Every Undergraduate Researcher