student examining fossils

What is Undergraduate Research?

The Council on Undergraduate Research, a national organization, defines undergraduate research as “any inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original, intellectual, or creative contribution to the discipline.” This sets a high mark for success. Undergraduates may not attain this goal, but they and their faculty mentors work together in a process that improves the student’s learning and contributes significantly to new understandings of important issues.

Why Participate in Research?

Undergraduate research is valuable to students in many ways. The most immediate value is that it changes the student’s experience as a learner. Before becoming involved in research, students study the findings of others. Upon becoming involved in research, a student begins the process of creating knowledge.

Students involved in research clarify their own interests, learn new skills, develop collaborations with faculty and other students, and have experiences that prepare them for professional work. They connect learning in different fields of study and view their learning in broadened contexts.

Experience with research is valuable for students preparing for graduate or professional schools where research is an expectation. But research teaches skills that are valuable to any profession and to an individual’s responsibilities as a citizen.

What are some of these skills?

  • the ability to think critically and draw conclusions based on careful analysis of accurate data
  • improved communication skills, both written and verbal
  • experience in collaboration and cooperation
  • persistence in solving difficult problems
  • ability to deal with uncertainty
  • creativity in approaching and resolving issues
  • willingness to take ownership of projects
  • self-confidence
  • personal responsibility for the quality of work