students transferring samples to test tubes

Work Assignments

Work assignments should reflect the student’s experience and preparation level. Sophomore or junior students may bring enthusiasm and fresh perspectives, but they often lack experience and extensive exposure to advanced courses. In such cases, limit the scope and complexity of initial work assignments, and then, as the student becomes a more experienced researcher, increase the difficulty and expectations for independent work.

Project Management

Clearly communicate your expectations to your student research assistant. These expectations might include

  • a meeting schedule for the semester
  • the number of hours you expect them to spend on the project
  • important deadlines
  • how student research reports will be formatted
  • how you expect research findings to be presented

Student research assistants should be properly informed about the research project. Although the A&S Office of Undergraduate Research teaches workshops on general research practices — responsible research practices, library databases in different disciplines, exposure to research data packages like SPSS, and research abstract formulation — the faculty mentor will still need to brief the student research assistant on his or her specific project.

Consider answering the following questions:

  • What is the big picture?
  • What methodologies are employed?
  • Is there specific equipment that the student must learn to use?
  • Are there safety issues that must be observed?
  • Are there ethical and privacy issues that must be honored?

If you have more than one student involved in your research, consider providing opportunities for students to discuss their research with other students. This is an especially good opportunity for students and faculty affiliated with one of the University’s research centers. Students with different disciplinary interests who are working on similar issues at the center can show other students the value of multidisciplinary perspectives.