Undergraduate Research

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Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers

Undergraduates bring enthusiasm and fresh ideas to the research process and are important contributors to the intellectual community. Some students may choose to pursue independent research or creative projects and seek out faculty to provide guidance for their work. Other students can provide valuable assistance to faculty research projects.

With support, training, and guidance, they can contribute in a variety of ways, including

  • conducting library research and literature reviews
  • assisting with data collection, data entry, and analysis
  • recruiting, scheduling, and running study participants
  • conducting and transcribing interviews
  • acting as research and laboratory assistants

These are only a few examples. In the end, the manner in which undergraduates are incorporated into the research process depends on the discipline, the project, and the needs of the faculty member.

When embarking on a project with an undergraduate researcher, faculty may wish to make sure that the project

  • is reasonable in scope
  • is feasible considering time/skill
  • is multi-faceted and challenging
  • allows the student to generate his or her own data or findings

To ensure that the mentoring experience goes smoothly, you may wish to

  • establish expectations and devise a work plan
  • set aside regular time for discussion
  • encourage students to ask questions and share ideas
  • discuss intellectual property issues
  • orient students to resources and processes
  • emphasize documentation of research
  • keep communications open and regular

These suggestions and additional resources are provided by the Center for Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities at SUNY Buffalo, and by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.