About Undergraduate Research

‘Undergraduate research is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline’ (Council on Undergraduate Research, 2014).

There has been growing interest and practice internationally in undergraduate research. Engaging undergraduate students in research and inquiry develops important graduate attributes, engages students meaningfully in higher education and prepares them for a twenty-first century world of work in which knowing how to inquire and critically evaluate knowledge is of increasing importance.

Undergraduate research not only engages students (Kuh 2008; Walkington 2015), but also provides them with benefits that are now well known. The benefits include: personal and professional gains such as increased confidence; intellectual development, including critical thinking and problem solving skills; and a more advanced understanding of how scientific knowledge is built (see, e.g., Eagan et al., 2011; John & Creighton, 2011; Laursen et al., 2010; Lopatto, 2009). Undergraduate research has also been demonstrated to play a useful role in students’ career choices, and in that regard, non-traditional, or minority, students are found to particularly benefit (see, e.g., Nagda et al., 1998; Laursen et al., 2010).

  • Council on Undergraduate Research 2014, ‘Expanding the Conversation, 2012–2014’, viewed 12 April 2017, http://www.cur.org/assets/1/7/triennialreport672015.pdf.
  • Eagan, MK, Jr, Sharkness, J, Hurtado, S, Mosqueda, CM & Chang, MJ 2011, ‘Engaging undergraduates in science research: Not just about faculty willingness’, Research in Higher Education, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 151–77.
  • Hurtado, Cabrera, NL, Lin, MH, Arellano, L & Espinosa, LL 2009, ‘Diversifying science: Underrepresented student experiences in structured research programs’, Research in Higher Education, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 189-214.
  • John, J & Creighton, J 2011, ‘Researcher development: The impact of undergraduate research opportunity programmes on students in the UK’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 36, no. 7, pp. 781–97.
  • Kuh, GD 2008, High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington, DC.
  • Laursen, S, Hunter, A-B, Seymour, E, Thiry, H & Melton, G (eds) 2010, Undergraduate research in the sciences: Engaging students in real science, Jossey-Bass, New York.
  • Lopatto, D 2009, Science in solution: The impact of undergraduate research on student learning, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, Tucson, AZ.
  • Nagda, BA, Gregerman, SR, Jonides, J, von Hippel, W & Lerner, JS 1998, ‘Undergraduate student-faculty research partnerships affect student retention’, Review of Higher Education, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 55–72.
  • Walkington, H 2015, ‘Students as researchers: Supporting undergraduate research in the disciplines in higher education’, Higher Education Academy, York, UK, viewed 12 April 2017, https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/resources/Students%20as%20researchers_1.pdf.