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Undergraduate Research: Why Undergraduate Research?


Learning through Research

As the Council on Undergraduate Research explains, “Participation in undergraduate research with a faculty mentor is also acknowledged as a contributor to student retention in undergraduate studies and as a valuable mechanism to direct students toward specific career paths. The changing demographics of our students, the expanding scope of institutions providing undergraduate education, and the enhanced appreciation for active learning strategies have further propelled undergraduate research to national prominence an as effective educational strategy.” (Kerry K. Karukstit & Timonth E. Elgren, editors, Forward in Developing & Sustaining a Research-Supportive Curriculum, 2007).

Students who participate in collaborative research with faculty make significant gains in their ability to think analytically and logically. They can more skillfully communicate their own ideas, and perhaps most importantly, they learn how to learn on their own. Conducting original research and creating their own conclusions helps undergraduates hone research skills, define their academic interests and objectives, and become part of the larger university research community. Studies, such as one done by John Ishiyama (2002), confirm these findings for the social sciences and the humanities.

Students who participate in an undergraduate research experience are better prepared for graduate and professional school. They have a better understanding of the demands of graduate training in their fields, and benefit from exposure to specific research tools, methods, and techniques. Most importantly, undergraduate researchers have more highly developed critical thinking skills. For students not planning postgraduate work, the benefits of undergraduate research are also clear, as critical thinking, analytical abilities, and problem-solving skills are all enhanced by undergraduate research.

Conducting their own research allows undergraduates to expand their personal knowledge of a specific topic and presenting their results at public conferences and symposia fosters respect for mastery of a subject, concern for clear and logical organization, and satisfaction of sharing one’s work. Undergraduate Research opens doors to future careers, life-long learning, and helps cultivate a commitment to excellence. While deepening a student’s disciplinary education, research can also integrate disciplines from across the spectrum by bringing together methods and materials from diverse fields like music and history or literature and political science.