There are different ways to include undergraduates in research. Students in the arts and humanities generally work on their own project and their mentor provides necessary guidance and expertise. Works of art and scholarly contributions generated from this type of research is usually credited only to the student. In the sciences, mathematics and technology, undergraduates can work on a piece of their mentor’s larger research project or they can work on projects of their own design, having little or no connection to their mentor’s primary research interests. Depending on the contributions made by the student, publications may include the names of one or more co-authors, including the faculty mentor and other student researchers.
The overall goal for students carrying out undergraduate research, scholarly activities and/or creative activities is that the results contribute to advancing our knowledge of the discipline and/or result in new scholarly and creative works. Because undergraduate research is considered by many to be one of the most powerful ways for students to learn, the process is as important as the outcome. Undergraduate research is not considered "lesser" compared to research undertaken by graduate students and faculty, but the pace of the research is often slower.
Interest in providing students undergraduate research opportunities has grown in the last decade and an increasing number of public and private colleges and universities are providing research opportunities and taking steps to institutionalize undergraduate research.
Buffalo State takes pride in its attention paid to undergraduate teaching and there is a long tradition of engaging students in high quality research and creative activities. Research is seen as an integral part of an undergraduate’s education, and both the process and outcome are both important. The mentoring of students conducting research is a critical part of the experience. More information on mentoring is available through the Undergraduate Research Office.
The actual benefits of engaging undergraduates in research may differ from experience to experience, but may include:
Collaborate with faculty
Finding collaborators with complementary areas of expertise lets you offer a broader range of projects for students to choose from.
Clearly state faculty expectations of the students.
Help students develop interesting research projects that will provide tangible and meaningful results. Develop a program that meshes adventurous field work leading to discovery with lab work and data interpretation.
Provide appropriate guidance and positive reinforcement to help students develop a sense of ownership of the research. Students should be responsible for all phases of the project from design to presentation.
Let students explore
Trust that eager students and motivated mentors are going to find many interesting things that demand analysis, explanation, and context. Be flexible and open to opportunities.
After your first year, have veterans return as peer-mentors for novices and build a team of individuals at different stages of inquiry. Bring back alumni to support the group when possible.
Good recordkeeping cannot be overemphasized if the project is to build on prior results, needing a "trust but verify" approach to student note-taking, documentation, data archiving, and presentation preparation.
Identify as many funding source as possible.
The Mentoring Role in Undergraduate Research Projects reprinted from the CUR Quarterly with permission from the Council on Undergraduate Research.