Students identify the kind of research they are
interested in pursuing and contact faculty members with relevant types of
research to see if and how they may become involved in a project. The student
and faculty member complete an independent study form that outlines the
agreement between the faculty member and the student. The student and the
faculty member should sign the form and submit to the Director of
Undergraduate Studies (or other unit administrator).
Some opportunities exist for students to assist with
a research project as an employee during the academic year and/or summer. The
number and nature of the opportunities vary. To find out about such
opportunities students may contact faculty members directly.
Financial Awards and Grants
Some units offer student awards or grants for undergraduate
research. Often the award stipulates the faculty member who will mentor the
student. Many colleges and universities have funds available for undergraduate
research; students can explore these opportunities with the department chair,
college dean, and/or the university provost.
A Fellows Program offers recognition for qualified
undergraduate student candidates to conduct research. Students who meet
scholastic and experiential criteria will have the opportunity to work with a
faculty mentor on an established research project or on the development of a
project based on student interests. Although funds may not be attached, the
Fellow award is a well-deserved honor and a plus for the resumé.
Students, with very strong academic records invited
to join the honors program, have an opportunity to be involved with courses
and seminar programs that involve analyzing published research papers and
becoming familiar with the broad range of research being conducted in their
major areas of study. During the senior year students complete an independent
project and write an honors thesis. The acceptance of the thesis by the honors
committee enables the student to graduate with honors. (See resources:
Service Learning and Course Projects
Students often have opportunities to conduct research
within the ordinary requirements of a course. Individual or group projects
require proposals that outline the plan for gathering background information,
implementing the project, and evaluating the outcomes.
Process for Exploring Research Opportunities
To find out about the types of research being conducted in
the unit, students can investigate the Web site of the department or college
and faculty WebPages. The method of selecting faculty members may include
consideration of the type of research methods one wishes to learn about (e.g.,
social science methods or lab methods) or the problem one wishes to
investigate (e.g., infant nutrition or family decision making or
content analysis of alphabet books from 1970-2000 or the truth about
consumer advertising or lipid metabolism or instructional CD-ROM
development). The faculty adviser will help identify appropriate faculty to
contact. Once a faculty member is identified, consider the following
- Speak to faculty members at least a semester in
advance of the desired time for a research experience.
- Make an appointment to see a faculty member by
speaking with his/her secretary, signing up for office hours, sending an
e-mail message, or another method.
- Before the meeting, prepare a copy of the
application for undergraduate research independent study or a resume for
the faculty member.
- Be prepared to discuss reason for interest in
research, the time per semester and/or number of semesters for involvement
in research, and previous work and research-related experiences.
- Ask the faculty member about the current/future
research projects and the expectations for undergraduates who work on
research. The extent to which a faculty member can involve students in
his/her research program will vary according to the size and scope of
various projects, the faculty member's other commitments, and the
skills/abilities of individual students.
- Ask the faculty member about possible resources
for assistance with statistical design and analysis.
Be prepared, but do not be scared to ask faculty members
about research. All faculty members were undergraduates at some time, and many
of them arranged their first research experience through this process. Faculty
members like to talk about their research and appreciate students who take
initiatives to enhance their learning!
Dorothy I. Mitstifer
April 11, 2003
* Adapted from the undergraduate
research guidelines of the Division of Nutritional Sciences, College of Human
Ecology, Cornell University. (www.nutrition.cornell/undergrad/research.html).
Dorothy I. Mitstifer, Kappa Omicron Nu
1749 Hamilton Road, Suite 106, Okemos, MI 48864
E-mail: [email protected]