Undergraduate Research Community for the Human Sciences 

Finding Research Opportunities*

A variety of opportunities exist for undergraduates to become involved in research in human sciences programs. Listed below are several options, all of which enable students to present and publish research and enhance career exploration.

Faculty Research

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).

Student Employment

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.

Fellows Program

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.

Honors Program

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: www.scholars.psu.edu/thesis/guide.htm and www.okstate.edu/honors/thesis.html.)

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 guidelines:

  • 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).

For further information, contact:

Dr. Dorothy I. Mitstifer, Kappa Omicron Nu
PO Box 798, Okemos, MI 48805-0798
(T) (727) 940-2658 ext. 2003
E-mail: [email protected]


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