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What is Undergraduate Research?

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) defines undergraduate research as:

  • An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.

The Arts and Humanities Division of CUR felt that for their disciplinary area some more specifics should be added to the definition: 

  • Undergraduate research in the arts and humanities is student-driven, faculty-mentored inquiry, scholarly investigation, and/or creative activity. The undergraduate researcher's work may contribute to outcomes including, but not limited to, individual or collaborative analytical writing; oral presentation; small analytical products; works of visual art; compilations of scholarship; exhibits; musical compositions; plays; performance; public scholarship; and/or peer-reviewed publication.  Whatever the research product, its value is generally weighed by standards specific to experts in the field, whether jurors, editors, or reviewers.

UW-Eau Claire generally subscribes to the definitions offered by CUR. The phrase “undergraduate research and scholarly and creative activity” (RSCA) is also often used to provide more inclusive language. Although UW-Eau Claire is the UW System’s Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Collaborative Research, the word “collaborative” has proven ambiguous for our faculty. Therefore, we have developed the following broad definition for what is meant by collaborative student-faculty scholarship at UW-Eau Claire:

  • Collaboration in scholarship and creative work between faculty and students includes a wide spectrum of working relationships from faculty-mentored student projects to faculty-generated projects in which students take responsibility and ownership of one or several components.



 Faculty-mentored student                 Equal collaboration               Student work on faculty-
             project                                                                              originated project


What are some examples of Student-Faculty Research Collaboration projects?

At the core, these experiences involve faculty mentoring and a student’s in-depth scholarly activity. Student-Faculty research can take place in any discipline and include activities ranging from running experiments in a lab to writing poetry. Here are examples that show the variety of possibilities:

  • Two students spent three weeks on San Salvador Island researching the impact of coral reef health and ecology on fish distribution, under the guidance of a Biology faculty member.
  • An English faculty member mentored two students as they wrote a script and created a feature-length thriller film, shot entirely in Eau Claire. They plan to submit the final project to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
  • A student worked with an Economics professor to study wage penalties in majority-female occupations. The student went on to present results at the annual Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (CERCA) and win first place.


How do I get started?

Student-Faculty collaborative projects can be initiated in several ways:

  • If you notice a student who has the potential to work independently, invite them to participate in a research project with you.
  • Hear about projects from colleagues who are doing research or conference presentations, and inquire if they are interested in collaborating with you on that project or a future project. Invite students to collaborate with you.
  • Encourage students to contact you with ideas for a scholarly or creative project based on class activities such as reading, research for class assignments, or in-class discussions.
  • Take a look at what internal funding opportunities are available for student-faculty collaborations. Contact ORSP to find out what projects are available (contact Karen Havholm).


What makes a project eligible for funding?

To be eligible for funding support at UW-Eau Claire, the project should extend beyond the confines of classroom assignments and the student should be involved in many or all of the steps in scholarship:

  • development of the question, problem or idea within its scholarly/creative context
  • design of the approach to be applied
  • execution of the project
  • analysis, application, synthesis, and/or evaluation of the results
  • dissemination of the results/conclusions/creative product in appropriate scholarly venues