Working on a scholarly/creative project with a faculty member is an opportunity for you to go beyond learning in the classroom and become actively involved in creating knowledge and new meaning within the discipline.
You get to do it instead of just learning about it. Not only that, it is typically challenging, fun, and very satisfying. You will learn things you don’t learn in a classroom.
What will I learn?
You will learn many things. You will learn not only about the specific content area you are researching but also important skills such as:
- How to pose an important question or identify an important project in your field
- How to design a research plan or an approach to answering the question or tackling the project
- How to collect and analyze data, or analyze texts or other information to test your hypothesis, support your argument, or accomplish the project
- How to communicate the results of your work through posters, oral presentations, papers, art displays, or artistic performances depending on your topic
You are also likely to increase your self-confidence in your ability to carry out a major project and recognize whether or not post-graduate research (graduate school) is for you.
Will this help me in what I plan to do after I graduate?
No matter what you plan to do after you graduate, experiencing in-depth scholarship will help you along. The skills you learn will be applicable in a job environment or in graduate school. Both prospective employers and graduate schools recognize that students who have this kind of experience are better prepared than many of their peers. Many students give presentations at professional meetings, co-author papers, or produce other published or juried products that help build impressive resumes.
How do I get started?
Students get involved in scholarly/creative projects in several different ways.
- A faculty member whose class you take may observe that you have the potential to work independently and invite you to participate.
- You may learn of projects from more senior classmates who are doing research, or from faculty presentations, and ask the collaborating professor if you may join the project.
- You may develop your own idea for a scholarly or creative project based on class activities, readings, research for class assignments, or in-class discussions; you can then approach a faculty member you think would make a good mentor and advisor for that project.
- You can contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out what projects might be available to work on.
What does Student-Faculty Research involve?
No two projects are alike, however, some activities/attributes are common to most or all projects. You need to:
- Be self-motivated and work on the project consistently
- Meet deadlines
- Communicate often with your advisor/collaborator and any other project participants, and be clear on your role in the project
- Read the literature of the discipline related to your project
- Think deeply and creatively about your project
- Produce a presentation on the results of your project, typically a poster but perhaps also an oral presentation, paper, performance or a show, or some combination of these
- Enjoy the project for the intellectual stimulation and sense of accomplishment you feel
You need to budget sufficient time to work on the project. Two possible ways to plan for this time are:
- Take fewer course credits in a semester, and take directed studies or research credits in their place.
- Seek funding in the form of a stipend so that you can cut back on hours worked at other jobs.
What knowledge and skills do I need?
You do not necessarily have to be far along in your major to become involved. Some projects require a lot of content knowledge, but for others, you can learn what you need to know during the research project.
The most important attributes you need to be successful are:
- Interest and intellectual engagement in the project
- Open communication with your collaborator(s)
- A work ethic that makes you a dependable partner in the project
The online modules in "Research as a Transferable Skill" provide lots of information that will help you get started and be successful in research.
Can I get funding to do research?
The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs has grant opportunities for students that are funded primarily by student differential tuition funds. These are summarized below. In addition, professional organizations in many disciplines have small grant opportunities for students to do research and/or travel to conferences to present their results. Faculty can help you identify these. Some faculty have research grants they have applied for from outside agencies and have funds from these to pay students to work on their projects. However, the reality is that research is typically under-funded. In order to be successful, you are very likely to work on a project for more hours than you can be paid. That is why you must enjoy the project and be committed to it.
ORSP Student Funding Programs
Students may work with a faculty member to apply for any of the following grant opportunities during the summer or academic year.
- If you wish to work on a project in the summer, you can receive a stipend of up to $2300 through the Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates program and up to $600 to spend on research expenses.
- If you wish to work on a project during the academic year, you can receive a stipend of up to $2000 through the Faculty/Student Research Collaboration program and up to $600 to spend on research expenses.
- When you are ready to present the results of your project, you can apply for up to $700 the first time you present and up to $1,000 total for the academic year to help fund travel to present at professional conferences.
There are a number of scholarships available specifically for students involved in research. Some are provided by outside agencies, some are campus-based (Kell Container Corporation Scholarship, James R. Larson and Vicki Lord Larson Undergraduate Research Fellowship), but most require you to think ahead and apply early.
Liberal Education Outcome Skill 3
Apply to get credit for achieving Skill 3: Create original work, perform original work, or interpret the work of others.