Getting Started

What is Undergraduate Research?

Undergraduate research is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.

Why do Undergraduate Research?

Working on scholarly or creative projects with a faculty member is an opportunity for you to become actively involved in creating knowledge and new meaning within a field of study.

This method of experiential learning provides a hands-on approach to learning. Not only that, it is typically hard work, fun, and very satisfying. This type of study is not only a great experience, but it provides crucial preparation for both graduate school and the work world.

You will learn not only about the specific content area you are researching, but also important skills such as:

  • How to work collaboratively with a faculty member and/or other student colleagues
  • How to pose an important question in your field
  • How to design a research plan or an approach to answering the question
  • How to collect and analyze data, or analyze texts or other information to test your hypothesis or support your argument
  • How to communicate the results of your work through poster and oral presentations and papers

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.

How will I benefit from Undergraduate Research?

  • Teaches collaboration in the work place
  • Engages students in cross-cultural communication
  • Provides early exposure to research areas, helping students in career decision-making

How can I get started?

Getting involved is as easy as:

  • Talking directly to professors in your department about research opportunities – many have topics and need your help
  • Developing your own idea for a scholarly or creative project based on class activities such as reading, research for class assignments, or in-class discussions; approach a faculty member you think would make a good advisory for that project
  • Visiting department or faculty websites
  • Asking a faculty member whose class you take if there are opportunities for students to work with them
  • Learning of projects from more senior classmates who are doing research

What is involved in Student Research?

Research is for students who want to experience growth and learning by doing a project. Consequently, you should be prepared to make some serious commitments.

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
  • Budget sufficient time to work on the project
  • 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. Visit the Jim Dan Hill Library
  • 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
  • Enjoy the project for the intellectual stimulation and sense of accomplishment it provides

Research Centers and Institutes

Lake Superior Research Institute

The Lake Superior Research Institute provides additional applied research opportunities for undergraduate students.

Transportation and Logistics Research Center

The Transportation and Logistics Research Center provides applied transportation and logistics research opportunities for students in the Transportation and Logistics program.

Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute

The Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute works with universities around the Great Lakes to coordinate research into marine transportation, logistics, engineering, environmental planning, and port management.

Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve

The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve works in partnerships to improve the understanding of Lake Superior estuaries and coastal resources, while addressing issues affecting coastal communities through an integrated program of research, education, outreach, and stewardship.