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What is Undergraduate Research?

What exactly is undergraduate research?

At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, we use the Council on Undergraduate Research definition:

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

Undergraduate Research is used to enrich the academic curriculum through enhanced critical thinking skills and greater understanding of chosen field, through independent study projects, undergraduate thesis work, and outside of the classroom under the guidance of a faculty member or other mentor.

The Council on Undergraduate Research recently published “Broadening Participation in Undergraduate Research: Fostering Excellence and Enhancing the Impact,” by Drs. Jeffrey M. Osborn and Kerry K. Karukstis. According to these authors, four common threads run through every undergraduate research activity on campus:

  1. Mentorship. A serious, collaborative interaction between the faculty mentor and student, in which the student is intellectually engaged in the scholarly problem or project
  2. Originality. The student makes a meaningful and authentic contribution to the scholarly problem or project, and the work must be entirely or partially novel
  3. Acceptability. Employing techniques and methodologies that are appropriate and recognized by the discipline with a problem or project that includes a reflective and synthetic component
  4. Dissemination. Includes a final tangible product for which both the process and results are peer-reviewed, juried, or judged in a manner consistent with disciplinary standards