Getting Started with Undergraduate Research

Through the efforts of our local world-class U of S researchers, new treatments are discovered, technologies are invented, and original forms of artistic expression evolve. The U of S is a community of scholars that is inclusive of undergraduate students and we want to be sure every member of that community, from student to faculty, has the opportunity to contribute to our research mission.

As our university embarks on a second century of discovery, we are building on a dynamic research culture that both creates knowledge, and enriches the academic experience of our students. Meaningful undergraduate research, scholarly and artistic experiences benefit students by strengthening their scholarship and developing relevant skills for their futures.

What is research?

In a university setting, “research” can describe very different activities depending on the discipline. Whether in a chemistry lab, at a meeting with local businesses, or on a canvas in an art studio, research is the core activity of developing new knowledge.

The key to doing research is the process of inquiry and exploration. Through the process of asking questions, finding answers, and promoting discoveries, research results in furthering knowledge in its field. In the context of undergraduate studies, research is a supervised, self-directed project of exploration and inquiry, the results of which are communicated to an audience. If you are asking probing questions and seeking answers to those questions according to the methods of your discipline, then you are conducting research.

You can find examples of past undergraduate student projects in our Students Stories section.

Why do research?

Engaging in research is increasingly being recognized as a valuable aspect of undergraduate education. When you start doing research, you take control of your education and gain a stronger sense of ownership of your studies. Students often report a greater enjoyment of their program as they become more engaged in their disciplinary ways of thinking. With this greater sense of enjoyment and control, students are increasingly prepared to find fulfilling careers in their discipline or to enrol in further studies.

Research, scholarly and artistic work is not only an excellent way to enhance undergraduate education, it also helps students to develop important transferable skills. Following a meaningful research experience, students will have developed their analytical and synthesis skills, as well as gained valuable communication experience, whether oral, written, or both. Research provides students with a means of honing their critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities, all while furthering their own knowledge.

What research opportunities are offered at the U of S?

The U of S has two main types of opportunities for undergraduates interested in research, scholarly and artistic work: curriculum-based opportunities and research assistantships. Curriculum-based opportunities provide a great introduction to research and offer a worthwhile learning experience. Research assistantships are especially suited for people who know their interests and would like to gain a comprehensive research experience. There are opportunities across campus on both of these paths, and as part of the ongoing Undergraduate Research Initiative, efforts are being made to make opportunities increasingly available to students throughout their undergraduate education.

For more information on these two types of opportunities, and for information on other experiences, visit our Opportunities for Undergraduates section.

What are curriculum-based research experiences?

Curriculum-based research experiences are opportunities to pursue discovery that are built into an undergraduate class. This type of opportunity can range from a group project in a lecture-based class, to an independent study course spanning two semesters. As part of the Undergraduate Research Initiative, efforts are being made to develop an incremental learning path by offering research opportunities across all four years of an undergraduate degree. A pilot program involving curriculum-based opportunities in first-year courses from three different colleges began in September 2014.

To learn more, visit our Curriculum-Based Opportunities page.

To find Curriculum-Based Opportunities:

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How do I get involved?

There are many ways to get involved with research, scholarly and artistic work at the U of S, so the first step is to identify the type of experience you are seeking. If you are looking for an introduction to research, then you might want to try an early level class that includes research work. Or maybe you’ve enjoyed your experiences so far and are looking for a more in-depth experience. You can find more information on your options in our Opportunities for Undergraduates section.

What if you are passionate about a certain topic or you already have a research idea? If that’s the case, then you might want to find out which professors share that research interest and contact them to let them know! At the very least they will know of your interest if any opportunities arise. Our Research Resources section includes some tips on how to approach supervisors both confidently and respectfully.

The Undergraduate Research Initiative does not just have opportunities for undergraduates - if you are a graduate student interested in getting more involved with research, you may want to consider being a research coach.  The initiative also supports faculty as they connect teaching with research, so if you are a faculty member who is interested in learning more about how you can take part in the initiative, please see our Opportunities for Faculty section.