By Dave Mogk, Montana State University; Jeff Ryan, University of South Florida; Pat Manley, Middlebury College

...infuse the joy of discovery and an awareness of its connections to exploration through directed inquiry and careful observation, and analytic thinking for students at all levels. NSF in a Changing World

Undergraduate research is one of the most exciting and effective ways to promote student learning. The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) ( This site may be offline. ) defines undergraduate research as: Any inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline is defined as research. Attributes of undergraduate research include self-directed work, under the supervision of a mentor, that enables students to explore issues of interest to them, make consequential new contributions to science, and communicates the results to others.

Undergraduate research provides valuable benefits to:


  • By providing them with pre-professional training; on how to "be" a scientist
  • By helping them identify and choose a good career track
  • Through developing their critical thinking skills
  • By initiating students into the "community of practice" through instilling them with key knowledge, skills and the value system of a responsible investigator
  • By helping develop students' self-confidence in their ability to do research and in their discipline
  • Through promoting the sciences as part of a liberal arts education
  • And, especially in the geosciences, instilling them with a sense of place


  • In moving their research agendas forward
  • In engaging undergraduates in research they enhance their teaching while at the same time being active in research
  • In the promotion and tenure process, as undergraduate research is a highly valued academic activity, central to the missions of most institutions
  • In gaining personal satisfaction from the progress and success of their students


  • Through recognition in the community for the success of students and their valued scholarly contributions
  • In better preparing students for the workforce for the 21stcentury


  • Through technology transfer to industry
  • Through student research in service to society


  • In helping recruit and retain the best and brightest students for careers in science
  • In making authentic contributions to scientific knowledge

About This Project

This site has been developed to encourage and assist geoscience faculty to engage undergraduate research as an important component of their own scholarly work. Undergraduate research can take many forms, ranging from in-class experiences to individual or small group independent study projects, to full, multi-year investigative campaigns. Research may be done in the field or the laboratory, virtually (via access to real-time data collection facilities) or live. The purpose of this site is to explore the many dimensions of undergraduate research, and to provide the best advice from the literature, and from experience, to help foster undergraduate research across the geoscience curriculum. In this website you will find a wealth of resources from the literature, related websites, case studies, and community-based compilations of "best practices and tips" to help you design and implement undergraduate research in your own setting.

This is a collaborative project between the Council on Undergraduate Research ( This site may be offline. ) and the On the Cutting Edge program for geoscience faculty professional development (sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, NAGT). Learn more about the authors.

Are you a member of the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR)?

CUR Logo
CUR has many resources that you can investigate to enhance working with undergraduates. To become an individual member, or to find out if your institute has an enhanced Institutional Membership, which provides you with CUR member privileges, go to the CUR website. Check out the various options available for membership.

As a CUR member you will receive the CUR Quarterly, News Alerts from the CUR National Office on opportunities of interest, and access to a range of conferences and professional development workshops. CUR also offers a growing library of "how to" guides and scholarly publications, and provides a venue for publishing scholarly articles on your research experiences with undergraduates.

The On the Cutting Edge program is sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Please consider joining!