How To Engage Undergraduates in Economics Research

Planning an undergraduate research experience can be an intellectually stimulating endeavor. To ensure the benefits of the undergraduate research experience for your students, there are a few steps you'll want to incorporate into your planning process:

  • Identify your learning objectives- Knowing what you want your students to learn will help you choose the correct form and intensity of undergraduate research experience. Economists should design learning objectives around Hansen's proficiencies, considering the relationship of each to the research process.

Learn More About Hansen's Proficiencies and the Research Process in Economics

  • Choose the form and intensity of the undergraduate research experience- A survey of economics departments reports that research experiences that stress all aspects of the scientific method are more common in senior seminar, honors, and service learning classes than elsewhere (McGoldrick 2008). While it is true that certain capstone and honors experiences can satisfy the definition of undergraduate research, earlier research opportunities that emphasize collaboration and original contribution may improve the quality of later projects by helping students better identify and carry out personally and intellectually meaningful individual projects in later, higher-level courses.

Undergraduate research experiences can assume a number of forms and can vary in intensity. Your choice of experience should be informed by which of Hansen's proficiencies you wish to address and the weight you wish to give to each.

Learn More About Forms of Undergraduate Research

  • Determine project needs- Identifying and securing the needed materials, resources, and environment for your project can ensure its success.

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  • Set expectations-yours and theirs- Undergraduate research requires that students deal with ill-structured problems. Your students may be new to this type of pedagogy, and you may be new to it as well. Having clearly articulated expectations about how this educational experience may be different from others can go a long way toward generating excitement about, and productive commitment to, the experience.

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  • Structure the Critical Elements - Reflect on your chosen learning objectives and the research process itself (use Hansen's Proficiencies!) in determining the type and level of structure to offer your students.

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  • Provide the Right Support -The real-world challenges inherent to the research experience may be new to some students, as may the work of collaborating with others. To maximize the benefits of undergraduate research to the student, draw from existing resources on mentoring and collaboration.

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  • Assess the Experience- Both formative and summative assessment measures can promote and gauge student learning and help you refine your use of this pedagogy over time. There are a range of assessment measures and rubrics you can use in economics.

Learn More About Assessing Undergraduate Research in Economics

  • Further the Experience - There are many ways undergraduate research experiences can be shared with others and extended to other learning enviornments. In economics, there are several conferences and journals that support undergraduate research.

Learn More About Furthering the Undergraduate Research Experience in Economics