Here are examples of undergraduate research experiences in the social sciences that you can use as models for developing your own. You can also consider perusing examples from a wider range of disciplines. Each example includes learning goals, a context for use, a description of project needs, tips related to structuring and supporting the exercise, and means of assessment. Rather than search these by economic subject matter, consider and compare them as examples of forms of undergraduate research--remember that the goal of undergraduate research is the creation of knowledge. A project in, say, urban economics, may have a structure that lends itself well to an udnergradaute reearch experiences on a topic in an altogether different field.
Remember that some of the pedagogical practices described in other parts of Starting Point can be developed as undergraduate research experiences as well. Others can be considered supporting structures for undergraduate research.
Want to contribute your own example? Follow these steps for submitting an activity to Starting Point.
- Taking Risks While Driving: Are There Sex Differences? - This example, developed for psychology, describes a study of the hypothesis that there are sex differences in risk-taking. Design ideas from this naturalistic obervation approach to undergraduate research can serve as the inspiration for similar tests of other hypotheses in economics.
Quantitative Writing Assignments
- Who Gets Help? - This example from psychology describes a field experiment of the hypothesis that able-bodied individuals receive less help than those perceived to have an injury. The field experiment approach is one that can be considered in economics as well.
Term Papers and Assignments
- A Survey Paper: Topics in Economic Growth and Development - This assignment helps students develop deeper understanding of a topic that could potentially lead to the development of a thesis proposal. It does not require them to complete an entire research project, but only asks them to develop a feasible research question based on a review of the literature.
- Term Assignment: Family Economy of 19th Century Industrial Workers - This project, originally designed for a quantitative methods course for graduate students in history, consists of a set of assignments, distributed throughout the semester, that together move students through the steps of an empirical analysis. It is appropriate in courses where students will be able to use multiple regression by the end of the semester.
- A Research Paper in Experimental Economics- In teams, students complete original research in experimental economics.
- Replicating the Results of Famous Empirical Papers - This project provides an example of how students can engage in research by replicating and extending the methods and results of famous empirical papers (here, Solow (1957)).
- Independent Term Paper I: Independent Research Paper in Introductory Econometrics - This example describes one way to design an independent research experience for an introductory econometrics course. It is one that includes the preparation of a research proposal shared with others in the class as well as a paper presentation at the end of the semester.
- Independent Term Paper II: Research on Economics of Population - Here, students prepare an empirical term paper with the assistance of weekly computer labs and structured problem sets. This assignment is an example of one in which the dataset is chosen by the instructor, but the research question is developed and explored by the student.
- Using Economic Theory to Predict Outcomes - Students apply stylized facts from the literature to a model, here the Solow model.
Service Learning, Community-based Learning, and Campus-based Learning
- Using Census Data to Identify a Town's Housing Needs - In this service learning project for an elective course, students and faculty help a local non-profit identify area U.S. Census tracts most in need of its assistance in promoting decent and affordable homeownership. It serves as an example of an undergraduate research experience in which the research process is facilitated by a mixture of assignments, some requiring full-class collaboration and consensus, and others requiring small group and individual work.
- The Effects of Condemned/Restored Homes on Surrounding Property Values - Here, students help a non-profit and their college's city understand some of neighborhood effects of condemned/restored homes. It is another example of a project mixing class decision-making with small group and individual activities.
- Economics Senior Thesis I - This is an example of a 2-semester (total 4 credit hour) senior capstone experience in which the first semester culminates in a research proposal and independent research is conducted in the second semester. A grading rubric is included.
- Economics Senior Thesis II: The Effect of Race and Ethnicity on High School Graduation Rates in Florida - This is an example of an independent empirical research project. It includes tips on providing the mentoring, structure, and support necessary for independent work, and discusses the importance of developing a "research contract" with students. This project can be modified to be a group project.
- Economic Senior Thesis III: Independent Capstone Project Predictors of Student Success in College - This is another example of an independent empirical research project. Like the previous one, it is full of tips on providing the mentoring, structure, and support for independent work, and discusses the value of a "research contract." This project can be modified to be a group project.
- Economics Honors Thesis I: Three Semester Economics Honors Thesis - This is an example of a comprehensive program for scaffolding independent research. It is designed for honors students, but can be modified for any independent research project in economics. A grading rubric is included.
Summer Research Experiences
- Summer Undergraduate Research Experience I - This example provides a framework for conducting summer undergraduate research with a student, with the ultimate goal being a faculty-student co-authored publication in a peer reviewed journal. A sample summer research grant proposal is included, along with a link to one such co-authored article.