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Set Expectations

Undergraduate research involves students in the creation of knowledge, requiring them to deal with ill-structured problems. To prepare them for this and other realities of the research process, it is important to help them anticipate the ways in which this type of learning experience differs from many others and offer some tips for success. It's also important to anticipate what may be different for you as well.

A student and faculty member collaborate on an anthology of ecopoetry and ecopoetics. Photo Courtesy of Randolph College.

Set Their Expectations

There are a number of things it may be helpful to make and keep your students aware of during an undergraduate research experience, some more relevant to certain forms of undergraduate research than others. Here are a few, all related to one another:

Other tips for students are available at WebGURU, an online student guide to undergraduate research. While directed at students in STEM disciplines, many of its suggestions are relevant to students conducting undergraduate research in other disciplines as well.

Set Your Expectations

It's helpful to remember the five points above for your own sake, too.

  1. Research takes time and planning. Decide what aspects of planning you wish to do for your students and which you wish to do alongside them, and budget time for both instruction and collaboration.
  2. Research is an iterative process. Make time for this and understand that your students may need your help in determining when to visit or revisit a stage in the process.
  3. There's value to talking about and participating in works in progress. Your undergraduate research experience will give you many, many opportunities to reflect on both your research project and your own teaching and mentoring. Embrace this, and don't be afraid to let your students see you embrace it.
  4. Research requires grappling with ambiguity. Undergraduate research sometimes puts you in situations where you don't have the one right answer for your students–either right away or later. Make peace with this. Many questions in research–and in life- don't have cut-and-dried answers, and it may be useful for our students to understand that we know this ourselves.
  5. Teamwork and collaboration require effort and respect. You're a collaborator, so let your students see your effort and the respect you have for both them and the project.

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