Undergraduate Research in Economics

Initial Publication Date: July 30, 2010

Original module on undergraduate research in economics developed by Elizabeth Perry-Sizemore, Randolph College

Assistance provided by George Alter, Mary Borg, Steve DeLoach, Steve Greenlaw, KimMarie McGoldrick, Shelia Kennison, Mark Maier, and Scott Simkins

Undergraduate research is a growing movement in higher education, embraced at all types of institutions and on the rise across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. A form of experiential learning and engaged learning that teaches disciplinary practice and involves students in the creation of knowledge, undergraduate research helps students learn content, promotes their cognitive and affective development and sense of self, and often benefits faculty, institutions, and the community. Undergraduate research in economics can assume a variety of forms and levels of intensity.

Why Use Undergraduate Research Experiences in Economics?

Across the disciplines, undergraduate research experiences offer similar benefits, and in economics we can tie many of these benefits to specific learning objectives that have long been promoted for the major. Economic educators Salemi and Seigfried (1999) support active learning for the undergraduate economics curriculum and stress the importance of using Hansen's proficiencies as the basis for defining learning objectives in and across courses in the major. Undergraduate research is a form of active learning that can develop a number of these proficiencies. In fact, by engaging students in doing economics, undergraduate research can help students better understand the value of what they learn in the major by showing the relationship of these proficiences to one another.

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How to Engage Economics Students in Undergraduate Research

There's no "one size fits all" approach to engaging students in undergraduate research. Undergraduate research experiences can assume a variety of forms and levels of intensity in economics. There are a few steps you can follow to make sure you choose the right approach for your purposes and provide the structure and support necessary to maximize the benefits of the experience for all involved.

Learn More About How to Engage Economics Students in Undergraduate Research

Economic Examples

Contributors to this website have provided examples of a wide range undergraduate research experiences in economics that you can use to inform the creation of your own undergraduate research experiences. You may even wish to inspire others by contributing your own example.


There are considerable references and resources on undergraduate research, both general and discipline-specific.

Faculty and students can learn about undergraduate research organizations, programs, and opportunities at the national, regional, and institutional levels, and about conferences and journals for undergraduate research in economics