Students who engage in research as undergraduates gain insight into the professional world, enhance their knowledge base and critical thinking skills, and better prepare themselves for graduate school. Research is a hands-on method to learn new ways to solve problems and thoroughly explore different subject areas. With faculty mentors, students receive guidance on research methods, resources, and issues common in different fields. You may want to watch this short video for more information on the impact of undergraduate research: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kz6F_s53lvI&feature=channel_video_title
There are many different ways to become involved in research. The two most common methods are to: 1) assist with a faculty research project, or 2) conduct an independent research project. Students should consider the level of commitment and degree of experience they have as well as the amount of structure and support they expect from a faculty member when deciding which method to pursue.
Working with a faculty member on an existing research project is a great way to gain valuable experience in conducting research. Students learn important methods, skills, and tips on how to approach common challenges in research. Students also get the opportunity to work closely with prominent faculty at one of the nation's leading public research universities.
Some students choose to pursue their own independent research project, which may have grown out of work on another project or the student's own passion for a particular area. The most common form of independent research is an honors thesis, but all students can undertake their own research project. Ideally, a student meets regularly with a faculty mentor who provides advice and encouragement.
Within the independent research project scope, there are many ways to approach a project. A student may be conducting research on their own or working on an honors thesis; their project may have developed through studying abroad, an internship, or community service.
The Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program provides a structured opportunity for faculty to receive assistance with research projects while giving students exposure and experience conducting research in various disciplines within Liberal Arts. Students are not expected to do their own research projects; rather, students will assist in ongoing faculty research projects. Students must have 60 or fewer hours to be eligible for this program.
The Bridging Disciplines Programs allow students to choose one of 11 different interdisciplinary concentrations in which they will take 19 credit hours of coursework from a panel of faculty members in, or related to, the specific discipline. BDP students have the advantage of becoming involved in research projects and internships that complement their areas of study. Students can also get involved in research while studying abroad.
Course credit is offered through the Office of Undergraduate Research for students who are either assisting with a faculty research project or conducting one of their own. Also, many Liberal Arts departments offer a course credit option for students pursuing research. In most cases, students register for an upper-division conference course in their chosen major, and use that time to pursue their research project. Students pursuing a conference course research project can opt to have a faculty member be their research mentor. For more information visit the Course Credit page.
Students who are interested in research can look into topics or areas of study that they would like to learn more about. They should consider previous classes, volunteer and work experience, books they've read, papers they've written, and lectures they've attended when trying to narrow down the possibilities. If there is a faculty member who studies that topic, he/she could be a great resource and might be helpful in coming up with a project.
All departments conduct research. And while a majority of Liberal Arts departments offer students the opportunity to conduct research (conference courses for credit or research projects as part of the degree plan), there are a few departments that do not have research as part of their curriculum; but even for students in those departments, independent research is still an option. Ideally, students who pursue independent research should have a mentor to advise them on their research.
Students are welcome to begin research as early as their freshman year. In fact, the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program is specifically designed to immerse first-and second-year students (students with less than 60 credit hours) in research. The purpose of programs like the Apprenticeship Program is to expose students to research early in their academic career so they may be better positioned to conduct their own independent research projects as third- and fourth-year students.
Many students postpone the pursuit of research projects until later in their academic career because their interests are more developed at that point. Simply put: there is no "right time" to do research.
Unless students are doing research to fulfill a degree requirement, they are not obligated to present or publish their research. But there are many scholarships, grants, and stipends, both through the college and university that offer financial incentives for students to present their findings. Also, if a student is considering applying to graduate school, presenting or publishing research as an undergraduate can be exceptional experience that makes a resume or vita stand out.
Undergraduate researchers at The University of Texas at Austin will find many opportunities for funding and recognition. There are college and university scholarships and awards available, ranging from $500 to $20,000 to help with the cost of research. Each scholarship and award has its own criteria, deadlines, and application. For more details about each of these awards please contact the awarding department.
Any student at The University of Texas at Austin can conduct research. All honors students are required to conduct a research project, so it is a common misconception that these are the only students permitted to do research as undergraduates.