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First Steps

Students who want to participate in undergraduate research should begin by working through the 5 tiers of engagement described below. Completing these activities will help you understand how the OUR can assist you and will provide critical information to help you identify and obtain a research experience that fits your needs.


TIER 1: Complete the UR Self-Assessment and Review the I Will Document

Tier 1

Before you pursue available research opportunities you should consider why you want to engage in research and what you expect to gain from the experience. Completing the Undergraduate Research Self-Assessment will help you answer these questions and determine your research needs and goals. In addition, the self-assessment may also help you identify questions and /or ideas you may want to discuss with OUR staff and/or prospective research mentors. A great way to evaluate your level of research experience and engagement is to review the OUR I WILL document, which outlines approximately fifty items that you may have completed or will complete during your undergraduate career. Identifying your experience will prove extremely useful as you begin to develop a formal proposal and engage with a potential research mentor.


TIER 2: Attend a “Getting Started in Undergraduate Research” workshop

Tier 2

The first in the Getting Started series, this interactive workshop provides a comprehensive overview of the entire undergraduate research process at USF. Students who attend this workshop are added to the Undergraduate Research Interest Group Blackboard organization, which contains a listing of current research positions and other opportunities. Workshop topics include: What is undergraduate research and what types of experiences are available, how to engage in cross-disciplinary research, how to prepare for and obtain a research position, how to network with potential research mentors including faculty, graduate students, and post-docs, How to develop professional skills that will help you gain a competitive advantage, the role of the OUR including funding opportunities and how to receive credit for a research experience. An optional 30 minute Library Skills Information Session and Survey will be offered following each Getting Started workshop. Click here to view the list of OUR workshops and to register »


TIER 3: Attend a “Researching a Mentor and Developing an Undergraduate Research Project” workshop

Tier 3

After attending a Getting Started in Undergraduate Research workshop students should attend the workshop Researching a Mentor and Developing an Undergraduate Research Project. During this workshop, students will learn tips for researching a mentor and best practices for engaging with a potential mentor.  Students will also learn how to develop a proposal/prospectus for a potential research topic and will be given advise about how to present the prospectus or research idea to a potential mentor. Topics include: the importance of mentoring, how to determine the type of mentoring you need, how to research a USF faculty member, process for finding research topics, developing a proposal/prospectus, locating and utilizing USF resources. Click here to view the list of OUR workshops and to register »


TIER 4: Attend a research seminar/lecture and/or enroll in a research course

Tier 4

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in your discipline and the larger academic community is to attend a department sponsored research seminar/ lecture by a prominent scholar or USF faculty. Most USF programs/departments host seminars throughout the academic year and nearly all are free and open to the public. Attending seminars is a great way to learn about a subject in your discipline or outside of your discipline and these venues likewise provide a great opportunity to network and engage with the featured speakers and faculty. In addition, you can gain invaluable experience by enrolling in a research methods or laboratory course Search lab courses »and other courses that include a research component.  Search courses »Enrolling in a research course provides the added benefit of networking with faculty and graduate students who may have research opportunities available or who may be aware of additional opportunities.


TIER 5: Engage with graduate students, faculty, and peers participating in undergraduate research

Tier 5

A great way to learn about research projects and potential mentors is to speak with graduate students. First, graduate students are a direct connection to potential faculty mentors and may be able to advocate for you. Second, graduate students can provide advice and insight on working with faculty. Third, graduate students can discuss their program and provide advice about finding research opportunities. Finally, graduate students can work with you to refine your research focus and may be able to serve as a research mentor (this requires approval by the program and the OUR). To identify graduate students, review the program/department website.

Of course to secure an undergraduate research position, you need to network and engage with as many faculty as possible. Take time to research a potential faculty mentor and become familiar with his or her current research, publications, and projects. Perhaps the best way to identify and research a potential faculty mentor is to review the faculty member’s information on their department’s website. You may also want to approach a potential faculty mentor after class or visit with them during scheduled office hours to learn more about their research or current project. Many research positions are not formally advertised by faculty and in many cases are developed as a direct result of direct inquiries and engagement with students, therefore, frequent and thoughtful communication with faculty is critical to obtaining a research position.

Last but not least, talk to friends and acquaintances that have previously or are currently engaged in an undergraduate research experience. Knowledge of how others have successfully obtained a research experience can prove invaluable as you navigate the process for yourself.

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