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Guiding Questions

Students in all disciplines and at any level of study can engage in undergraduate research. Whether you are a freshman, a transfer student, or at the end of your Baccalaureate program there are many research opportunities available at USF. You should begin your search for a research position by answering the guiding questions listed below. Answering these questions will help you determine why you want to engage in research and what you expect to gain from the experience.

Undergraduate Research Flowchart

Why is Undergraduate Research Important?

Participating in undergraduate research promotes deeper understanding and greater satisfaction with the college experience. In addition, students who are engaged in undergraduate research take an active role in inquiry, improve their speaking and writing ability, and gain the necessary skills to think “outside the box.” More importantly, participating in undergraduate research provides an opportunity to develop lasting associations with research mentors beyond the undergraduate experience. In short, undergraduate research is an invaluable academic experience and the question is: Why are you not engaged?

How do I determine my research goals and what I really want to do?

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 determine your research needs and goals and help you identify questions you may have for the OUR and/or a prospective research mentor.

Is it important that the research project is in my discipline?

No. In fact, a cross-disciplinary research experience may be more advantageous if you plan to pursue a graduate career or attend professional school as these types of experiences highlight your ability to think critically both within and outside of your discipline. The research project you pursue should be one that inspires inquiry and engagement, and it should prompt a question that you are thoroughly motivated to answer. In short, any project, issue or question that you care about can potentially be developed into a viable research project.

If you are interested in cross-disciplinary (interdisciplinary) research then you may want to consider the following:

  • Attend a lecture or presentation in a field other than your own. This will allow you to observe the similarities and differences between the approach to research and scholarship in different fields of study.
  • Enroll in a research-based course, seminar or directed research course outside of your discipline. The experience gained from such courses will enable you to apply new methods and approaches to your own research.
  • Develop and compose a prospectus or formal proposal that outlines a potential research question. This document will help a potential research mentor understand the aims of your proposed project, and will likewise demonstrate your commitment and desire to engage in research. For guidance regarding the preparation of this document and to identify a potential research mentor who would be willing to work with you on a cross-disciplinary project please contact the OUR.
  • Engage in discussions with other students and faculty who are involved in cross-disciplinary research.
  • Review faculty research interests in the disciplines that interest you.

How do I get experience to obtain an undergraduate research position?

You may want to begin by considering experiences you have gained during your academic career at USF. For example, have you volunteered or completed an internship? Have you attended a seminar lecture in your department? Have you investigated the current research of a potential research mentor? If you have engaged in any of these activities then you have gained valuable experience that you can reference when speaking with a potential research mentor. To help you determine experiences that you may already possess, the OUR has compiled a list titled: OUR I WILL, 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.

What is the role of the OUR?

The Office for Undergraduate Research is committed to providing support to undergraduate researchers through a variety of services and instruction. OUR services include:

  • Getting Started in Undergraduate Research workshop
  • OUR Consultation services
  • OUR Professional Development Workshop series
  • OUR Publication Awards
  • USF Undergraduate Research and Arts Colloquium
  • OUR Computer Lab
  • OUR/USF Library initiatives
  • OUR sponsored research projects
  • research seminar database
  • OUR communication (including mailing list, e–newsletter and OUR blog)
  • OUR funding opportunities
  • Guidance and assistance regarding course credit for undergraduate research

Important Note: Students who attend a Getting Started in Undergraduate Research workshop will be added to the Undergraduate Research Interest Group Blackboard organization, and will receive frequent information about OUR events and services. In addition, students in the organization will receive priority access regarding new UR opportunities and will have direct access to the OUR leadership team and other networking resources.

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