Undergraduate Research at UChicago

Promoting scholarly advancement through undergraduate research

The College Center for Scholarly Advancement (CCSA) helps undergraduates in the College navigate the broad array of institutional, domestic, and international research opportunities that are available to them. The CCSA encourages students to make research a fundamental part of their academic experience at the University of Chicago, if it makes sense for their academic experience.  The term “undergraduate research” encompasses research activities and creative endeavors, recognizing that examples may range from historical scholarship, art exhibitions, and laboratory experiences to music composition, data analysis and creative writing.  The CCSA promotes undergraduate research as integral to your scholarly development and as an opportunity to apply your in-classroom knowledge, creatively engage with your discipline, build important relationships with faculty, and gain experience that will help prepare you for graduate school, nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, and other professional endeavors.

Navigate from the menu at the left for information most relevant to you, including: an introduction to undergraduate research, how to get involved in undergraduate research at UChicago, information about research ethics and compliance policies for human and animal subjects, and research funding opportunities. You will also find growing list of UChicago, US and International research opportunities categorized generally by discipline here.  

What is research?

Research across disciplines is the systematic production of new knowledge. The process often includes the following:

  • Developing a research question(s);
  • Identifying where the research question(s) fits within existing knowledge, often accomplished through a literature review;
  • Designing the method of investigating the question and securing the appropriate permissions to conduct your research;
  • Collecting and analyzing data/materials, drawing conclusions from that analysis;
  • Writing about, presenting and publishing your findings.

What is undergraduate research?

The formal definition of undergraduate research given by the national Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) is: An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline. Undergraduate research is used to enrich the academic curriculum through enhanced critical thinking skills and greater understanding of chosen field, through independent study projects, undergraduate thesis work, and outside of the classroom under the guidance of a faculty member or other mentor. 

The Council on Undergraduate Research recently published “Broadening Participation in Undergraduate Research: Fostering Excellence and Enhancing the Impact,” by Drs. Jeffrey M. Osborn and Kerry K. Karukstis. According to these authors, four common threads run through every undergraduate research activity on campus:

  1. Mentorship. A serious, collaborative interaction between the faculty mentor and student, in which the student is intellectually engaged in the scholarly problem or project
  2. Originality. The student makes a meaningful and authentic contribution to the scholarly problem or project, and the work must be entirely or partially novel
  3. Acceptability. Employing techniques and methodologies that are appropriate and recognized by the discipline with a problem or project that includes a reflective and synthetic component
  4. Dissemination. Includes a final tangible product for which both the process and results are peer-reviewed, juried, or judged in a manner consistent with disciplinary standards

What are some of the benefits of doing undergraduate research?

The primary outcome of engaging in undergraduate research is that it enables you to acquire an in-depth understanding of the knowledge-making process and to better understand the world.  It is a form of exploration that compels the application of knowledge outside of the classroom and often results in the shifting of ideas about that knowledge and the way it functions in the world. You might also think of it as a form of apprenticing – learning the tools of trade, as it were, and how those contribute and expand your experience as a scholar. There are a number of other benefits and reasons that College students pursue undergraduate research, including:

  • Engaging more deeply with your subject;
  • Learning relevant methodological skills and approaches to your discipline;
  • Building relationships with faculty;
  • Pursuing primary and secondary research for a thesis;
  • Preparing for graduate school and national scholarships and fellowships;
  • Demonstrating intellectual fitness and preparedness for future graduate schools, national funding bodies, and employers;
  • Advancing your scholarship productively during the academic year and/or the summer.

The College Center for Scholarly Advancement is a participating member of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and actively promotes opportunities available through the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR).