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Research Benefits and Models

The University of Texas at Austin serves Texas and the nation as one of the most highly rated public research universities in the United States. Researchers at UT are leaders in a variety of fields that touch our daily lives and shape our future. Whether they study nanotechnology or musical composition, child welfare or popular culture, UT faculty and students pursue, produce, and publish innovative research every day. Their work fuels the teaching, lectures, and other events that help make UT an exciting and vibrant intellectual community of scholars, teachers, and learners. As a UT student, you can become an active member of this community by participating in undergraduate research.

Benefits of Research

The benefits for students engaged in research and creative work are numerous.

Educational Benefits

  • Working with a faculty mentor
  • Learning about issues, methods, and leaders in your chosen field
  • Applying concepts from your courses to “real life” situations
  • Furthering your creative achievement
  • Sharpening your problem-solving skills

Professional Benefits

  • Exploring potential careers
  • Enhancing your professional communication skills
  • Learning new techniques and skills for your career
  • Preparing for graduate or professional school
  • Networking with others who share your interests

Personal Benefits

  • Growing as a critical, independent thinker
  • Building confidence and the ability to work independently
  • Enhancing your awareness of ethical issues

Models for Participation

Undergraduate research usually takes the form of either a student-initiated individual project or assistance on a faculty member’s project. In both cases, the faculty member serves as a mentor to the student, in the sense that he or she teaches the student about the techniques, skills, and culture that accompany that field of research.

The specific tasks that undergraduate researchers carry out are as varied as the interests of UT’s faculty. Some representative tasks include

  • generating data or conducting experiments
  • compiling, entering, or analyzing data
  • creating an annotated bibliography or review of literature
  • administering surveys or interviewing participants
  • finding primary source materials
  • maintaining laboratory equipment
  • transcribing interviews

Not all research revolves around lab work or controlled experiments. Creative activity, or artistic work, adds to our understanding of human expression. It can consist of the more traditional visual and performing arts—theater, music, painting, sculpture, dance, fiction and poetry writing—as well as newer forms of artistic expression, such as radio, TV, film, multimedia, game, and interactive media production. Just as other types of research create knowledge about the natural world or society, creative exploration adds to our knowledge of the human experience.

The arts can also be a crucial component of archival research in the humanities.

Types of humanities inquiry can include

  • Archival research
  • Examination of historical documents
  • Analysis of texts and manuscripts
  • Artistic performance and applied theater research as inquiry
  • Painting as research inquiry
  • Research in applied theater
  • Literary, film, and art criticism
  • The artist as critic
  • Thematic matrix analysis of a story
  • Criticism as accurate, sharp, description
  • Criticism as representation of reality
  • Film criticism as analysis of “deep focus”

Adapted from: Della-Piana, C.K., Della-Piana, G.M., & Gardner, M.K. (2014). Evaluation of the Undergraduate Research Experience: A Practical Guide. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Depending on your major and the details of your research project, you may be able to earn course credit through the School of Undergraduate Studies.

Individual Project

Individual research includes theses, independent studies, and creative projects. The Undergraduate Research Journal provides excellent examples of what a student can accomplish in an individual research project. The journal is student-edited and publishes an array of multidisciplinary work from undergraduates across campus.

As an undergraduate researcher writing a thesis or independent project, you have the opportunity to create a product that reflects your unique interests, as well as your passion and commitment to learning.

Assistance on a Research Project

Serving as a research assistant involves working with a faculty member or graduate student on an existing research project. Such an experience can provide you with valuable training in how to conduct research. You also get the chance to work closely with renowned faculty and with members of a research team. As a research assistant, you typically assist with a project rather than conduct your own study.

Research sites

Much of the research activity carried out by UT faculty and students takes place on campus, whether in labs, classrooms, archives, or libraries. In some disciplines, work is conducted at field sites in Austin or throughout the region, including local businesses or non-profits.

Study Abroad

Research can also take place while studying abroad, which can provide excellent opportunities to gain cross-cultural skills and experiences. The Study Abroad Office helps make international learning experiences available to every student. Advisors in that office can help connect you to programs that include a research component. A variety of partners and programs can facilitate research abroad.

  • SIT offers study abroad programs centered on fieldwork and research
  • IFE specializes in field study and internships in Paris, Brussels and Strasbourg
  • IES Abroad can help students locate faculty abroad who are willing to help them conduct research in their chosen field
  • ISA offers many study abroad programs; some of them, such as the EuroScholars program, have research as a central component
  • First- and third-party programs exist for doing hands-on archaeology research in Greece, Belize, and other sites
  • DAAD offers research and internship programs in Germany, including in the sciences and engineering; they also offer scholarships and grants
  • International Engineering Education, part of the Cockrell School of Engineering, facilitates study and research abroad programs for engineering students
  • UT’s Clements Center and Department of History offer a Maymester program in London that features archival research as part of the coursework
  • UT’s Architectural Engineering program offers an Emerging Technologies program in London, in which students conduct research on (and use) the latest building design technologies at the top firms in London.
  • The Institute of International Education administers various scholarships to study and intern abroad

The Study Abroad Office also provides information for students interested in receiving course credit for independent research abroad.