Learning Outcomes

Below are undergraduate research learning outcomes taken from the literature. These outcomes can be incorporated into syllabi for undergraduate research experiences.

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  • At the end of the project, students should be able to:

    • Define the terminology associated with research and theory in their field
    • Describe past research studies in their field of study
    • Articulate how their research study makes a contribution to their academic field
    • Explain the rationale for choosing particular research methodologies and data analytic techniques
    • Evaluate research studies they see in the media or encounter in other courses
  • At the end of the project, students should be able to:

    • Locate primary and secondary sources related to their field of study
    • Synthesize and critically analyze past research in their field of study
    • Design a study to answer a research question 
    • Develop a hypothesis
    • Describe ethical research practices and apply those practices to a research study
    • Write an IRB or IACUC proposal and become IRB certified
    • Collect data for a research study
    • Analyze, synthesize, organize, and interpret data from their research study
    • Work effectively as part of a team
    • Write a research paper 
    • Present their research/creative activity to an audience (e.g., poster, oral presentation, performance, display)
  • At the end of the project, students should be able to:

    • Articulate what it means to be a scholar in their academic field
    • Articulate the ways in which their research participation helps prepare them for graduate school and/or a career
    • Describe appropriate professional conduct (e.g., at conferences, when interacting with professionals in the field)
    • Reflect on their research project, including strengths, weaknesses, and things they would do differently in another research context
  • Although these outcomes are harder to measure, the literature suggests that after an undergraduate research experience, students tend to experience improvements in the following areas:

    • Time management
    • Self-confidence/self-esteem
    • Independent thinking
    • Problem-solving
    • Organizational skills
    • Leadership skills
    • Intrinsic motivation
    • Persistence on tasks
  • Baenninger, M., & Hakim, T. (1999). Undergraduate research as a curricular element: Multidisciplinary courses at the College of New Jersey. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 20, 9-13.

    Bauer, K. W., & Bennett, J. S. (2003). Alumni perceptions used to assess undergraduate research experience. Journal of Higher Education, 74, 210-230.

    Bowman, M. H., & Stage, F. K. (2002). Personalizing the goals of undergraduate research. Journal of College Science Teaching, 32, 120-125.

    Chopin, S. F. (2002). Undergraduate research experiences: The translation of science education from reading to doing. The Anatomical Record, 269, 2-10.

    Hunter, A., Laursen, S. L., & Seymour, E. (2006). Becoming a scientist: The role of undergraduate research in students’ cognitive, personal, and professional development. Science Education, 91, 36-74.

    Hu, S., Scheuch, K., Schwartz, R., Gayles, J. G., & Li, S. (2008). Reinventing undergraduate education: Engaging college students in research and creative activities. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Kardash, C. M. (2000). Evaluation of an undergraduate research experience: Perceptions of undergraduate interns and their faculty mentors. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 191-201.

    Landrum, R. E., & Nelson, L. R. (2002). The undergraduate research assistantship: An analysis of the benefits. Teaching of Psychology, 29, 15-19.

    Lopatto, D. (2003). The essential features of undergraduate research. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 24, 139-142.

    Lopatto, D. (2004). Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE): First Findings. Cell Biology Education, 3, 270-277.

    Lopatto, D. (2004). What undergraduate research can tell us on research on learning. What Works, What Matters, and What Lasts, Volume IV. Retrieved from the Project Kaleidoscope website, http://www.pkal.org/documents/Vol4WhatUndergradResearchCanTellUs.cfm   

    McKinney, K., Saxe, D., & Cobb, L. (1998). Are we really doing all we can for our undergraduates? Professional socialization via out-of-class experiences. Teaching Sociology, 26, 1-13.

    Seymour, E., Hunter, A., Laursen, S. L., & Deantoni, T. (2004). Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates in the sciences: First findings from a three-year study. Science Education, 88, 493-534.

    Thiry, H., & Laursen, S. (2009). Evaluation of the undergraduate research programs of the Biological Science Initiative: Students’ intellectual, personal and professional outcomes from participation in research. Report prepared for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Boulder, CO: Ethnography and Evaluation Research.