Undergraduate Research Club: Research Projects
The Undergraduate Research Club (URC) conducts team-based research each year based on members' interests. The first meeting of the academic year (in August or September) is devoted to brainstorming research ideas. The list gets narrowed down to a smaller list of 4-5 projects, with each project led by an URC officer. URC members can join any research team they want. If you are interested in learning more about the research teams, please check out the information below. This website will hopefully answer any questions you have about the process, but if we’re missing anything, please do not hesitate to contact your team leader, any of the URC officers, or the faculty advisor. All names and emails can be found here.
What will students learn?
A list of student learning outcomes associated with undergraduate research can be found here.
Below are the ones that are relevant to URC research projects. At the end of this research experience, you should be able to:
- Define the terminology associated with research and theory in this field of study
- Describe past research findings in this field of study
- Articulate how your research project makes a contribution to this field of study (in other words, how is your project original?)
- Explain the rationale for choosing this particular research methodology
- Evaluate research studies you see in the media or encounter in other courses
- Locate primary and secondary sources related to this field of study
- Synthesize and critically analyze past research on this topic
- 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 proposal and become IRB certified
- Collect data for a research study
- Analyze, synthesize, organize, and interpret data from your research study
- Work effectively as part of a team
- Write a summary of your research in either poster or oral presentation form
- Present your research to an audience as a poster or an oral presentation
- Articulate the ways in which this research participation helps prepare you for graduate school and/or a career
- Describe appropriate professional conduct (e.g., at conferences, when interacting with professionals in the field)
- Reflect on your research project, including strengths, weaknesses, and things you 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
- Independent thinking
- Organizational skills
- Leadership skills
- Intrinsic motivation
- Persistence on tasks
What are the responsibilities of the team members?
- Attend all team meetings when possible. When they have a conflict, they find out what they missed.
- Participate fully in team meetings (e.g., contributing to meetings, listening to teammates, being engaged in the process).
- Respond in a timely way to emails from the team leader, other team members, and/or the faculty advisor.
- Volunteer for various research tasks and complete those tasks by established deadlines.
- Ask questions when they don’t understand something (to other team members, to the team leader, and/or to the faculty advisor).
- Present their research at the Symposium of Student Scholars in April as well as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) if the project is accepted.
What are the responsibilities of the team leader?
- Organize and lead meetings.
- Set up a shared Dropbox, OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, or Google Drive so that all members have access to all documents related to the project.
- Assign tasks to members (in consultation with the members) and set deadlines for completing the tasks.
- Check in on team members to ensure that they are completing their tasks.
- Ensure that documents that need to be forwarded to the faculty advisor are done so by the established deadlines.
- Answer questions team members have about the project in a timely way.
What are the responsibilities of the faculty advisor?
- Although the team is responsible for designing the study, the faculty advisor will weigh in with ideas if the topic already has a lot of research done on it. It’s important that the project make an original contribution to the field of study or it will likely be rejected from the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).
- Provide feedback in a timely way on the research materials, the IRB form, the conference abstracts, and the poster or oral presentation.
- Train team members on how to design research projects, how to write conference abstracts, how to collect data, how to analyze data, and how to make a poster or oral presentation.
- Attend team meetings as needed.
- Answer any questions team members have in a timely way.
What is the general timeline for URC research projects?
Below is a general timeline for URC research projects, although the details may change depending on the project. Note that it is always good if you can do tasks faster than this timeline!
August/September: After the initial brainstorming meeting, URC will finalize the list of potential research projects and put the projects to a vote by the membership. The most highly-rated projects will be chosen, and URC members will have the opportunity to join a team if they wish. All undergraduate researchers need to complete an online ethics module before they are allowed to begin. More details can be found here (choose the “students conducting no more than minimal risk research” course, which takes approximately 30 minutes to complete).
September: Teams meet and brainstorm about their topic. Often, the topic chosen is broad, and team members have a lot of latitude in terms of how to investigate the topic. The eventual research project should make a unique contribution to the field, so at this point, team members should be reading articles on the topic that they’ve located through the library. The faculty advisor will also weigh in regarding how to make a project different from past studies.
October: Teams should be designing their research project. For instance, if you are administering a survey, what will the survey items look like? If you are conducting interviews or focus groups, what questions will you ask? If you are conducting an experiment, what do the experimental and control groups look like? Don’t worry if you don’t know what some of these terms mean; that’s what the faculty advisor is here for.
October/November: All projects involving human subjects must get IRB approval. Teams should be preparing their IRB proposals during this time. Proposals are required to be submitted by the faculty advisor on behalf of the research team.
November/Early December: One of the goals of this project is to present your research in a professional venue. URC aims to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) each year for several reasons:
- The Office of Undergraduate Research as well as the club have funds to send students there each year.
- It’s a conference for all disciplines, which means that we don’t have to find different conferences for different groups.
- The deadlines work well for our club (an early December deadline for abstracts, with the conference usually held in late March or early April).
- Not all conferences allow abstracts for projects that haven’t started data collection yet, but NCUR does allow this (URC projects typically have not started data collection prior to January).
- NCUR is a GREAT conference for undergraduates; it’s large (so there are plenty of options for sessions), it’s student-focused (there is a grad school fair, there are workshops on topics like writing a cover letter and interviewing, etc.), and it’s supportive.
- KSU hosted NCUR in 2019, so we have an institutional commitment to this conference.
Because the NCUR deadline for submissions is always early December, teams should be writing abstracts in November in order to have time to make changes based on feedback from the faculty advisor and to proofread before submitting. Also, you will need to undergo a pre-review process to be funded through the Office of Undergraduate Research (deadline typically mid-November).
January-February: Teams should be collecting data during this time period.
Early March: Teams should be analyzing data at this point.
Mid-March: Teams should submit an abstract to the Symposium of Student Scholars (it can be the same abstract you submitted to NCUR back in December if you want).
Mid-to-Late March: Teams should be creating their poster or oral presentation in preparation for NCUR (if accepted) and the Symposium of Student Scholars (all projects are accepted). Information about making posters can be found here, and information about creating effective oral presentations can be found here. Also, consider attending a workshop on making posters and making oral presentations; these are offered for free by the Office of Undergraduate Research. If you are making a poster, it can be printed for free at the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR). If you procrastinate too long and the OUR won’t print your poster, you can get it printed for a small fee at KSU’s Teacher Resource & Activity Corner (TRAC).
Late March/Early April: Start packing if you’re heading to NCUR! There will be information sessions prior to the trip, so you’ll learn more about NCUR then. As a general rule, always remember that you are representing Kennesaw State University and the Undergraduate Research Club at this conference. You might be even more scrutinized than most students because you are a representative from an NCUR host institution (KSU hosted in 2019). So have fun at the conference, but remember that it is a professional event, and professional behavior is expected.
Mid-to-Late April: Start preparing for the Symposium of Student Scholars. Remember there are prizes for top posters and oral presentations, so prepare well if you want to be in the running. For example, if you’re giving an oral presentation, team members should practice their parts and give each other feedback. If you’re giving a poster, have you prepared an “elevator speech” about your research project (in other words, a 2-minute or so summary)? Are you prepared to answer likely questions about your project? Do you have an outfit picked out for the occasion? (judges aren’t supposed to judge on clothes, but some of them are likely unconsciously judging on this anyway!).
May: This is a good time to reflect on this whole experience since it’s still fresh. What have you learned? What skills do you have that you didn’t have before (or that maybe are now more advanced than they were before you started)? How can you leverage this experience into getting a job or getting into grad school? Make an appointment with Career Services to learn more about how to display this information on your resume, how to talk about your project in an interview, and how to write about this experience in a cover letter.
What are some examples of previous URC projects?