Q: Why should I do research as an undergraduate?
A: Undergraduate research is an enriching process which provides numerous benefits to UWG students:
- It goes beyond what is taught in the classroom and enables students to apply the knowledge they are learning in their classes to real life situations
- It creates meaningful student-faculty interactions
- It helps students discover new areas of interest
- It improves communication skills It enhances critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and intellectual independence
- It boosts student self-confidence and professionalism
- It enhances student resumes for future graduate work or career development
- It's fun!
Q: I’m not majoring in a science or engineering field. Can I still do research?
Undergraduate research is limitless and has unbelievable freedoms. Many students each year do undergraduate research in the social sciences, fine and performing arts, humanities, business, education, nursing, etc. Almost every discipline has undergraduate research opportunities. There are also many interdisciplinary projects that transcend departments.
Q. What makes undergraduate research distinctive from my other class work?
A: You must share your scholarly work with others.
What makes research distinct from your other class work is the sharing your scholarly research with others. Your research should be clearly documented in a scholarly way and the knowledge should be shared with others in the form of an oral presentation, poster presentation, or a formal paper or publication.
Q: How do I get started in undergraduate research?
A: The important first step to getting started in undergraduate research is to find a faculty mentor whose interests match yours.
Undergraduates do not work alone on their research projects; they work with a faculty member in a particular department. Your faculty mentor can assist you in helping identify and frame a significant question in your discipline and then help plan the steps to the project.
Talk to your department chair, program-level advisor, or the Office of Undergraduate Research to find opportunities.
Q: Do I have to wait until I’m an upper class student to conduct research?
For West Georgia students, undergraduate research is often an evolving experience that they participate throughout their time on campus. While students are not required to begin the pursuit of research projects at any specific point, they are encouraged to begin exploring the possibilities as soon as possible. Faculty often seek out Freshmen and Sophomore researchers because those students have the potential to work on the research project for several semesters.
Take your schedule into consideration and allow yourself a nice transition. Get involved in undergraduate research when you’re ready.
Q: What if I have my own project in mind?
A: Then you are one step closer to beginning the research process. The next step is to pursue an outlet for your interests.
Your goal is to find a faculty mentor to help you with your project. You can talk to faculty in your department to help you develop your interests. You can also talk to your program-level advisor or the Office of Undergraduate Research.
Q: How do I find a faculty mentor for my project?
A: There are many ways to find a faculty mentor and get started in undergraduate research.
Generally, professors who you’ve had in class are a great place to start. You may also consider asking student researchers who their faculty members are and consider joining their team. Here are other ways to find a faculty mentor:
- Talk to your professors about their research interests. Do you share common interests? Ask about the faculty member’s areas of interest and if they are currently working on any projects that could use your assistance.
- Contact the Faculty Coordinator of Undergraduate Research in your College or Discipline. The coordinator will help you find a faculty mentor to get started in undergraduate research. Be prepared to discuss some ideas about topics you are interested in learning more about. The coordinator will consult with and connect you to a faculty mentor in a field that inspires or motivates you.
- For additional guidance, contact the Manager of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Kate Theobald, by emailing email@example.com.
Q: Can I do a project outside of my home department?
There are many interdisciplinary projects that transcend departments. Students participating in undergraduate research often discover new areas of interest. Taking time to pursue research outside of your major is a great opportunity to become a well-rounded student.
Q: What if I no longer enjoy doing my research?
A: If you feel you can no longer commit to your research for whatever reason, it is ok to either stop or move into a different area of research.
Begin by talking with your faculty mentor about your situation. Your faculty mentor wants you to be successful no matter what. There are also other resources you could contact to discuss your situation, such as your academic advisor, the Manager of the Office of Undergraduate Research (firstname.lastname@example.org), or the faculty coordinator of undergraduate research in your college or discipline. They are there to help you.
Q. Can I get paid for doing research?
A: There are some opportunities for paid student researchers, mainly: SRAP, grants, and some departmental/college sponsored positions.
However, a formal research agreement is not required for you to engage in faculty-directed research or creative activities. As long as you find a willing Faculty mentor, you can volunteer as a student researcher or perhaps even earn academic credit. To earn academic credit, you and your Faculty mentor will need to talk to the Department Chair and follow the procedures established by the Registrar’s Office.
Q. Do I have to do research in my major?
A: You do not have to do research with a faculty mentor in your major –– you can do undergraduate research in every academic discipline at West Georgia.
For example, if you are a Biology major interested in studying Neuroscience, you might team up with a Psychology professor who specializes in that area. Or if you are a Graphic Design Art major, you might work on an Advertising project with a Marketing Professor or a Professional staff member of our University Communication and Marketing office.
Q. If I plan to apply to a graduate or professional program, should I do undergraduate research?
A: While undergraduate research is usually not a mandatory requirement for admission to graduate or professional programs, it will certainly help distinguish your application from others.
While having a high GPA and participating in student or community organizations is also helpful, undergraduate research highlights characteristics that are critical to success in graduate and professional programs: high intellectual and creative abilities, academic engagement, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In essence, undergraduate research shows that you can not only succeed as a student, but also as a scholar, i.e. you are not just a receiver of information, but also a producer of information.