What is undergraduate research?

The Council on Undergraduate Research defines “undergraduate research” as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”

The Elon Undergraduate Research Program Advisory Committee expanded this definition in 2006 to clearly indicate the role and importance of faculty mentoring in the undergraduate research process:


Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors include activities undertaken by an undergraduate student with significant faculty mentoring that: 

  1. Lead to new scholarly insights and/or creation of new works;
  2. Add to the discipline; and
  3. involve critical analysis of the process and/or outcome of the activities.

Quality undergraduate research and creative activity result in a product that has potential for peer-reviewed dissemination in the form of presentations, publications, exhibitions or performances.

This definition underlies the decisions made with regard to grants, scholarships and fellowships. It is not expected that all undergraduate research result in peer-reviewed dissemination, rather that the endeavor has that potential.

Why participate?

Undergraduate research helps students apply classroom learning to new areas. It offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in inquiry in their chosen field of study and to experience first-hand what professionals in a chosen field do.  It also allows them to develop an understanding of how a chosen field can extend beyond disciplinary boundaries and overlap with other disciplines. Working with a faculty mentor on his/her research allows the student to benefit from the faculty member’s expertise and experience.

How do I get involved?

  1. First you need to declare your major. Most students undertake research in their major.
  2. Talk to faculty in your department about their research interests. The department chair of your major department and your academic advisor are also good resources for finding out about opportunities.
  3. Join the Undergraduate Research Student Association. They have had success with helping students get involved in research.
  4. For additional guidance, contact the director of undergraduate research, Dr. Eric Hall in Powell Building 108H (click here for email).