Undergraduate Research

Promoting transformative educational experiences through scholarly undergraduate research and creative inquiry

The College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF) helps undergraduates in the College navigate the broad array of institutional, domestic, and international scholarly research opportunities that are available to them. The CCRF encourages students to make scholarly research and creative inquiry a fundamental part of their academic experience at the University of Chicago, if it makes sense academically and vocationally. 

College students are encouraged to attend a quarterly CCRF Undergraduate Research Information Session for further guidance on identifying opportunities and potential research mentors, when might be a good time to engage in research, and how to gain the most from the experience.  

What is research?

Research across disciplines is the systematic production of new knowledge. The process often includes the following:

  • Developing a research question(s);
  • Identifying where the research question(s) fits within existing knowledge, often accomplished through a literature review;
  • Designing the method of investigating the question and securing the appropriate permissions to conduct your research;
  • Collecting and analyzing data/materials, drawing conclusions from that analysis;
  • Writing about, presenting and publishing your findings.

You can read more about how "research" is defined nationally by the NSF/OECD Frascati Manual (an applicable definition across disciplines and fields) here.

What is undergraduate research and creative inquiry?

In keeping with national definitions, CCRF defines undergraduate research as follows: 

Undergraduate research is a scholarly or creative investigation that contributes to the systematic production of new knowledge; it is a meaningful activity undertaken with the guidance of a faculty member or other research mentor(s) and is used to enrich the College academic curriculum and student experience through enhanced critical thinking skills and a greater understanding of a chosen discipline(s) and its methodologies.

CCRF joins the Council on Undergraduate Research in their endorsement of scholarship by Drs. Jeffrey M. Osborn and Kerry K. Karukstis who argue that four common threads must run through every undergraduate research activity on any campus:

  1. Mentorship. A serious, collaborative interaction between the faculty mentor and student, in which the student is intellectually engaged in the scholarly problem or project
  2. Originality. The student makes a meaningful and authentic contribution to the scholarly problem or project, and the work must be entirely or partially novel
  3. Acceptability. Employing techniques and methodologies that are appropriate and recognized by the discipline with a problem or project that includes a reflective and synthetic component
  4. Dissemination. Includes a final tangible product for which both the process and results are peer-reviewed, juried, or judged in a manner consistent with disciplinary standards

The term “undergraduate research” encompasses faculty- or discipline-expert directed scholarly research activities and creative endeavors. CCRF recognizes that these experiences may range from historical scholarship, curatorial research, and laboratory experiences to music composition, creative writing, dramaturgy and data analysis in the social sciences. 

What are the benefits of doing undergraduate research and creative inquiry?

The primary outcome of engaging in undergraduate research is that it enables you to acquire an in-depth understanding of the knowledge-making process and to better understand the world.  It is a form of exploration that compels the application of knowledge outside of the classroom and often results in the shifting of ideas about that knowledge and the way it functions in the world. You might also think of it as a form of apprenticing – learning the tools of trade, as it were, and how those contribute and expand your experience as a scholar. There are a number of other benefits and reasons that College students pursue undergraduate research, including:

  • Engaging more deeply with your subject;
  • Learning relevant methodological skills and approaches to your discipline;
  • Building relationships with faculty;
  • Pursuing primary and secondary research for a thesis;
  • Preparing for graduate school and national scholarships and fellowships;
  • Demonstrating intellectual fitness and preparedness for future graduate schools, national funding bodies, and employers;
  • Advancing your scholarship productively during the academic year and/or the summer.

The College Center for Research and Fellowships is UChicago's institutional member of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and participating members of both the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) and the World Congress on Undergraduate Research.