Optimize Your MCUR Research Partnership

Thank you for creating an opportunity for students to enhance their undergraduate educational experience. As we all know, research is a vital part of any field of study, and opportunities for undergraduates to become involved in research projects are often few and far between.

Involving an undergraduate in your research should be a mutually beneficial experience. The aim is for you to gain a student who is eager to learn and to help with your research and for the student to gain invaluable research experience.  The following are some suggestions about how to help you and your student benefit from your research partnership:

  • Engage students in your research. In particular, students benefit from learning about the larger context of the work they are doing.  Explain the big picture of your research.  Encourage students to attend research group meetings so they can learn about the project as a whole and how their work contributes to it.
  • Meet with students on a regular basis so they can ask questions about the work they are doing.  At the meetings, you can provide feedback and guide your student assistant(s) to the next phase of a project. (The frequency of these meetings will vary between projects, but we recommend meeting at least every other week).
  • Expect your student researcher to perform at his/her best and help him/her to do so by providing regular feedback.  Identify problems early and try to resolve them as soon as possible.  Remember to provide positive feedback, recognizing students when they are doing well.
  • Set clear deadlines so both you and your student understand the expectations.
  • Encourage students to give a presentation to your research group about what they have learned and accomplished.  This gives them invaluable experience in presenting research and helps them learn how to discuss the research process.

Confronting Obstacles

If problems do arise, give your student feedback as soon as possible so you can work together to correct them. Examples of dilemmas students encounter in research groups include personal conflicts with other members of a research group, dissatisfaction with research assignments, and difficulty managing time between coursework and research obligations.

The most important thing to remember when working with students is that they are there in order to learn from you. Positive experiences may encourage students to attend graduate school or pursue a career in research.  You can and will have a tremendous influence on the student during his or her participation in the program.  Hopefully, by utilizing these guidelines, we can ensure that every student is able to walk away with an understanding of the demands of research as well as a positive feeling about it.