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Paving the Way for Undergraduate Research

Office of the Provost continues adding resources to undergraduate research site

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October 31, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The numbers of Northwestern undergraduates doing research and creative projects beyond the classroom continue to grow each year in just about every field of study. So, too, do resources intended to help them conduct their research and find the funding to make it possible.

Last year, the Office of the Provost developed UR@NU, an online one-stop shop for undergraduates interested in research. This year, it has added a searchable database of opportunities for research, engagement and creativity as well as a series of short videos designed to help students in the process of starting, thinking about and completing research.

“The most difficult step in any project is the very first one,” says Peter Civetta, who works with Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Ronald Braeutigam. For one of the new videos at UR@NU, the Provost’s Office assembled a panel of Northwestern professors from a variety of academic fields to provide helpful tips on getting a research or creative project up and running.

The videos in “Research Resources” feature veteran Northwestern faculty. They describe how to come up with an appropriate research question, how to work with human subjects and partner with the Institutional Review Board, how to prepare for international research and how to take advantage of the extraordinary resources and subject specialists available at and through Northwestern University Library.

In the short videos in “Research In…,” six Northwestern professors from very different disciplines suggest methodologies that can be used in approaching research. While those methodologies vary, all the researchers revel in the “aha!” moments when an interview, an archive entry or an ethnographic observation leads to discovery.

Archival work can be tedious, says historian Peter Hayes, but it is more than compensated by “the tremendous rush you get finding those little nuggets that can help to explain something that has eluded you.”

In response to requests from students for a more comprehensive database of research opportunities, the Office of the Provost has created the Undergraduate ARCH (Accessing Research and Creative Help), a user-friendly search engine with more than 225 opportunities for research and creative endeavors. More are being added on a regular basis.

“There opportunities for research and for creative projects are amazing, but they often can be difficult to ferret out,” says Civetta. Undergraduate ARCH makes it possible for students to search all at once by subject area or interest (such as engineering or global health), location (such as Evanston campus or international) and time frame (summer or year-round).”

Also on UR@NU is testimony from students who already have discovered the value of pursuing their passions and interests through research outside the classroom. “Undergraduate research lets students take the lead in their education and put to practical use what they have learned in classes,” adds Civetta. “These new resources will help make this process easier and more accessible.”

Topics: Campus Life, Research, University