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Definition of Research

Definitions of Undergraduate Research

Heath Pasco



Council on Undergraduate Research, CUR, 1997

UGR is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.  (CUR Definition, 1997)


American Chemical Society's Definition of Research:

This definition was developed by the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Professional Training. They described the following as characteristics of undergraduate research. 

Research is the development of new knowledge or understanding in order to advance science. While the specific areas of research vary immensely in the chemical sciences and in chemical education, there are some traits that are common to undergraduate research in general. Undergraduate research is conducted with a faculty advisor or mentor. The student’s research project is typically based on the faculty mentor’s research interests, an arrangement which allows the student to draw upon the mentor’s expertise and resources and also allows the faculty mentor to develop a productive research program. The mentor meets regularly with the student to make research plans, assess risks associated with the proposed research, and review results. The student is encouraged to take primary responsibility for the project and to provide substantial input into its direction. The student-mentor relationship also builds student confidence, offers encouragement when necessary, and provides guidance and assistance for the student’s future education and career development. Undergraduate research should be envisioned as publishable in a peer-reviewed journal. Research builds upon the previous accomplishments of other scholars. For research to have any meaning or effect, it must be communicated to the scientific community. Peer review is the generally accepted means of monitoring and ensuring the quality of research. While not every undergraduate research project will result in a peer-reviewed publication, it should be the intent of each project to contribute to such a result. When an individual student research project is not of wide enough scope for an entire publication, it can often be combined with other undergraduate research projects into a more comprehensive study that merits publication. While the nature of each project depends on the specifics of the research, an ideal undergraduate research project: 

          * has a clearly communicated purpose and potential out-comes, 
          * has well-defined objectives and methods, 
          * is substantial in scope (as opposed to a collection of small projects), 
          * has a reasonable chance of completion in the available time, 
          * requires contact with the chemical literature, 
          * avoids repetitive work, 
          * requires use of advanced concepts, and 
          * requires a variety of techniques and instruments (not exclusively library work).

Finally, undergraduate research should culminate in a comprehensive written report. Oral and poster presentations are an extremely useful step in this process. However, a research project should not culminate solely in an oral presentation, as it would not become part of the archived body of knowledge. A written report adds to the permanent scientific knowledge base and can be used by subsequent researchers pursuing related projects. 


School of Arts and Sciences

Undergraduate Research Mission Statement


Westminster College’s School of Arts and Sciences seeks to provide opportunities for undergraduate research, broadly defined to include a wide range of scholarly and creative activities. Undergraduate research is conducted under faculty supervision and allows for communication of results. We are committed to a coherent program that

  • Encourages interested students to seek opportunities for involvement in undergraduate research at community, industrial, and educational locations, both locally and nationally.
  •  Invites specific students to conduct or be involved in undergraduate research on campus. 
  • Provides opportunities for students to display, discuss, and receive recognition for their achievements both on campus and in the community at large.
  •  Provides adequate financial support for students and faculty engaged in college-sponsored undergraduate research.