University of Illinois at Chicago

Undergraduate Research: An Exploratory Study of Undergraduate Research at Research-Intensive Universities

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posted on 2021-05-01, 00:00 authored by Tracy M Sikorski
While undergraduate research programs (URP) have been used by the higher education community to engage students and develop critical thinking skills, little if any research has been conducted to examine what type of URP exist within the non-STEM disciplines. The purpose of this study was to (a) identify and examine the goals, types, and methods of assessing URP at select research-intensive universities; (b) compare and contrast institutional and disciplinary URP; and (c) examine the challenges administrators face in developing, implementing, and assessing URP specifically in non-STEM disciplines. The researcher collected data from multiple sources and identified themes found in the data to answer the research questions. The researcher identified three goals of URP: (a) improving educational outcomes, (b) engaging students, and (c) preparing for post-graduation; two types of URP: (a) all-campus programs and (b) peer programs; and no primary methods of assessing URP. The researcher also found two primary similarities among institutions in their URP: (a) mentoring and (b) inclusivity and two primary differences among institutions in their URP: (a) the way in which they defined undergraduate research and (b) the institutional resources available for URP. The researcher also found one primary similarity among STEM and non-STEM disciplines in their URP: diversity and two primary differences among STEM and non-STEM disciplines in their URP: (a) resources available and (b) membership in the research community. Finally, the researcher found two challenges that administrators faced in developing, implementing, and assessing URP: (a) assessment and (b) recruitment of non-STEM students. Undergraduate research is a mechanism for improving student outcomes and engaging students. Students can engage with members of the academic and professional community through mentoring and inclusive practices. These practices are necessary for the success of students both while at school and during their post-baccalaureate experiences. However, to meet this call for action, institutions need to focus on three areas: the student as a member of the research community, the role of the mentor in building critical thinking skills, and the development of undergraduate research as a high-impact practice.



Lawless, Kimberly


Lawless, Kimberly


Educational Psychology

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Thomas, Michael K Sima, Celina Ullman, Sarah E LaPlant, James

Submitted date

May 2021

Thesis type



  • en

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