The opportunity to mentor aspiring scholars leads many faculty into involvement with undergraduate research.

Mentoring Emerging Scholars

A defining feature of the undergraduate research experience is the role of the faculty mentor. Faculty mentors help to teach students a variety of skills, techniques and methods; introduce them to the culture of the discipline; and ask questions that advance students' scholarship.

Issues To Consider

Faculty members supervising undergraduate researchers should consider the following when setting expectations and providing training and oversight:

  • Students have varying levels of skills, preparation and abilities. They often possess the potential and enthusiasm for their work. Be prepared to meet them at their level.
  • New researchers likely need to be socialized into your discipline's research culture. It's imperative that students learn about those values as well as the ethics of a particular discipline.
  • Safety. For disciplines involving laboratory work, student researchers should receive thorough training in safety precautions and handling equipment.
  • Every student is different. Student researchers will require different levels of encouragement and discipline. Some students may need prodding, while others simply require a little affirmation of what they're doing.
  • Undergraduate research should be an educational experience. The student's research should encourage intellectual stimulation and utilize advanced analytic skills. While "intellectual bottle washing" is sometimes a necessary step to help students understand the basic foundations of a discipline, the student's research should lead to the exploration of an issue or to the development of a new idea.
  • To help establish clear expectations with student researchers, we encourage you to download our conversation guide for faculty mentors and their undergraduate researchers.

Research Integrity and the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

Everyone -- including undergraduate student researchers -- working on an NSF or NIH grant needs to be trained in the responsible conduct of research (RCR). Students who are receiving funding from another source but are working on an NSF or NIH funded project still need to complete RCR training.

The Undergraduate Research Office encourages all faculty mentors to discuss academic integrity with their undergraduate student researchers for all scholarship, research, and creative activity. If you are unclear of the new guidelines or are looking for resources to help facilitate RCR discussions with your students, visit MSU's Research Integrity website. Resources include materials on authorship and publications, management of research data, plagiarism, and peer review. Visit MSU's RCR Training website for additional information on how MSU is working to standardize RCR training and tracking for MSU students, faculty, and staff.

Please also visit our Ethics page for additional information.


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