How to Get Involved in Research in COLA
By working with a faculty member, students learn important methods, skills, and tips on how to approach common challenges in research. Students also get the opportunity to work closely with prominent faculty at one of the nation's leading public research universities. Here are some easy steps to follow when trying to identify potential faculty to work with:
Establish your interests
- What topics intrigue you?
- Are you willing to commit a large amount of time to the exploration of a particular topic?
- Think back on previous classes, volunteering or work experience, books you've read, papers you've written, and lectures you've attended.
Identify faculty who share your interests
- Search for undergraduate opportunities in faculty research on the Formal COLA Programs for Undergraduate Research page.
- Search faculty members and projects on Eureka.
- Look at departments relevant to your interests and search the faculty pages.
- Think back on classes you have taken and consider if any previous professors might be a good fit.
Consider course credit
- Many majors offer upper-division conference courses. Talk to your academic advisor to see if your department offers a course that might work for you.
- Some departments have a specific course in which students assist with a faculty research project. For example, PSY 357 requires its students to seek out a faculty member and assist with their research.
- UGS 310 and 320 are also available through the School of Undergraduate Studies.
- See Course Credit for more information.
- Consider what you are hoping to bring to the project and what skills you are hoping to gain from it.
- Investigate what the faculty member has been working on (research, publications) and think of questions you may have about their work.
- Think about your availability in a realistic way and consider how much time you can actually commit to the project.
- Ensure you can clearly articulate your interests.
- Think about how your school/work load might affect your reliability.
- Send the faculty member an email.
- Address the professor as "Dr." and be respectful.
- Tell the professor a little about yourself and your interests, that you are interested in assisting them with their research, and that you would like to set up a meeting to discuss it.
- Don't be discouraged if the faculty member is not looking for anyone at that time - ask if they can recommend someone else and try again.
Meet with the faculty member
- When you meet with faculty, be prepared to discuss the items from step 4.
- Dress neatly and be confident and relaxed.
- Ask the professor to outline what he/she would expect from you in terms of time commitment and skills necessary to complete the research.
- Discuss course credit if it is something you are interested in.
Reflect after the meeting
- Reflect and consider if both of your expectations could be met if you worked together.
- If it's not a good fit, be sure to tell the faculty member - politely but directly - and ask if the faculty member can recommend someone else. You may want to go back to step 2.
- If it is a good fit, and the faculty member agrees, proceed in outlining the expectations described in the next step.
Outline expectations for the project
- Decide on a start date for your work on the project.
- Set up weekly or biweekly meetings.
- Make arrangements for course credit if you are going to pursue it.
Some students choose to pursue their own independent research project, which may have grown out of work on another project or the student's own passion for a particular area. The most common form of independent research is an honors thesis, but all students can undertake their own research project.
Ideally, a student will meet regularly with a faculty mentor who provides advice and encouragement throughout the project. Whether a student has participated in research before or not, a faculty member upon whom the student can rely on for feedback and direction can prove invaluable.
Students can pursue an independent research project at any time in their academic career; however, most students are not ready to pursue an independent research project until their third or fourth year. It takes time for students to establish their interests, become familiar with faculty and departments, and be able to fully utilize all of the University's resources.
An independent research project might be right for you if....
- You have already assisted with a faculty research project.
- You understand the methods you will utilize to pursue your project and what goals you hope to achieve.
- You have a research topic in mind.
Things to Consider
- Are you able to devote 8-12 hours a week to a project?
- What do you want to get out of your experience?
- What are your expectations for the faculty mentor?
- Do you want to explore a new subject or expand on one you're already studying?
- Are you able to work independently and stay on track?
- Do you want course credit (link to Course Credit options page)?
- Are your expectations for the project and yourself reasonable?
An honors thesis is a thirty- to eighty-page research essay, usually completed in a student's senior year. Although it may take one or two semesters to complete, the thesis is commonly the culmination of a student's work and experiences throughout their college career. Some departments require that students orally defend their thesis to qualify for honors.
Research through Study Abroad or Internship
Studying abroad can offer unique opportunities that give students personal and meaningful access to people, places, and materials that would normally be too impractical for a research project. Likewise, internships allow students to gain practical insight to their research through hands-on work. Students can start their internships or study abroad opportunities with a developed research topic or they may choose to participate in an established program that is combined with research.
Volunteering with a nonprofit, government agency, or community service organization can offer students an opportunity to access unique groups and information. If applicable to their research, students may find that these organizations can provide immense support, guidance, and inspiration for research projects.
Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP)
The Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program provides a structured opportunity for faculty to receive assistance with research projects while giving students exposure and experience conducting research in various disciplines within Liberal Arts. Students are not expected to do their own research projects; rather, students will assist in ongoing faculty research projects. Students must have 60 or fewer hours to be eligible for this program.
Bridging Disciplines Programs (BDPs)
The Bridging Disciplines Programs allow students to choose one of 11 different interdisciplinary concentrations in which they will take 19 credit hours of coursework from a panel of faculty members in, or related to, the specific discipline. BDP students have the advantage of becoming involved in research projects and internships that complement their areas of study. Students can also get involved in research while studying abroad. (LINK TO BDP PAGE)
Created in 2005 for students in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences, the Texas IP is a six-course interdisciplinary plan rooted in a critical thinking and writing foundation and crowned by a capstone project in the senior year.
Four features make the Texas IP unique:
- Students can articulate their own focus of study.
- A two-course critical thinking and writing requirement forms the intellectual foundation for each student.
- Students will produce a substantial scholarly work as undergraduates.
- A generous endowment allows the IP to offer a variety of financial scholarships to students.
The program culminates with the senior-year Texas IP Capstone Seminar, which allows students to expand on what they've learned in their studies. With the help and guidance of their Capstone professor, students research their topic and present their results at the Capstone symposium.
Summer Research Scholars Program
The University of Texas at Austin hosts a number of undergraduate research programs on campus each summer. These programs select academically talented and motivated undergraduates to participate in exciting research in a variety of disciplines.
Want the freedom to explore academic and intellectual areas that you are interested in, but want a structured framework to work within? Consider Intellectual Entrepreneurship.
Formal COLA Programs for Undergraduate Research
The Formal COLA Programs for Undergraduate Research page allows faculty to post opportunities for undergraduates to assist with faculty research in Liberal Arts. This college-specific posting is the only one of its kind.
Eureka features an online directory of faculty research interests for the more than 1,800 faculty members and research scientists at UT Austin. Visitors to the site are able to search by keyword and find faculty from a wide range of fields working on a variety of topics.
Students use Eureka to find tips on getting started in research, information on funding and publication, and postings by UT faculty for research positions here on campus. In addition, interested students have the option to meet individually with staff research coordinators to develop strategies for getting involved and find placements.
Office of Undergraduate Research
The Office of Undergraduate Research provides resources and advising for students who are both in the beginning of the research process or seasoned undergraduate researchers.
The office holds weekly information sessions for students who are interested and looking to get involved in research. Undergraduate research advisors are available during the sessions to answer questions and talk about strategies to help students get involved.
Scholarships and Awards
Undergraduate researchers at The University of Texas at Austin will find many opportunities for funding and recognition. There are college and university scholarships and awards available, ranging from $500 to $20,000 to help with the cost of research. Each scholarship and award has its own criteria, deadlines, and application. For more details about each of these awards please contact the awarding department.