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Why Participate in Collaborative Research?

Recent studies have questioned whether college students are in fact learning the information and developing the skills they will need in their future careers. Are undergraduates “academically adrift,” or cut off from truly engaging educational experiences? The debate continues; however, through its support of undergraduate research and other high-impact pedagogical practices, St. Norbert College aims to help its students find solid paths through their undergraduate careers and into their futures.

Academically Adrift

In Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipa Roska investigate the academic gains of students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities. Their conclusion – that undergraduates do not demonstrate significant gains after completing their education – has caused educators, administrators, students, parents and the general public to reassess learning at the undergraduate level.


Participating in undergraduate research is an essential way to become academically centered in college, and studies suggest that undergraduate research is a central "high-impact practice" that leads to "high quality" academic involvement.


Related Articles

Benefits of Research

Skills Gained Through Undergraduate Research

Integrative skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Written communication
  • Oral communication/public speaking/presentation skills

Research skills:

  • Discourse community
  • Field-specific research
  • Real-world academic research
  • Involvement in academic exchange 

Intangible skills:

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Intellectual excitement and commitment
  • Patience
  • Fortitude
  • Dependability/reliability

Five High-Impact Practices
In their book, “Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion and Quality,” Jayne E. Brownell and Lynn E. Swaner list undergraduate research among the five practices they identify as the most beneficial to students:

  • First-year seminars
  • Learning communities
  • Service learning
  • Undergraduate research
  • Capstone courses and projects

Undergraduate Research Outcomes
General effects:

  • Higher rate of persistence
  • Higher rate of graduate school enrollment
  • Improvement in research skills
  • Increased interaction with faculty and peers
  • Gains in problem solving and critical thinking
  • Greater satisfaction with educational experience
Impact on underserved students:
  • Higher rate of persistence
  • Higher rate of graduate school enrollment
  • Findings mostly limited to studies of undergraduate and summer research opportunity programs
Moderating variables:
  • Role of faculty mentor
  • Quality of mentoring relationship
Research issues:
  • Lack of empirical studies (vs. program descriptions)
  • Selection bias (promising students often selected for undergraduate research opportunities)
  • Unknown impact of mediating variables
  • Lack of research on outcomes beyond retention and graduate school enrollment
Components of Successful Undergraduate Research Programs
  • Encourage faculty to provide mentoring, rather than just program oversight, and attend to the quality of the mentoring relationship (balancing challenge with support).
  • Provide opportunities for “real-life” applications, whether through publication, presentations, or project implementation.
  • Offer intentionally designed curricula that enhance students' research skills and build those skills over time, including prior to intensive undergraduate research experiences.

Engagement at SNC

How Does Undergraduate Research Begin at St. Norbert College?
Research projects involving undergraduate students can begin in several ways, including:
  • Faculty-initiated research
  • Student-initiated research
  • Classroom-initiated research
  • St. Norbert College Research Fellows Program
Programs Currently Available to Undergraduates
Undergraduate research programs funded by the college:

Academically Adrift

In Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum and Josipa Roska investigate the academic gains of students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities. Their conclusion – that undergraduates do not demonstrate significant gains after completing their education – has caused educators, administrators, students, parents and the general public to reassess learning at the undergraduate level.


Participating in undergraduate research is an essential way to become academically centered in college, and studies suggest that undergraduate research is a central "high-impact practice" that leads to "high quality" academic involvement.


Related Articles

Benefits of Research

Skills Gained Through Undergraduate Research

Integrative skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Written communication
  • Oral communication/public speaking/presentation skills

Research skills:

  • Discourse community
  • Field-specific research
  • Real-world academic research
  • Involvement in academic exchange 

Intangible skills:

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Intellectual excitement and commitment
  • Patience
  • Fortitude
  • Dependability/reliability

Five High-Impact Practices
In their book, “Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion and Quality,” Jayne E. Brownell and Lynn E. Swaner list undergraduate research among the five practices they identify as the most beneficial to students:

  • First-year seminars
  • Learning communities
  • Service learning
  • Undergraduate research
  • Capstone courses and projects

Undergraduate Research Outcomes
General effects:

  • Higher rate of persistence
  • Higher rate of graduate school enrollment
  • Improvement in research skills
  • Increased interaction with faculty and peers
  • Gains in problem solving and critical thinking
  • Greater satisfaction with educational experience
Impact on underserved students:
  • Higher rate of persistence
  • Higher rate of graduate school enrollment
  • Findings mostly limited to studies of undergraduate and summer research opportunity programs
Moderating variables:
  • Role of faculty mentor
  • Quality of mentoring relationship
Research issues:
  • Lack of empirical studies (vs. program descriptions)
  • Selection bias (promising students often selected for undergraduate research opportunities)
  • Unknown impact of mediating variables
  • Lack of research on outcomes beyond retention and graduate school enrollment
Components of Successful Undergraduate Research Programs
  • Encourage faculty to provide mentoring, rather than just program oversight, and attend to the quality of the mentoring relationship (balancing challenge with support).
  • Provide opportunities for “real-life” applications, whether through publication, presentations, or project implementation.
  • Offer intentionally designed curricula that enhance students' research skills and build those skills over time, including prior to intensive undergraduate research experiences.

Engagement at SNC

How Does Undergraduate Research Begin at St. Norbert College?
Research projects involving undergraduate students can begin in several ways, including:
  • Faculty-initiated research
  • Student-initiated research
  • Classroom-initiated research
  • St. Norbert College Research Fellows Program
Programs Currently Available to Undergraduates
Undergraduate research programs funded by the college: