Cal Poly Pomona

What is Undergraduate Research?

Undergraduate Research at Cal Poly Pomona

  • At Cal Poly Pomona University, we embrace Undergraduate Research as a potent active-learning pedagogy that encourages life-long learning and prepares students for successful careers in the 21st century (e.g., CUR-NCUR, 2005; Tagg, 2003; Boyer Commission, 1998; Boyer, 1990).
  • Undergraduate Research blends teaching, scholarship, and creative activities into a single synergistic endeavor that engages students in a culture of hands-on inquiry, discovery, and professional practice in collaboration with faculty teacher-scholars.
  • Our definition of Undergraduate Research encompasses a broad spectrum of discipline-appropriate faculty-mentored research, scholarship, and creative work across all fields of study at Cal Poly Pomona.
  • The characteristics of Undergraduate Research vary across disciplines, but share the common goal of enhancing student learning through meaningful professional experience.
  • Undergraduate Research activities may include research, scholarship, and creative activities outside of regular coursework, as well as inquiry-based classroom, laboratory, and field activities that are embedded within the course curriculum.

Four Unifying Characteristics of Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities are generally defined as having four unifying characteristics: Mentorship, Originality, Acceptability, and Dissemination (e.g., Ishiyama et al., 2006; Lopatto, 2003).

  • Mentorship. Students participating in Undergraduate Research activities should have the support of a faculty mentor and a peer learning community. Mentorship involves a professional collaborative interaction between the faculty mentor and student, in which the student is intellectually engaged in a scholarly or creative project. The focus of the faculty mentor is primarily on the student and student learning, rather than the product or results of the project.
  • Originality. The student should make a meaningful contribution to the scholarly or creative project, and the project should be at least partially novel. With the guidance of a faculty mentor, the student should participate in developing and designing the project, and should share responsibility for the project outcome. The student should also experience working on their own, and should develop a sense of intellectual independence through self-motivated inquiry and discovery.
  • Acceptability. The student’s work should employ techniques and methodologies that are both appropriate and recognized by the discipline. The scholarly or creative project should also include a reflective and synthetic component appropriate to the discipline.
  • Dissemination. When the project is completed, the student should have an opportunity for professional quality communication and presentation. The project should include a final, tangible product for which both the process and results are peer-reviewed, critiqued, juried, or judged in a manner that is consistent with disciplinary standards.

Models for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, & Creative Activity

Undergraduate Research experiences are typically organized around two basic models: Research Apprenticeships and Research-based Learning Courses (e.g., Seymour et al., 2004).

  • Research Apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are comprehensive faculty-mentored scholarly or creative experiences of extended duration (multiple weeks, months, or years) that take place outside of regular coursework. These may include (but are not limited to) senior thesis research, capstone projects, performances and exhibitions, intensive summer programs, professional internships, and/or other faculty-mentored research, scholarship, and creative activities occurring throughout the academic year. Faculty mentors guide single students or small groups through completion of their projects.
  • Research-based Learning Courses. Research-based learning involves pedagogical changes that incorporate inquiry-based research, scholarship, and/or creative learning experiences into the undergraduate course curriculum. These changes can be implemented course-by-course by individual faculty, or involve broad-based curricular changes implemented by departments, colleges, and/or the university as a whole.

References Cited

Boyer, E.L., 1990, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, New Jersey, 151 p.

Boyer Commission, 1998, Reinventing undergraduate education: A blueprint for America’s research universities, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, New Jersey, 44 p.

Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), 2005, What works – A community declaration: Joint statement of principles in support of undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities: Project Kaleidoscope Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts, (Web Link:

Ishiyama, J., Miller, J., and Nagan, M., 2006, Undergraduate Research and the Teacher-Scholar Model: A Curriculum Position Paper, Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri, 9 p.

Lopatto, D., 2003, The essential features of undergraduate research: Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, v. 24, p. 139-142.

Seymour, E., Hunter, A., Laursen, S.L., and Deantoni, T., 2004, Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates in the sciences: First findings from a three-year study: Science Education, v. 88, p. 493-534.

Tagg, J., 2003, The Learning Paradigm College, Anker Publishing Company, Bolton, Massachusetts, 379 p.



Student Trang Lu at poster session

Trang Lu (Senior, Biotechnology) explains his research poster at a recent Cal Poly Pomona undergraduate research symposium.
Read more about Trang Lu's undergraduate research experience.

u r bronco overview

Enhancing Undergraduate Research at Cal Poly Pomona (PDF,637 kb)