Getting Started in Undergraduate Research


Undergraduate research is a valuable hands-on learning opportunity that can support you in developing professional knowledge, skills and connections, regardless of your discipline or future career goals. 

Undergraduate research can take a variety of forms:

  • For credit opportunities (e.g. research-based courses, independent studies, research certificates, honours and specialization programs).  These are typically unpaid opportunities, one or more semesters in duration, that lead to academic credit (i.e. a grade or designation on your transcript)
  • Non-credit opportunities (e.g. summer research, internships, research abroad, research assistantships, student group projects and other student-led initiatives).  These may be paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time, and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.  

Undergraduate research can take place in any discipline, and at any stage of your program. Every student’s journey will be different, but getting started usually involves the following steps:

STEP 1: Explore your interests. What are you curious about? What types of research are you interested in learning more about? What are your future goals? You don’t need to have a specific project in mind to start – most professors will work with you to develop a project with you after you agree to work together. The key goal at this stage is to connect with someone working in your area of interest, rather than to come up with a specific or original research idea. It’s also okay if you aren’t an expert or don’t have experience yet – undergraduate research is a great opportunity to learn! 

STEP 2: Find a supervisor.  No matter what type of research you want to do, you’ll usually work with a supervisor or mentor (normally a professor, but sometimes a graduate student or other research staff). There are two main approaches to finding a supervisor: 

  1. Search postings of research opportunities.  Some (but not all!) professors will advertise specific research opportunities in their classes, via bulletin boards or newsletters, on the URI Opportunity Board on campusBRIDGE, or on their faculty/department website. You can normally apply directly to these opportunities by following the instructions in the posting.  While postings are a convenient place to start, it’s important to remember that most research opportunities are not formally advertised!  
  2. Contact a professor directly to inquire about research opportunities. Most undergraduate research opportunities arise from students expressing interest in working with a particular professor.  See the Find an Opportunity page to find information about potential supervisors according to their area of interest, or contact URI for an advising appointment. We can help you identify professors based on your area of interest, and support you in the process of contacting potential supervisors. 

STEP 3: Plan your project with your professor/supervisor.  Once you connect with a professor, you can discuss the details of your potential project, including your specific duties, hours of work, compensation, training, and next steps. Your specific next steps will depend on the type of research you are doing. See URI’s Navigating the Research Process page for guidance about next steps based on the type of project you are undertaking. 

Find a Research Opportunity

View examples of Undergraduate Research at the U of A

Check out Frequently Asked Questions