Frequently Asked Questions: Undergraduate Research

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How do I get involved in research if I have no experience?

While qualifications required for specific projects vary, you may be surprised at how much you already know about research. Even if you’ve never done a research project before, you likely have already developed some research knowledge and skills through activities such as: 

  • listening to instructors talk about their own research in class
  • attending seminars where a researcher talked about their work
  • learning about new developments or breakthroughs in your field of interest
  • taking an undergraduate lab or tutorial as part of a course
  • using the library to find research articles to help you write a paper
  • participating in a field trip, tour, demonstration, performance, or exhibition related to your field of study

Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and the university is a learning environment. You aren’t expected to be an expert when you are first starting out. It’s okay if you don’t have a lot of experience -- a positive attitude and a willingness to learn can go a long way! 

What do undergraduate researchers do? Do I have to come up with my own project?

Your specific duties or activities as an undergraduate researcher will vary depending on your level of experience, time commitment, and the type of research you are involved in. It’s very common for students to start out working on a project designed by a professor or a graduate student, or conducting a small project as part of a professor’s longer-term research program. As you gain more experience and confidence doing research, you may be able to progress to more independent projects, where you will have more influence over the direction of your work.  Even if you are starting out with an original idea for a project, your research mentor or supervisor will likely help you refine and develop your ideas, so you don’t need to have a fully-formed original idea to get started. 

Is it all just lab work, or are there other types of undergraduate research?

Undergraduate research happens in all disciplines, and can take many forms.  Many people associate undergraduate research with science and laboratories, but there’s so much more to discover! Undergraduate research could involve lab work, field work (including community-based work), clinical work, archival work, creative activities, and more. From science, health and engineering to humanities, social science, and fine arts, there are bound to be opportunities that align with your interests, and URI can help you get started. 

Is undergraduate research beneficial even if I don’t plan to attend graduate or professional school?

In short, yes! Undergraduate research is an excellent resume builder! The skills, knowledge, experience and connections you gain through undergraduate research can give you an edge for future employment, regardless of your career goals. Employers value applicants with relevant hands-on experience, and undergraduate research can help you develop and demonstrate a variety of technical and transferable skills that employers seek, such as critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills.

How much do my grades impact whether I can do undergraduate research?

While some research and funding opportunities may have specific GPA requirements, it is normally only one of several considerations. It’s fairly common for professors to ask for a resume/CV and unofficial transcript when selecting students, but aside from your GPA itself, many professors consider the relevance of your coursework, the direction of trends in your grades, your attitude and your motivation for research. Having a perfect GPA does not guarantee success in research, and having a “merely average” GPA does not guarantee failure. Some evidence suggests that getting involved in research can actually help improve your future academic performance! If you have concerns about your grades impacting your access to research opportunities, we encourage you to connect with a URI advisor to discuss your options. 

Can I do research in a different discipline from my academic program?
Yes! In most cases, it’s possible for students to work with professors in other faculties and departments, and for students to engage in cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary projects. URI can assist students with identifying and navigating opportunities in other disciplines. In some cases, for example, some research-based courses and discipline-specific funding opportunities, there may be eligibility limitations for students from other disciplines. If you have questions or concerns about finding research opportunities across disciplines, we encourage you to connect with a URI advisor to discuss your options.
How can URI support me in my undergraduate research?

The Undergraduate Research Initiative (URI) can help you explore your research interests, find research opportunities & funding, and develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to engage in undergraduate research.

URI offers: 

  • Individual advising about undergraduate research opportunities 
  • Funding to support undergraduate research 
  • Skill development workshops on various research-related topics
  • Opportunities for students to share their research (e.g. presentation & publication opportunities)
  • Opportunities to connect with other student researchers and members of the UAlberta research community.  
Contact us at or check out the website for more information or to schedule an advising appointment.