Student working on a research project.

Mentoring Resources

We recognize that mentoring undergraduate students is often different from mentoring graduate students and may be new territory for you, as faculty. Below are a few helpful resources that provide tips on how to negotiate the mentoring relationship with an undergraduate student. This information will help you to ensure that the relationship is mutually enjoyable, beneficial and productive. Please check back often for new information.

Tips for Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers*

Undergraduate Projects Should:

  • Be reasonable in scope
  • Be feasible considering time/skill
  • Be multi-faceted and challenging
  • Allow the student to generate their own data or findings
  • Be either a new project or part of a larger effort

Finding a Student:

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Detailed project descriptions are more attractive than vague statements
  • Undergraduates have busy/inflexible course schedules
  • Be sensitive to mid-term and final exam stress periods
  • Undergrads need extra training on the use of equipment and resources
  • Undergrads are easily discouraged by disappointing results
  • They often also lack awareness of research “culture” and social interactions in research groups

Working with Undergraduates

  • Establish expectations and devise a work plan
  • Set aside regular time for discussion
  • Encourage students to ask questions and share ideas
  • Discuss intellectual property issues
  • Orient students to resources and processes
  • Emphasize documentation of research
  • Keep communications open and regular—lack of communication can lead to problems

Next Steps

* Information adapted from “Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers: Where to Begin?” Janice DeCosmo and Jennifer Harris. Available online (PDF).

Useful Articles and Resources

Additional citations are linked in the “Librarian’s Corner” of each issue of the CURCA News.

Mentoring Tools

Suggested Reading

The following book list has been compiled using recommendations from the CUR 2014 National Conference Planning Committee and professors from around the country who mentor undergraduates in research. Entice your students to think about research in broader contexts with these works. Great items for summer reading lists!

  • David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Malcolm Gladwell)
  • The Butler, a Witness to History (Will Haygood)
  • The Eighth Day of Creation (Horace Freeland Judson)
  • The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects (Richard Kurin)
  • Exploding the Phone (Phil Lapsley)
  • Napolean's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History (LeCouteur & Burreson)
  • Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (Annalee Newitz)
  • Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skoot)
  • Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix (James Watson)




Last updated: March 12, 2014 6:57 am EST