Student researcher in lab.

Getting Started in Research*

What is research?

The Council on Undergraduate Research defines “undergraduate research” as: “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”

Depending on the discipline, research can involve many different activities and take a variety of forms. While many often think of research solely as the testing of scientific hypotheses, it can also include interpretive, descriptive, and artistic endeavors. Common research activities include:

  • Library searches and archival work
  • Surveys and interviews
  • Laboratory work
  • Modeling and computations
  • Fieldwork
  • Production of creative works (e.g., art studio, music, dance and movement, creative writing and poetry, design, film production, and more)

Why should I do research?

Research will help you to go beyond your classroom learning and gain a deeper understanding of your field by giving you hands-on experience and exposing you to current practices and trends within your field. It will allow you to explore potential career paths and develop close relationships with faculty who can serve as references. Participating in out-of-class research will also allow you to grow both personally and professionally by helping you develop skills such as:

  • critical thinking and analytical skills
  • teamwork
  • communication
  • leadership
  • global perspective

You will learn to be an active participant in your education, creating new knowledge and making connections between different disciplines. You will be able to grow your abilities as a scholar and a researcher by using the methods you have learned in the classroom and applying them to real-life situations.

Participating in research as an undergraduate looks great on your resume and will help you set yourself apart from other applicants whether you will be applying to graduate or professional school or going directly into the job market.

Finally, the dedication and skills shown by successfully completing undergraduate research experiences can also help you be competitive for national and international scholarship and fellowship opportunities offered through UB. These prestigious scholarships and fellowships can fund research, undergraduate and graduate level education, and study abroad experiences. For more information on these opportunities and guidance on developing a competitive portfolio visit the Fellowships and Scholarships site.

When should I do research?

There is no one right time to get involved in research as an undergraduate. The right time is the one that works for you in terms of your course load, availability, and interests.

There are benefits, however, to starting research early on in your academic career, even as a freshman or sophomore. Starting early allows you to build the skills necessary to take on more advanced positions and to see a project through from beginning to end. It also allows you the time to explore different fields and approaches to find out what interests you most.

Research Ethics

“The University at Buffalo is deeply committed to adhering to the highest ethical standards for all research conducted at our institution. These standards apply to all who are involved in the research and scholarly process.”

-Alexander Cartwright, Vice President for Research & Economic Development, University at Buffalo

As an undergraduate student interested in becoming involved in research, it is important to familiarize yourself with the ethical standards surrounding research. Your faculty mentor can also serve as an excellent source of guidance for questions related to the ethical conduct of research.

The Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

“There is no one best way to undertake research, no universal method that applies to all scientific investigations. Accepted practices for the responsible conduct of research (RCR) can and do vary from discipline and discipline and even from laboratory to laboratory.

“There are, however, some important shared values for the responsible conduct of research (RCR) that bind all researchers together, such as:

  • honesty: conveying information truthfully and honoring commitments
  • accuracy: reporting findings precisely and taking care to avoid errors
  • efficiency: using resources wisely and avoiding waste
  • objectivity: letting the facts speak for themselves and avoiding improper bias”

-Steneck, Nicholas. 2006. ORI Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research

Interactive Tutorial—The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct

View this online tutorial to learn more about research misconduct and ethical decision-making.

Additional Information on UB’s Policies and Regulations

*Information adapted from The Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research and the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Center.

Last updated: July 14, 2014 11:52 am EST