How to Do Undergraduate Research in Columbian College
Research at GW's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) can enhance your undergraduate experience, help you build relationships with faculty and prepare you for future professional success.
Review our frequently asked questions on how to get started, learn why research matters and find grants and fellowships to support your research interests.
What is research?
Research is independent scholarship, scientific inquiry or a creative contribution to a discipline or interdisciplinary field. The intention of research is to contribute to knowledge and to communicate new knowledge to others with similar interests.
Learning to research consists of the acquisition of skills that are central to the practices of scientists, scholars, writers and artists.
What types of research occur at GW?
Columbian College offers two types of undergraduate research:
- Research conducted by faculty and involving students who learn about and are mentored through the research process as part of their involvement in the faculty research project
- Research conducted by students on their own projects who are mentored by faculty
Where does research occur?
Research takes place in labs, archives, libraries, studios, communities, performance spaces or in any space where people create, investigate and uncover with the purpose of communicating their findings to others.
Why is research valuable for students?
There are many reasons to participate in research!
- Contributing knowledge to a field: Some students are interested in becoming researchers, and their majors or minors are building towards advanced work in disciplines in which they will contribute to knowledge building.
- Gaining professional skills: Other students are interested in research skills such as archival work and writing or lab skills that they will take to other fields or apply in their professional life.
Benefits of Research at GW
Can I get academic credit for doing research?
Yes! In CCAS, there are multiple credit-bearing opportunities for students to participate in research.
- Degree requirements: Most degree-granting majors and minors have credit-bearing options or requirements for undergraduate research built in. These courses have a variety of titles, including “Proseminar,” “Independent Study,” “Field Research,” Undergraduate Research,” “Directed Project,” “Research Seminar,” “Readings and Research,” etc. Some of these courses are required for majors.
Students should work with their departmental faculty advisor or CCAS advisor to determine when such research courses are appropriate. Some of these opportunities require a contract between the student and faculty member that lays out expectations and requirements for research.
- CCAS 3001 course: This Undergraduate Research course enables students to participate in research under the guidance of a research mentor/supervisor, culminating in a report about the experience. Students must find a sponsoring faculty member and receive approval from the CCAS Office of Undergraduate Studies.
This can be a three-credit course for a grade. A zero-credit option, graded on a pass/no-pass basis, is available only during summer sessions. This option is restricted to students who find a faculty mentor/supervisor and receive CCAS approval.
What about non-credit opportunities?
GW undergraduate students can participate in non-credit research through the Office of Sponsored Projects within the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR)’s UNIV 1995 Undergraduate Research Experience program. This allows undergraduates to highlight non-credited research experiences on their official GW transcript. The transcript notation recognizes important experiential learning and gives future degree programs and employers a more complete picture of a student’s background and interests. Learn more about the guidelines and requirements for the UNIV 1995 transcript notation.
UNIV 1995 is a good option for students who have reached the course credit cap.
What grants and fellowships support undergraduate student research?
- The Luther Rice Undergraduate Research Fellowship supports student research for approximately 15 students per semester. In this competitive program, students receive a $5,000 stipend and a faculty mentor receives $1,000.
- The Robert Vincent fellowship funds research for three science students with a preference for students who are pre-med. Information about the Robert Vincent fellowship can be found by contacting the CCAS Undergraduate Dean’s Office.
- The CCAS Summer Lab Fellowship funds STEM students who are working with faculty on their research. Information about the CCAS Summer Lab Fellowship can be found by contacting the CCAS Undergraduate Dean’s Office.
- The Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research has information about research opportunities and fellowships that are external to CCAS, and also has information about post-graduate opportunities such as Fulbright Awards and Rhodes, Truman and Marshall Scholarships. Students are welcome to contact us by emailing [email protected].
- Some individual departments also have funding opportunities to support student research; see your department website or ask your departmental advisor for more information.
What opportunities are available for students to present their research to GW audiences?
The GW Research Showcase invites undergraduate and graduate students to the multi-day showcase each year. Students present their research to peers, faculty and colleagues and compete for monetary prizes.
Many academic departments also host events at which students have the opportunity to communicate their research to others with similar interests. Contact your department or check your departmental website for upcoming events.
Find a Research Opportunity
Ready to get started?
- Review the tips provided by the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research and the Office of the Vice President for Research.
- Connect with student organizations like the GW Undergraduate Review or others listed in GW Engage to network with peers that have similar interests.
- Visit and bookmark GW Student Research Commons to learn about opportunities and events.
- Explore the GW Student Employment talent management portal and filter positions by “Time Spent on Research.”
- Reach out to faculty directly to learn more about their work and ask if they have opportunities to get involved. The Department of Biological Sciences provides some tips for contacting faculty.