Frequently Asked Questions

What is "research"?

Students conducting undergraduate research make original intellectual or creative contributions to a discipline—from art history to economics to biology. Your contribution may be large, such as a new discovery or game changing way of thinking in that discipline. Or it may be more modest, an extension of existing ideas that broaden our knowledge or deepen the practice of the field. But, as long as you’re asking questions using the methodologies of the discipline, it’s “research.”

What is undergraduate research?

Undergraduate research complements your coursework. Projects are conducted under the guidance of a faculty mentor and are typically related to the mentor's scholarly work, particularly in the sciences. However, projects in the humanities may be more independent, with the mentor providing guidance in the methodology and ideas of the field. Either way, as you advance through your research project, you will become a more independent scholar with intellectual ownership for all aspects of inquiry, problem solving and analysis.

How does research work at a university?

Research is led by faculty who compete for grants, direct labs and research groups, and mentor post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates. Duke is a community of scholars engaged in original inquiry and creative expression—and you will become part of that community. Duke is a Tier 1 Research University, a national research center conducting more $800 million in research expenditures annually.

Why should I consider doing undergraduate research?

You have the unique opportunity of becoming the expert in something and contributing a novel discovery to the world. In turn, you will establish meaningful relationships with the faculty, deepen your academic experience, develop marketable career skills, and prepare yourself for competitive graduate and professional schools. Indeed, most graduate programs will require some undergraduate research. And a research project can be the basis for a senior honors thesis.

Who can do it?

Research opportunities are available for all students in all disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. Over 50% of all undergraduates will have a mentored research experience at Duke before they graduate. Research experience can begin in your first year, or it can wait until your senior year. When you start will depend on your schedule and the expectations of your research mentor.