William and Mary

Into the Unknown: Undergraduate Research

Sometimes new insights and ideas spring into being like Athena from the head of Zeus. More often, new knowledge is the result of careful research and analysis that build on what we already know. As an undergraduate, you’ll have lots of opportunities to try your hand at this kind of hands-on, scholarly, and creative activity.

About 70 percent of our undergraduates participate in mentored research with a faculty member or take a course in which research is a primary component. You can work side by side with professors in laboratories, in archives and libraries, or in the field. Faculty often include undergraduates in their academic projects; some students co-author papers with their professors or present their research at national and international conferences. Ask your department or a favorite faculty member about research opportunities.

You might also want to consider designing an independent research project and working under the guidance of a faculty mentor. We offer a number of structured programs with funded research components:

Each year about 150 students choose to pursue departmental honors – a highly focused inquiry directed by a faculty member and culminating in a thesis submission and oral examination. Or you can propose your own independent study and work directly with a professor for class credit.

Looking for ideas? The annual Undergraduate Research Symposium showcases student projects with poster displays and oral presentations. The Charles Center is a good resource to locate scholarship and research grants to help fund your research project.