Four students and a faculty member sit at a table together, smiling.

Why Should You do Research as an Undergraduate Student?

April 23, 2021
Author: Rachel Stern

Four benefits of pursuing undergraduate research

When people think about undergraduate research, they might imagine people in a science lab wearing white coats peering through microscopes, but undergraduate research opportunities go beyond the science and health disciplines. There are countless opportunities for research in every discipline. 

Participating in undergraduate research allows you to gain hands-on experience, to develop a variety of employable skills and to network and connect with professionals and peers in your field.

If you are looking for opportunities to participate in undergraduate research connect with your university’s research office or ask one of your professors if there are positions available. VIU’s smaller size combined with extensive community relationships means there are often more opportunities here to do undergraduate research than at a larger institution.

Rane Love’s story

Vancouver Island University student Rane Love, who is completing a Bachelor of Education with a minor in Indigenous/Xwulmuxw Studies, didn’t think she would become a research assistant when she entered her field of study, but says she’s glad she did because it has had a profound effect on her.

“Research can be something that you love. If you’re focusing on an area where you have some sort of passion, then I think that’s when you can really allow yourself to be changed by the research,” says Love. “I know that’s what’s happened to me.”

Love is completing a community-engaged research project focusing on Indigenous Knowledge: Land as Life, a course co-created by local Indigenous Elders and Knowledge-Keepers and course instructors. Students learn about the cultural significance of the land through Indigenous pedagogies. The theme of the course changes every year and students can take it more than once. It was offered online in 2020 because of the pandemic. 

Love’s research aims to explore how Indigenous land-based pedagogy stems from the land and how Indigenous community members, Elders and Knowledge-Keepers, exemplify how land-based and community-centered education benefits both student participants and the community at large and how these teachings occurred during the pandemic.

“Community-engaged research is different because the researcher isn’t removed from the data and objectively looking at a particular group or set of participants. We are very much in it, respecting it, working with the people, for their benefit, not the benefit of the research,” says Love. “We’re almost embodying it because we are trying to honour the local language and Indigenous protocols as we conduct research. It’s not just researching the community but applying their principles to our work and getting to know their stories. Community-engaged research opens the doors for connection and allows us to work collaboratively with participants with respect to issues affecting their well-being.”

Four benefits of pursuing undergraduate research:

Develop a range of valuable and employable skills.

You’ll develop problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, time management and analytical thinking skills as well as research methodologies and approaches that you can apply to real-world problems.

Network and connect with professionals and peers in your field of study.

Pursuing undergraduate research allows you to work alongside amazing mentors. You can also attend research events and workshops to meet student researchers and other experts in your field.

Gain a better understanding of what you’re passionate about.

Not only will research broaden your classroom learning experience, but this experience can also help you discover what career paths or graduate studies programs you want to explore.

Get your research published.

There are numerous undergraduate research journals where you can get your work published and gain recognition in your field. Check out VIU’s Undergraduate Journal Catalog. And students also have the opportunity to publish with their faculty mentor in various discipline-specific journals.

Watch this video about undergraduate research at Vancouver Island University to learn how it contributes to a deeper learning experience.

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