What I Need to Know About Research at GVSU

What is Undergraduate Research and Scholarship?

Taking multiple forms, research includes scholarly and creative activities that can lead to new knowledge, improve our ability to solve problems, result in new theory, or in the creation of new art or an artistic performance. Research is a process of careful inquiry leading to the discovery of new information.

Research can culminate in a written or oral presentation as a means of making the body of academic knowledge or creative exploration accessible to other investigators in the field, as well as to the general public.

Undergraduate research is a unique opportunity for students to work with faculty on their scholarship and produce an original output that contributes to the knowledge or activity of a particular academic discipline.

Some students will work on part of a faculty member’s current research project. Other students may develop an independent project of their own that is guided by a faculty member. Either way, students have opportunities in a variety of disciplines from art history to zoology to engage in original hands-on research and scholarship.

You may also want to check out our frequently asked questions page.

Getting Started

Every GVSU student can get involved in undergraduate research and scholarship.  Whether you are a first-year student or a year from graduation, there are many opportunities available in any field or discipline.  For many students, finding an opportunity or project is the hardest part.  While many students find research opportunities immediately, finding a research project can be a long process and you may need to contact many people. Be patient and persevere.  Here are some tips to get you started:

Find a subject that interests you

Finding a topic, problem, idea,or activity that really excites you is a great place to begin. Think about classes that you have enjoyed, or even ideas that interest you that do not fall within your major. Is there something that left you wanting to know more? What about it was enjoyable? Was there a project, paper, lab, idea, or experience that really left you wanting to learning more in the classes that you have enjoyed? Why did you enjoy it? What do you want to learn more about?

Attend the Undergraduate Research Fair and Information Sessions

The Undergraduate Research Fair acts as a forum for students to meet faculty from various disciplines and learn about different research and scholarship opportunities at GVSU. It is held annually on the first Tuesday in October.

Every fall semester, OURS will conduct information sessions about how to get involved in undergraduate research, as well as our different scholar programs. Check our events page for upcoming sessions.

Make an appointment

Contact the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship at (616) 331-8100 to make a research advising appointment. Either the Director, Dr. Susan Mendoza, or the Faculty Fellow can help you plan your path.

Talk to a faculty member

If you really enjoyed a class and want to learn more about that subject area, make an appointment to speak with the faculty member. Remember to do your homework ahead of time—that is, prepare for your meeting with the faculty member. Find out what they are researching and then become familiar with some of the terms and ideas related to the field. Finally, analyze your strengths and areas you need to improve. How will participating in this experience help you? What can you contribute to the project?

Take advantage of office hours and talk with professors who teach on topics that interest you. Visit their web pages and read some of the work they have published.

If the faculty member you are approaching is not able to partner with you, ask for recommendations of other faculty that might provide you with the opportunity to become involved.

Below is a list of conversation-starter questions and tips that can help you engage with faculty:

  1. How can I prepare myself for individual research?
  2. What path do I need to take to get involved in research in this field? How do I get ready?
  3. How important is it that I do well in my entry-level courses?
  4. How are undergraduate researchers usually selected in this department/program?
  5. What got you into research? What are you passionate about? Know what the faculty member’s current research or project is focused on. Ask specific questions relating to this research area.
  6. If you do not know about the kind of research a faculty does, ask. What kind of research do you do?
  7. How might I participate in this project? How do I get involved?
  8. If the faculty member is not able to partner with you, ask her/him to connect you with someone that might be able to.

Getting involved in Undergraduate Research

The following is intended to provide general suggestions and guidelines to help students initiate conversations within their specific field of interest:


Start Exploring

Learn more about research within your department:
o Find out what research looks like in your major: what courses include research; can you receive credit or compensation for conducting research; which professors are involved with undergraduate research; where is the research taking place?

Explore possible research opportunities through your department:
o Look on the department website to gain information.
o Talk to professors and other students about research.

Attend Undergraduate Research Fair and Student Scholars Day:
o Undergraduate Research Fair is held the first Tuesday in October. It gives students the opportunity to talk to faculty and organization representatives about research and discuss opportunities to get involved.
o Student Scholars Day is a day-long event held the second Wednesday in April. It provides opportunities for students at GVSU to showcase their research to the University community.
o Both events are coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS). They provide an opportunity to network with faculty and peers.


-Learn what types of research are going on within your department
-Clarify your career goals
-Build communication skills and confidence
-Learn how to network
-Discover your areas of interest

Make Connections

Talk to your faculty advisor and professors about research and how to get involved:
o Ask your faculty advisor how research may fit with your career goals. Some graduate school programs or careers require research experience, but some do not. Specific types of research experiences may be more useful than others.
o Ask professors what research projects they are currently working on, or have done in the past.
o Ask about alternative research opportunities outside of GVSU.
o Ask possible research mentors what skills/attributes they look for in research students.
o Ask how you could prepare to do research in the next year.


-Discover your areas of interest
-Determine career goals

Immerse Yourself

Take courses that emphasize research methodology and consider 399/499 courses
o Learning about research methodology provides a better understanding of how research is conducted, and provides an opportunity for students to learn why research is important and necessary in our society.
o 399 and 499 courses provide an opportunity to work on a faculty member’s project for course credit, or to develop your own project.

Get involved with a research project by working with a faculty mentor
o Working with a faculty member can be beneficial for applying to graduate school, or for a student’s future career (e.g., gaining letters of recommendation).

Consider applying for a summer research program such as S3 or MS3
o Student Summer Scholars (S3) and Modified Student Summer Scholars (MS3) are programs, offered through OURS, that provide summer research and creative practice opportunities.
o Another potential way to become involved with a research project is to expand beyond GVSU. Summer programs, research institutes, Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), or internships that involve research experiences are just some ways that students get involved outside the university. Make sure to consider the full range of research opportunities.


-Gain foundational knowledge on research methodology
-Gain critical thinking/problem solving skills
-Improve collaborative working skills
-Enhance résumé
-Improve verbal and written communication skills
-Gain experience in lab & field skills and/or library & research skills

Reap the Rewards

Present at Student Scholars Day
o Student Scholars Day provides the space for students to showcase their work, including oral presentations, discussion and panel sessions, fine arts exhibits and performances, and poster presentations.

Attend or present at a professional conference within your discipline
o Presenting research at a professional conference provides an opportunity to share your findings and learn about research that is being conducted by others within your field of interest.

Submit your work for publication
o Publishing work in journals is a great way for researchers to share their findings with the academic community.


-Develop dissemination and presentation skills
-Learn how to network
-Learn current research in your discipline
-Gain confidence in feeling like a scholar

Page last modified March 3, 2022