Undergraduate research experiences are considered an essential component in college curricula, and there is an ideological push to provide these experiences to all students. However, it is not clear whether engagement in research is better suited for higher ability undergraduates late in their programs or for all undergraduates and whether benefits vary according to gender and major discipline. This study applied an assessment instrument, the Undergraduate Research Questionnaire (URQ), which measures cognitive factors associated with benefits from doing research, to a broad sample of undergraduates at a large public research university. Additionally, behavioral and demographic data were collected. Significant predictors of URQ factors were grade-point average (GPA), college credits, lab course credits, gender, major discipline, and the frequency of faculty and peer meetings. Men achieved higher URQ scores than women. Students with below-average GPAs and students with average or below-average participation in research showed a decline in research benefits as they moved through their college years. Gains from research varied by major discipline. Overall, these findings show that all students do not benefit from doing research and that the means to achieving the ideological goal of involving all students in research may vary across disciplines. There is a need for more attention to student differences as they apply to research participation, including academic ability, gender, and college level, and to the academic resources and practices that more inclusively and effectively involve students in research.
- Boyer Report
- Undergraduate research