Undergraduate Research — Overview
You've already done real research, in many courses. Typical course term papers have students doing original research — investigating
an issue, and defending a thesis about it. This counts! Research is not limited to
what happens in a physical laboratory. So, research isn't something entirely new to
Why do further research? If you have plans for graduate school, then these plans will eventually have you involved in advanced research. Students who get involved in research as undergraduates give themselves an added advantage going into the grad school application process — including an advantage in securing strong letters of recommendation. Moreover, if you love the subject matter, then focused research provides opportunities to develop your passion, and in constructive ways that will benefit your education and career.
U of Utah is a research community. With its “R1” status (Research 1), the university is officially devoted to research. Along with an emphasis on faculty research and research programs for graduate students, the university devotes significant resources to undergraduate research.
Placing yourself in the undergraduate research community
Are you qualified to do focused undergraduate research? Almost certainly, “yes”. Not that all undergraduate students have the same abilities
— they don't. But unless you're in a fairly small outlier group of students underprepared
for higher education (and if you were, it's quite unlikely you'd be taking the time
to read this page!), your academic abilities are probably more than sufficient. The
additional ingredients that typically distinguish outstanding students from ordinary
students are resolve and discipline. Work hard to be an excellent student, and you'll probably earn consistently good
or excellent grades. Doing focused philosophy research does not require that you be
an advanced philosophy student (as in having already taken loads of philosophy courses).
But you should be an excellent student.
How to connect with philosophy professors who'd support your research. Most of the research opportunities discussed on this page (below) have you working with professors. However, these connections do not just happen, by chance; you'll need to make them happen. How? Generally, you'll want to have established rapport with one or more professors, showing yourself to have excellent academic abilities. Think of each philosophy class you take as a possible stepping stone — an opportunity to establish a relationship with the course professor: do your best work, and make use of office hours to explore issues further. Making yourself known as a curious student who works hard to earn an excellent grade, in the course, is the primary means of connecting with a professor who might support your research.
The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) houses the Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Program (UROP), the Undergraduate Research Scholar Designation (URSD), hold the annual
Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS) in conjunction with the Honors College, and
publish the annual Undergraduate Research Journal.
Further opportunities (beyond UROP and SPUR) to work with philosophy faculty, on research projects, involve official coursework, but in ways allowing for more focused attention to research than occurs in typical undergradate courses (e.g., in producing term papers). Here are two possibilities, both of which earn credit hours that count for Area Requirements (for the Philosophy Major or Minor).
If you have a paper you're especially proud of — e.g., it received excellent feedback
as a course term paper, or you've been otherwise working hard on it — consider submitting
it in a venue targeting undergraduate students, whether a conference, a journal, or
for an award. How do you find such opportunities?