Every undergraduate research and creative project requires thoughtful and sustained collaboration between the student researcher and a faculty mentor. It is the responsibility of the student to seek out an appropriately qualified faculty mentor and obtain their written consent to serve in that role. The essential responsibilities of the student researcher are outlined below.
- Explore possible research topics that reflect your interests and preparation. Pick a topic that truly interests you. If you care about the subject, you will pursue interesting questions because you want to know the answers. That will draw you into the subject, enrich your work, and motivate you to sustain the effort needed to complete the project.
- Identify the knowledge, experience, and skills that you will need to complete the project. Your faculty mentor may advise you to enroll in an appropriate research methods course before embarking upon the project.Work to define and focus your research or creative project, including the development of a timetable to assure that your project can be completed within the time frame allotted.
- Consult with your faculty mentor to determine if your project will require approval from a University review committee. Any projects involving research on human subjects must receive approval from UM-Missoula’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Similarly, if the research will involve vertebrate animals, infectious agents, hazardous chemicals, radioactive materials, recombinant DNA, and/or patents and copyrights, you will need to submit your research protocol to the appropriate University review committee for approval. (In some cases, your faculty mentor may already have obtained approval for the research project.) For more information about the research approval process, see the Areas of Compliance website.
- Discuss with your faculty mentor the details of how the proposed research project will be carried out and the features of a good project proposal.
- Ask your faculty mentor to review and critique your research proposal. Although it is the responsibility of the student to write the proposal in its entirety, it is important that the faculty mentor review the proposal in time for modifications to be made before you submit it for final approval.
- If you intend to apply for an Undergraduate Research Scholarship or other research funding, then you will need to work with your faculty mentor to develop a budget proposal, showing estimated research expenses for books, materials, equipment, and student travel. Your faculty mentor is authorized to review expenditures and approve changes to the proposed research budget.
- If you intend to apply for an Undergraduate Research Scholarship or other research funding, you may request your faculty mentor to write a letter of support, describing the merits of the proposed project and your ability to carry it out. Ask your faculty mentor to return this letter of support to you in a separate, sealed and signed envelope, to be attached to your research funding application.
- If you plan to conduct research away from UM-Missoula, then you should work with your faculty mentor to identify the resources that will be available at the location of the research, including specific individuals to whom you can turn for guidance.
- Develop a time frame and a system of communication with your faculty mentor during the project period that will allow for an appropriate balance of mentor guidance and student independence. In many cases, regular weekly or biweekly meetings are optimal to keep the project on track.
- Submit your final report, essay, or thesis to your faculty mentor by the agreed deadline.
- Consult with your faculty mentor to identify appropriate forums in which to present your research or creative scholarship. All UM students are encouraged to present their research and creative scholarship at the annual UM Conference on Undergraduate Research (UMCUR). Although many students choose to participate in UMCUR, other research conferences or departmental forums may also be appropriate. Be sure to notify your faculty mentor of the time and location of any public presentation of your research.
- Students should be aware that service in the faculty mentor role is entirely voluntary for any faculty member at UM-Missoula. Bearing in mind the voluntary nature of this commitment, student researchers should always be prompt, courteous, and respectful of their faculty mentor’s time. Students should not rely upon their faculty mentor for basic training in expository writing or research methods; rather, students should enroll in appropriate courses to acquire the requisite skills in those areas before embarking upon a research or creative project. Throughout the project, students should be prepared to carry out independent research, keep appointments, meet deadlines, and present well‑written and carefully edited documents to their faculty mentor.