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What is research?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), research is a "systematic investigation or inquiry aimed at contributing to knowledge of a theory, topic, etc., by careful consideration, observation, or study of a subject; original critical or scientific investigation carried out under the auspices of an academic or other institution."


The OED definition can be distilled into three basic components:

  • Inquiry
  • Investigation according to the field
  • Production of knowledge

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) defines undergraduate research as "an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline."


The CUR definition, however, is contested. While some scholars may endorse it, others question the embedded phrases "original" and "contribution to the discipline," especially within the undergraduate context. For some dissenting scholars, undergraduate research is a pedagogical tool and mode of discovery: a critical entry-level processual stage toward development of the advanced investigative and interpretive praxes which ultimately result in original contributions to the field. Other scholars point out the increasing importance of replication studies conducted across numbers of samples and labs. Replication studies, performed by researchers at all levels from the undergraduate to the professional, make critical contributions particularly to disciplines within the physical and social sciences.

Undergraduate student research at UNF

At UNF, student research occurs both within the curriculum (which includes certain directed independent studies and co-curricular research projects conducted within the community) and beyond the curriculum (as extracurricular research conducted in research labs, centers, and clinical or other settings).


In establishing mechanisms to identify and track student engagement in research within the curriculum at UNF, it is appropriate to utilize the broad OED definition of research. Research in the undergraduate context at UNF is a process of faculty-mentored student inquiry and systematic investigation according to the standards of the field. The process results in demonstrable production of knowledge. The student's knowledge production originates from the student's investigation. The process and knowledge product are pedagogical -- an active learning research experience for the undergraduate student. The process leads to student discovery and the resulting product (expressed as a deliverable) demonstrates the student's knowledge of a theory or topic which may or may not make an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline or field.