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Office of Undergraduate Research

Effective Mentoring Practices 

To get started as a research mentor for undergraduates, it is important that they know you are willing to work with them. Consider adding your name to the OUR database of undergraduate research mentors so new students can easily learn about your research program. You can also generate an announcement to share with your class, your colleagues’ classes, and with the academic advisor for majors associated with your department/college. 

Offer students the opportunity to earn credit for their research experience using Directed Independent Study (DIS – XXX4905).  This is a benefit for both the faculty mentor and the student because it documents, formalizes, and recognizes the research/mentoring activities taking place. Directed Independent Study can be offered every semester. Although not required, a syllabus for the DIS experience, is helpful to establish clear expectations of the students involved.  Students initiate the enrollment process through MyWings. For more information, contact your department chair and/or academic advisor for your discipline.  

According to a publication in the Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly (Pita et al., 2013, volume 33, pages 11-15) by undergraduate students from the University of Central Florida, the five best practices for mentoring students are: 

  1. Make yourself available. 
    This is crucial for fostering a strong student-mentor relationship. Talk to the student about your research goals, provide guidance as they are learning new skills, ask them about their career goals, and provide suggestions for their success. 
  2. Foster community. 
    Provide an environment in which students are both supported and held accountable for their duties. This can be done through group lab meetings, individual meetings with students, journal club meetings, and group social activities.  
  3. Be attentive. 
    Initiate and encourage open lines of communication, whether through in-person meetings, email, phone conversations, or Zoom/Teams meetings. Set deadlines and follow up on the student’s progress around the time of that deadline. 
  4. Encourage participation in the broader research community. 
    In addition to meetings with your own research group, encourage students to attend on-campus seminars and presentations, as well as off-campus conferences. The OUR can help support students attending the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference and discipline-specific conferences by providing funding for those activities. Having students participate in summer research or internship opportunities also helps broaden their research experiences and ultimately strengthens the work they do under your guidance. 
  5. Be understanding. 
    Consider using a Growth Mindset model as your guide students in your research program. Balance criticism with positive reinforcement, remembering that they are early in their career development.