Guidelines for Undergraduate Research, Field Studies, and Independent Study Projects Abroad

Research experiences for undergraduate students abroad can guide them to a first-hand understanding of the fundamentals of research, facilitate the development of discipline-specific knowledge, foster a deeper engagement with the local culture, and familiarize with unique opportunities that can only be researched in a specific location. Mentored research experiences can help students develop self-sufficiency and resiliency, assist them to explore the possibilities of more advanced studies in a particular field, and witness important events or phenomena in ways that can benefit themselves and the communities in which they are based.

Beneficial though they are to students, research experiences abroad are also very work-intensive for the faculty and administrators who guide and support them. In many ways, research abroad shares the same best practices as disciplinary research in the home campus setting. However, the fact that undergraduate students, and sometimes faculty mentors, must travel abroad for the experience presents an additional set of considerations and concerns beyond those of the more traditional education abroad learning experience, and different from the on-campus research setting. Often, neither a single education abroad professional nor a single faculty member has all of the time, resources, or expertise to address these varied considerations. Strong institutional support and collaboration between all who facilitate and mentor undergraduate research abroad is the best way to lay the groundwork for making these experiences educational and valuable for students, their mentors, and the communities in which they do their work.

Under the umbrella of “research experiences abroad,” undergraduate students are engaged in many activities across a variety of academic disciplines. They may travel on faculty-led programs to work as a team and learn research methods. They may visit research groups at host institutions and observe and assist with their work. They may conduct research as a part of an internship or service learning position they hold. They may choose to pursue an independent study in addition to their coursework. Sometimes, they travel alone to pursue a project entirely their own. They do research in communities, in labs, in archives, and “in the field.” The project can be limited to the time a student spends on-site or be designed on the home campus, conducted abroad, and continued after return to the home institution. The experiences may or may not garner academic credit. While these experiences can look very different, there are certain underlying principles common to them all.

These Guidelines are designed to help stakeholders who create or support undergraduate research experiences abroad to find common ground and collaborate to achieve their common goals. To achieve the most effective outcomes, we recommend using them in conjunction with the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad and discipline-specific guidance on research methods and ethics.



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