Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations

Tips for Faculty

undergrad researcher and faculty mentor

Selen Amado '18, who completed a senior honors thesis, and her faculty mentor, Professor Angela Gutchess, Psychology

How can faculty engage in productive and positive academic partnerships with undergraduates?

  1. Get started by reviewing on this page the tips below for successful partnerships provided below as well as reviewing our faculty resources, additional suggestions from peers, and examples of recent research partnerships.
  2. Faculty can also claim and activate their research profile on the Brandeis ForagerOne Searchable Research Opportunities Database. Learn more on our ForagerOne for Faculty page.
Establish Expectations

Your expectations of and for the student may be clear to you, but they may not be transparent to the student.

Tip: Write a research mentoring “contract” or agreement for each undergraduate project.

An effective contract will outline your expectations for the research deliverables, type and frequency of communication, confidentiality, and timelines. This is a living document, and thus it’s prudent to review it on a regular basis with your student, not only to determine if the student is on track for success, but also to assess whether changes in the agreement are needed. Before formally accepting a student, give them the agreement to review and ask for their suggestions for edits and/or additions.

You can use this example of a mentorship agreement template (pdf) (for students) as the basis for your own personalized agreement.

Maintain Effective Communication

It’s an understatement to say that miscommunication can lead to problems. How can you reduce the risk of miscommunication?

Tip: Ask your student what constitutes effective communication for them.

Decide on how frequently and by what means you will communicate (e.g., in person meetings, Zoom, email, Slack, Google chat, etc.) and discuss what will work for both of you. Remember also to discuss and set expectations for your and their expected response times to messages and how to communicate if a time-sensitive response is needed.

Assess Understanding

For the research to proceed, you need to know if the student is learning and understanding. Students may not feel comfortable sharing with you if they don’t yet have a specific skill or aren’t familiar with a software application or method in your discipline’s toolkit.

Tip: Expect that students will need to learn or refresh their training and that you will need to assess their understanding.

The Brandeis Library offers many trainings. You can start with small tasks or projects from which you can evaluate understanding.

Foster Independence

Once a student has achieved proficiency in the essential project-specific research skills, acquired a field-specific intellectual foundation, and collected/analyzed data or research references, you can start them on a path to more independent research.

Tip: Ask yourself a few questions such about independence such as: Is it necessary for a student to make mistakes in order to develop research independence? How do you assess which and how many mistakes are acceptable? How do you communicate to your student your views on making mistakes?

Address Diversity

Reflect on the richness of differences in our community and how they affect your student’s research experiences.

Tip: The Brandeis Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) has a wealth of tips on their resources page.

Prioritize Ethics

Stay current with your discipline’s ethics guidelines and resources. Be prepared to discuss how tenets of ethical research apply to you and your research.

Tip: Your professional association’s website may contain ethical guidelines. For an example see the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct.

The above tips were adapted from and inspired by content on multidisciplinary mentor training from the Center for Improvement in Mentored Research Experiences (CIMER) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

You can also contact Margaret Lynch, Director of Undergraduate-Faculty Research Partnerships in the Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations Office with questions and suggestions about we can best support you and your undergraduate researchers.