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Undergraduate Research in English: Innovative Thinking and Active Collaboration

“My research project allowed me to investigate a topic of interest more deeply than a single project in a course can allow. This is a project that I will carry with me as I go to graduate school because it allowed me to develop and refine my research skills more fully. It also gave me confidence to pursue a graduate degree after graduation.”

–Kate Hartke, class of 2015 (faculty mentor, Dr. Ruth Hoberman)

“Completing my undergraduate thesis was by far the most fulfilling experience I have had at EIU. Not only did I learn how to manage my own deadlines and keep myself disciplined in the writing process, but the most rewarding part was being able to invest in a project that was entirely my own. Instead of just completing a paper assignment for a class, my thesis was on something that I was able to create and develop from start to finish. Also, it was really beneficial to learn how to work one-on-one with a faculty member. Professors are incredibly willing and eager to help students with their work, and all it takes is for the students to go to them and ask for their help.”

--Danielle Rogner, class of 2015 (faculty mentor, Dr. Randy Beebe)

“...a self-guided research project has more turns as time progresses, and one has more opportunities to develop more complex ideas through accumulated information.”

--Heather Lamb, class of 2015 (faculty mentor, Dr. Randy Beebe)

 

What is Undergraduate Research in English?

An undergraduate research project is perhaps the most challenging and rewarding academic experience a student can undertake at the undergraduate level. Whether you are a future teacher, have an interest in graduate school, or want to pursue creative or professional writing, you can tailor your undergraduate research experience to fit your academic interests and goals.

The English Department encourages undergraduate students to pursue research on an area of particular interest to them. An undergraduate research project allows you to work closely with a faculty member who has an expertise and interest in your subject area. Undergraduate research may be initiated by extending the work of an upper level English class beyond that class, by enrolling in an independent study, or by being invited to participate in the Departmental Honors Program. With the support of a faculty member, you may enroll in an Independent Study (ENG 4400) or, if you are an Honors student, an Honors Independent Study (ENG 4444). If you are taking ENG 4444, your independent study is the first step towards developing your honors thesis.

 

Who should undertake undergraduate research in English?

Though generally undertaken by advanced undergraduates, the opportunity to pursue undergraduate research is available to any student in any concentration who has a strong academic record, a passion for a specific research topic or creative project, and the desire to significantly develop their research, writing, and critical thinking skills. In addition to the many personal benefits, a research project provides clear evidence of your motivation, initiative, ability to work independently and collaboratively, and your work ethic that will be beneficial to your professional development, regardless of the career path you choose. Any student interested in applying to graduate school should seriously consider an undergraduate research project.

 

Where do I start?

Once you have identified a topic of study of exceptional and enduring interest to you—a project that you believe you would enjoy working on for 1-2 semesters—you should discuss your interests with faculty members who share similar interests and may be willing to mentor you as you develop your research project. Once you have some idea of your area of interest, you should also contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Department Chair.