Find a research opportunity

So you’ve decided you want to get involved in undergraduate research. Congratulations! Now, how do you find an opportunity?

At the University of Alberta, there are a wide range of opportunities for students to engage in research and creative activities. One size does not fit all! Your first step then, is to ask yourself some questions:

What are your research interests?

One of the coolest things about undergraduate research is that it can give you the opportunity to follow your own curiosity. So what are YOU curious about?

For example:

  • Is there a particular topic or course that sparks your interest?

  • Are there any topics you’d like to learn more about?

  • Are there any specific skills you’d like to develop?

If you already have an idea for a specific research project, great! If you don’t, that’s okay too. All you really need at this point is a general idea of what areas you might be interested in so you can identify opportunities that might be a good fit.

What kind of research opportunity are you looking for?

For example:

  • Are you looking for a paid or a volunteer opportunity?

  • Are you looking for a full-time (e.g. summer) position, or a part-time opportunity?

  • Do you want to receive academic credit for your research?

Once you know what kind of opportunity you are looking for, consider the range of possibilities:



Examples of ways to get involved

Research-based courses

  • May receive academic credit

  • Unpaid

  • May be taken during the academic year (less common in spring/summer)

  • Various levels of engagement & time-commitment (usually a few hours/week)

  • May be a classroom/lab-based course or a mentored project with a professor

  • Research methods courses

  • “Research Opportunity” courses (e.g. 299, 398/399, 498/499)

  • Independent or directed studies

Honors projects

  • Usually a more substantial  mentored, project undertaken in 4th year as part of an Honors program

  • Unpaid

  • Recognized on your transcript

  • Consult your Faculty to determine whether an Honors program is available for your area of study

Research Certificate

  • Recognized on your transcript

  • Students complete a series of requirements, including a research project

Internships, co-ops, and research practicums

  • May or may not be recognized on your transcript (depends on program)

  • Usually involves one or more full-time work terms

  • Could be paid or unpaid (depending on program & funding availability)

  • Could take place on or off-campus (depending on program)

  • Not all placements are research-based

Research assistant positions

  • May be paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time

  • Usually do not offer academic credit

  • Student typically provides support to a larger ongoing project (e.g. with a graduate student or professor)

Mentored research projects

  • May be paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time, during the summer or academic year

  • Usually do not offer academic credit

  • Students might work on their own project or part of a larger ongoing project

  • Students are usually encouraged to apply for funding (see Apply for Funding)

Research abroad

  • International placement

Student groups

  • Typically group projects, which may be supervised by a faculty mentor

As you can see, there are a lot of different options -- and even this isn’t a comprehensive list! Hence our tagline: A question can take you anywhere!

Where can you find a potential supervisor?

For mentored research opportunities, honors projects, and many research-based courses, you’ll need to find a supervisor.

In some cases, you’ll be able to find a specific posting for a research opportunity with the supervisor already identified. If so, you’re in luck -- they’re looking for someone like you!

The URI maintains an Undergraduate Research Portal in eClass with research opportunity postings, including links to listings within various Faculties and Departments. This is a great place to start your search, but also keep an eye on bulletin boards around campus, and listen up in your classes -- many professors recruit students from within their courses.

What if you don’t see a posting anywhere that interests you? That doesn’t mean there are no opportunities! The truth is, most undergraduate research opportunities arise from students approaching a potential supervisor in their area of interest.

Not sure how to approach a professor? Nervous about talking to strangers? Hey, we get it, and that’s why we’re here to help. Check out the resources below, or contact our office for more assistance.

Need a boost of courage to get started? Here is one student's story of finding the courage to take the first step, and the advice she has to offer other students who want to get started in research. 

Find a research opportunity -- resources: