Four elements1 are critical for effective undergraduate research experiences:
The experience is a serious, collaborative interaction between the faculty mentor and the student. The student is intellectually engaged in a problem or project.
The student makes a meaningful and authentic contribution to the problem or project. The work is entirely or partially novel.
The student employs techniques that are appropriate and recognized by the discipline(s). The problem or project includes a reflective and synthetic component.
The experience includes a final tangible product. Both the process and results are presented and reviewed in a manner consistent with disciplinary standards.
(1) Jeffrey M. Osborn and Kerry K. Karukstis, “The Benefits of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity” in Broadening Participation in Undergraduate Research: Fostering Excellence and Enhancing the Impact, Mary K. Boyd and Jodi L. Wesemann, Eds. (Council on Undergraduate Research, 2009)