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When embarking on your research and creative discovery journey, it's important to understand how research and creative discovery are defined in your field. You might find that you're already engaging in these activities within your courses without recognizing it. Various institutions and researchers have distinct definitions of the research process, and we've provided a selection of these interpretations on this page to assist your understanding.

Once you’ve pinpointed the specific project you wish to pursue, seek guidance from a mentor.

SFA institutional definitions

Undergraduate research includes any project completed by lower or upper-level undergraduates at SFA using the scholarly or creative methods and techniques of an academic discipline to produce fuller knowledge, understanding or applications of the subject studied. Intended to encompass all disciplines, this research includes theoretical or applied research, artistic activity and evidence-based scholarship.

Research in the field of education investigates and generates new knowledge in education. We do this through rigorous and systematic data analysis using quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods approaches. Our end product (or output) typically involves academic papers, research reports, and scholarly publications. Like all other fields, we emphasize systematic investigations, critical analysis, and evidence-based approaches.

Dr. Sarah Straub, James I. Perkins College of Education

Artists in the “research” field produce an output—a play, a musical piece, a sculpture and the like. While a researcher in the STEM field may conduct an experiment and write a journal article and present it at a conference, an artist’s experiment is the artistic creation—the process and the output. The process (aka methodology) is an iterative and experimental process that incorporates design thinking and principles with an output of tangible products such as instructional materials, curriculum designs, educational technologies, production solutions, performances, installations, and works of art.

CC Conn, Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts

Undergraduate research in the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture is viewed as a necessary supplement to undergraduate curricula that enhances novice researchers’ understanding of science, connection to their disciplines and gains in skills and abilities. Course-based undergraduate research projects are frequently a staple component of classes in our college, where students conduct research under the direction of faculty instructors. Advanced students wanting extra co-curricular undergraduate research experience typically discuss and join faculty grant-funded research projects under the direction of graduate students and faculty. In both undergraduate research formats, students gain applied, hands-on experience with modern equipment and techniques; link theory to practice; and make novel contributions to our understanding of natural resource management and agriculture.

John Kidd, Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture

Council on Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research, scholarship and creative inquiry are fundamentally a pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. With an emphasis on process, the Council on Undergraduate Research defines undergraduate research as "A mentored investigation or creative inquiry conducted by undergraduates that seeks to make a scholarly or artistic contribution to knowledge."

Purdue University (traditional STEM definition)

Research is the pursuit of new knowledge through the process of discovery. Scientific research involves diligent inquiry and systematic observation of phenomena. Most scientific research projects involve experimentation, often requiring testing the effect of changing conditions on the results.


Center for Research and Creative Discovery
Leslie G. Cecil, director