Undergraduate research

There are lots of opportunities to engage in undergraduate research in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (CMLLC). Here are a few ways to get involved, and some projects our students have worked on.

As defined by the Council for Undergraduate Research, "undergraduate research is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline."

Research skills make students flexible and resourceful thinkers and scholars, which are useful in any discipline or workplace. But they are also unique, allowing students to gather specialized knowledge in a particular discipline. In Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, undergraduate research involves first and foremost developing the art of making meaning, i.e. interpreting the complexity of human experience. 

We have a capacious understanding of the kinds of "making meaning" that undergraduate research can do. Possible types of research include:

Archival work that uncovers new data.

Example: Discovering a manuscript and editing it; reading letters or notes by an understudied author and writing about them; or comparing language phenomena from older texts with contemporary uses of language.

Curatorial work that makes meaning of material for a broad(er) public.

Example: Creating a webpage to map historical sites in a text; creating a documentary film about an important event; creating an annotated bibliography.

Translation work that presents and makes meaning of a text for a new audience.

Example: Translating a work of literature or poetry; creating subtitles for a foreign film.

Gathering, encountering, or uncovering new data and incorporating it into existing frameworks.

Example: Surveying faculty or students about their experiences in the classroom and reporting the results; observing a class and analyzing the results through the lens of a particular pedagogical approach or theory.

Interpretive work, building on already existing interpretations to offer a new interpretation of a text or group of texts.

Example: Writing a comparative analysis of two scholarly studies or two works of literature.

Theoretical work, applying existing interpretive structures to new texts or in innovative ways.

Example: Writing a theoretically informed paper that views language samples or a text through a particular political, cultural, or other lens.

Thinking critically

How scholars "make meaning" in the form of a research apprenticeship in which a student reflects on the process, outcomes, and meaning of research in the 21st century.

Example: Helping a professor collect data for a larger study; participating in the creation of a digital humanities project like a website.

All undergraduate research projects in CMLLC will involve a collaborative effort between a student and a faculty member. The extent of collaboration exists along a continuum. The undergraduate research project may be an apprenticeship that involves a student in a faculty research project in a meaningful way and includes the student reflecting in writing what they learned about the research process. It may involve a faculty member assigning a project to a student. It may involve a student developing and carrying out an independent project under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

All undergraduate research will involve a process that includes:

  1. Designing a research project that begins with a rigorous and meaningful research question (a thesis) or hypothesis, or the articulation of an interest or need that the project addresses.
  2. Securing and weighing evidence, either by examining primary source material, surveying the existing scholarship in the field, gathering new data, or a combination of the three.
  3. Finding a voice, i.e., a unique, discipline-appropriate communication style in which to express meaning.
  4. Making meaning in the form of taking and arguing a position, supporting an analysis, or completing a creative project.

As articulated by the WSU Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, "research is how the academic community communicates with the world." As such, undergraduate research will be made public in forms such as a conference report, paper, poster, or presentation, a print or electronic publication, a performance, a screening, or an exhibition.

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