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Incorporate Research Methods into Undergraduate Courses

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Making visible what constitutes research methods in your field and giving students the opportunity to learn and practice them by incorporating research methods into undergraduate courses are research-supported ways to support diversity in higher education.

Through strategies such as actively engaging students in research processes, supporting students in conducting research projects, and critically reflecting on research practices, course-based undergraduate research experiences have been shown to increase student knowledge, confidence, and experience with research methods and strengthen disciplines (Medley-Rath and Morgan 2021). 

Many of the strategies for incorporating research methods into undergraduate courses focus not just on teaching students what these methods are but also on providing students with experiences for practicing and reflecting on them as part of an inclusive and engaged pedagogy (Nind and Lewthwaite 2018). 

Given that research methods are often obscured as a topic and practice in undergraduate education, these practices have been shown to increase student engagement, support students in drawing on their own experiential knowledge, help students develop their analytical skills, and support students in further developing their knowledge and engagement in the discipline (Dolan 2016; Peyrefitte and Lazar 2017).

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Steps to consider

Support undergraduate research skills

  • Provide training in the basic skills and background knowledge students need to be able to engage in course-based research in your field at the beginning of the course, so that students with varied levels of prior exposure can successfully participate (Kilburn et al. 2014; Peyrefitte and Lazar 2017)
    (Module 4: Making Success Accessible)
  • Use a broad range of examples and exercises to demonstrate steps in the research process and their applicability (Kilburn et al. 2014)
    (Module 1: Including Diverse Representation, and Module 4: Making Success Accessible)
  • Provide opportunities for students to apply the skills they are learning to circumstances where the skills can be applied (Kilburn et al. 2014)
    (Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)

Develop research-related and engaging learning activities

  • Develop active learning activities that encourage students to experiment and engage with the topic at hand (Kilburn et al. 2014; Styers et al. 2018).
    (Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)
  • Support students in conducting research in real-world contexts or with empirical data sets from actual research projects (Kilburn et al. 2014).
    (Module 1: Including Diverse Representation, and Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)
  • Teach students to critically reflect on the research process and understand the different ways research can be engaged (Kilburn et al. 2014; Lewthwaite and Nind 2016).
    (Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)
  • Use research "pedagogic hooks" to engage students in active learning exercises (Lewthwaite and Nind 2016). Lewthwaite and Nind 2016 say that pedagogic hooks are often “non-threatening, non-technical, even enjoyable”, such as, “hands-on working with analytic software,” “engaging with interesting quantitative data sets” or engaging “ethical questions”.
    (Module 1: Including Diverse Representation, and Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)
  • Develop strategies to work around diverse challenges that students face in learning and practicing methods by continually learning about and checking-in with students, monitoring engagement, and making adjustments as necessary (Nind and Lewthwaite 2018).
    (Module 4: Making Success Accessible, and Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)
  • Develop ways to make challenging subject matter in research methods more accessible by teaching “with, through, and about” data (Nind and Lewthwaite 2018).
    (Module 4: Making Success Accessible, and Module 5: Giving Inclusive Assessments)

Go to the IDEAL Pedagogy Canvas course to explore the learning modules referenced above.

Stanford examples and resources


Bangera, G., & S.E. Brownell (2014). “Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences Can Make Scientific Research More Inclusive”,  CBE—Life Sciences Education, 13(4).

Dolan, E.L. (2016). “Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences: Current knowledge and future directions”, Board on Science Education.

Evans, S.Z., & J. Evans (2021). “Undergraduate Research Embedded Across Course Levels and Types Through Scaffolded Projects”, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 21(1). 

Kilburn, D., M. Nind & R. Wiles (2014). “Learning as Researchers and Teachers: The Development of a Pedagogical Culture for Social Science Research Methods?”, British Journal of Educational Studies, 62(2): 191-207.

Lewthwaite, S., & M. Nind (2016). “Teaching Research Methods in the Social Sciences: Expert Perspectives on Pedagogy and Practice”, British Journal of Educational Studies, 64(4): 413-430.

Medley-Rath, S., & R. Morgan (2021). “Gaining Confidence, Experience, and Knowledge as Researchers among Undergraduate Sociology Students”, Teaching Sociology, 50(1): 28-38.     

Mullaney, T.S., & C. Rea (2022). Where research begins: Choosing a research project that matters to you (and the world). The University of Chicago Press.

Nind, M., & S. Lewthwaite (2018). “Hard to teach: inclusive pedagogy in social science research methods education”, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 22(1): 74-88.

Peyrefitte, M., & G. Lazar (2018). “Student-centered Pedagogy and Real-world Research: Using

Documents as Sources of Data in Teaching Social Science Skills and Methods”, Teaching Sociology, 46(1): 62–74.

Styers, M.L., P.A. Van Zandt, & K.L. Hayden (2018). “Active Learning in Flipped Life Science Courses Promotes Development of Critical Thinking Skills”, CBE—Life Sciences Education, 17(3): ar39.