Anything you study at the academic level of a university or college is built on research. The research foundation defines the modern university. Until the last decade or so, those research foundations were hidden from most college undergraduates – less so for undergraduates who attended universities. Now, colleges explicitly introduce students to research at the undergraduate level, so that you understand just how research feeds into so much of what we teach and learn to engage in research yourself.
Union College developed its undergraduate research seminars, the Scholars Research Seminar and Sophomore Research Seminar (SRS), with those goals in mind. These seminars aim to introduce you to academic research and, in a limited and guided fashion, give you hands on experience in the process itself. The SRS is not a research-training seminar for your major – if you have one – and was never designed to be that. Your major department will be responsible for the specific research training you need to complete that program of study.
The SRS has four goals for all students at Union.
First, together with the other parts of Union’s Common Curriculum it exposes you to the breadth of human knowledge – which is what defines a Liberal Arts education compared to technical training or a narrowly focused academic program consisting only of a major.
Second, the SRS is designed to give all students one early experience in thinking like a researcher before or alongside their major program of study. Every discipline is built upon different forms of primary research but all disciplines share the act of interpreting that research and articulating their findings for others. Thinking like a researcher, then, means taking the raw materials of any subject or topic, analyzing them critically and creatively, and developing a reasoned argument or theory grounded in evidence.
Third, the SRS deliberately challenges you to conduct research in a field that may not be your own using unfamiliar methods. Research proves that you experience the most intellectual growth by not limiting your mind’s activities. You learn more and learn better with a mixed diet, so to speak.
Finally, like any researcher, you must find the best way to present your original research in a coherent, persuasive, and pleasing form, typically in the form of a 12-18 page research paper.
The SRS is sure to be one of the most challenging and dynamic courses you take at Union College.