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Undergraduate Scholars Research Homepage

Value of Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research, whether completed at California State University San Marcos or elsewhere, enhances students’ knowledge to think like a scholar and to apply concepts learned from courses in the major to develop original scholarship. Benefits of undergraduate research include completing and competitively submitting original research to a campus, regional, or national conference; delivering a professional presentation to faculty and students; receiving feedback from scholars in the field; meeting peer student-scholars from other universities; expanding research interests as well as opportunities to pursue graduate school. In light of the array of benefits, many colleges and universities provide research experiences for students in all disciplines. At CSUSM, there is a committee dedicated to undergraduate research. According to the University’s website, “[undergraduate research] aids in the discovery of new knowledge and is an important educational tool.  Students who engage in undergraduate research are better prepared to rise to contemporary challenges. Faculty and students are supported and recognized by the University for their research and creative activities.” At CSUSM, opportunities for students to conduct original research include courses such as COMM 390, Research Methods and Design; and COMM 402, Approaches to Rhetorical Criticism, among other possibilities.

Faculty in the Communication Department regularly offer COMM 390 and COMM 402 as entry points for students to conduct original research on a topic of their choosing. Descriptions of both courses are available here for Communication and Media Studies. In short, each course allows undergraduates to begin developing their own research on a topic of interest. Original research and/or writing-intensive courses (e.g., COMM 200, COMM 390, or COMM 402) are considered high-impact educational practices that benefit students by challenging them to think critically and ask questions about the world around them.

To conduct research, Kellogg Library and librarians are important resources to students (and, faculty alike). Supporting Communication and Media Studies majors is librarian Allison Carr. She considers undergraduate research to be extremely important. In an interview, she stated:

What I value about undergraduate research is that it gives students the opportunity to engage in an area of inquiry that deepens their understanding of and connection to the discipline. The basic outcome of an undergraduate degree is not to know everything about your discipline but to understand how experts in the field ask and answer questions; how to think like a scholar. It challenges students to move beyond reporting on a topic to true synthesis. This type of inquiry or investigation can lead not only to a greater understanding of the world, but a greater curiosity for things we don't understand. In the long term, undergraduate research helps to facilitate an informed and curious citizenry by encouraging students continue to ask questions about the world in which they live after graduating from college and actually seek out the answers. (Carr 2017)

Librarians such as Allison Carr have class meetings to assist students develop individual research, and at these meetings students begin to advance their own understanding of an aspect in the discipline and understand how to develop individual research. This research assists in developing student scholarship. Many students enhance the visibility of their scholarship through submission to a conference. Some conferences include the Undergraduate Scholars Research Conference (hereafter USRC), sponsored by the Western States Communication Association; the National Communication Association Convention; the Symposium for Student Research at CSUSM; and/or the Undergraduate Research Showcase, also at CSUSM.

The conference most experienced by students in the department is the USRC. See a history of student-scholars’ participation in that, and other conferences. As Second-Vice President (2016-2017) of the Western States Communication Association, Dr. Marnel Niles Goins comments:

Undergraduate research is a necessity. It is at this level where most undergraduate students begin to frame their ideas and writings into academic scholarship. These ideas must be nurtured and guided in order for our young scholars to expand current scholarship in the Communication discipline. Our undergraduate scholars represent the future direction of Communication and it is important that their research be recognized. (Niles Goins, 2017)

As students engage in opportunities such as the USRC, it gives them the opportunity to gain exposure in an academic-professional environment and engage with other likeminded scholars. With the continuance of undergraduates developing their research, a multitude of opportunities may arise as will positive engagement in the field of Communication. 


Carr, A. (2017, February 3). Email interview.

CSU San Marcos. (2016). Committee for Undergraduate Research. Retrieved from 

Niles-Goins, M. (2017, January 31). Email interview.

*Written by Danielle C. Biss; Approved by Department Chair. Spring 2017