Online Undergraduate Research Guide

Is research right for you?

Did you know that Oregon State University Ecampus students can participate in research, even from a distance? Oregon State is a great place to get involved with research, as we are one of three land, sea, space, and sun grant universities in the nation and home to 11 colleges. With that in mind, odds are you’ll find a faculty member with the expertise to help you learn essential research skills.

That said, research isn’t the only way to get work experience at OSU. For example, if you’re earning your degree to switch careers and research is not a large component of your new career path, maybe gaining real world experience in an internship would be a better fit. If you are unsure about whether a research opportunity will support your goals, talk with your academic advisor and get their feedback.

Still interested in research? Let’s dig in on what that means for an Ecampus student.

What does research look like at Oregon State?

What does it mean to do research at OSU?

High-level research institutions, often called “R1 institutions,” like OSU pursue future-forward research questions that can have global impact. At R1 schools, undergraduate and graduate students usually participate in pre-existing research. This means you might not be able to research exactly what you’re interested in, but you can learn skills and competencies by working on an ongoing research project that you can apply to other opportunities in the future.

For a taste of the research at Oregon State, check out the Research Office website and their Annual Research Report. Research topics vary by discipline, but often the work includes conducting literature reviews, analyzing data, interpreting results and writing about your findings.

Research opportunities are not commonly tailored to distance students, but with a little ingenuity and persistence, you can generate your own research opportunities while learning online with Ecampus.

What skills could you gain?

You can learn essential skills by participating on an existing project that apply to other work in the future. You can learn how to do tasks like:

  • Conducting research involving human participants or animals
  • Reviewing and synthesize existing research
  • Analyzing a variety of data types
  • Presenting your research in various forms for diverse audiences
  • Managing research projects
  • Carrying out scientific thinking, critical inquiry, and communication
  • Succeeding in general professional settings

In addition, you will gain invaluable mentorship from graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty members.

What should you consider when looking into research opportunities?

As you consider your options, remember that your advisor and personal or professional mentors are a great resource for feedback and guidance. Try the following:

  • Reflect on your goals. You might want to learn new skills, network, or create a product. Try to find an opportunity that supports those goals. Thinking through what you want to accomplish may help you narrow potential opportunities exclusively to research or expand them beyond research.
  • Think about your timeline. How long until you complete your program? If you’re not long from completing your program or degree, consider a micro-internship rather than a research project. If you have a lighter course load, that term might be a good time to find a research project. Finally, consider how you could fit research alongside your existing weekly commitments.
  • Consider your next move. If your plans include graduate school, many advanced degree programs look favorably on undergraduate research experience. Involvement in research might also produce helpful skills or connections to other researchers who may be more closely aligned with your research interests.
  • Find out more about research in your discipline. Connect with the instructors in your program to learn about labs, field work, community engagement and more. Ask around for connections to recent graduates and conduct an informational interview with them to learn more about research in your field. Your knowledge of your field of study will help you understand the key elements of relevant research, so use it to envision the work you might do.

How does research work online?

As an Oregon State student, you have access to a variety of tools that enable remote work. And as an online learner, you’re already well-versed in succeeding in a remote environment. Online research could look like regular virtual meetings with your research supervisor, submitting deliverables on a timeline, communicating with lab members and more.

Getting started with research

You can launch your research experience with the following action items:

1. Get to know your credentials

It’s rare you’ll find a job posting for a remote research position, but you should explore qualifications for general researcher positions and whether you meet them. Be prepared to answer questions about your GPA, relevant coursework you’ve taken, when you’ll graduate and your related work experiences.

2. Find a researcher conducting work that interests you

You can identify a researcher to work with by combing department websites to discover projects you find interesting. Ask your advisor about instructors who are hiring research assistants. Check out newsletters or publications from your program. Think back to classes you’ve taken that you found compelling and with instructors who mentioned their research activity.

3. Consider ways you could contribute to a research project

Some projects might be location-specific, but a lot of research activity can be conducted online. For example, a researcher might need assistance in conducting interviews over the phone or Zoom, they may have already collected data that they need help analyzing, or maybe a lab needs help reviewing recent literature on a topic area.

All of those activities could be done remotely. You could also: develop presentations, create graphics, proofread writing, construct an annotated bibliography, develop or administer online surveys, draft a research protocol and more.

4. Connect with the researcher and help them envision how you could contribute

Ensure that you thoroughly review their research beforehand so that you can clearly articulate how you could contribute. Be prepared for some negotiation. Maybe the researcher doesn’t have funds to pay a research assistant — could you do an independent study and get credit?

Or perhaps the researcher has finished their paper already — could you help with copy editing or drafting a summary for a news article? Help them visualize how an online student might contribute.

Share about your work

Once you secure a research experience, consider ways to highlight your work. The skills you learn through research are transferable to many other academic and professional settings. You could:

  • Present your work. Check out academic conferences in your field; the Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and the Arts has more information on presenting your scholarly work.
  • Create a portfolio. Include papers, presentations, anything you’ve produced for your research. You can use this for graduate school or job applications.
  • Highlight your experience. Apply it to job applications, résumés, cover letters, interviews, personal statements of experience and on your LinkedIn Profile; the Career Center is a great resource for getting ready for your job search.

Additional Oregon State resources

Looking to further explore the research options that OSU has to offer? Start here, and research before you research.

  1. The Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and the Arts
  2. Why conduct undergraduate research?
  3. Going Online with Oregon State University Ecampus podcast episode 5: “Can you engage in research as an online student?”
  4. Career Development Center