Recently the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR) updated their definition of undergraduate research. The change was made in an effort to broaden the scope of undergraduate research (UR) and give attention to issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion.

The new definition is:

Undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry is fundamentally a pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. With an emphasis on process, CUR defines undergraduate research as: A mentored investigation or creative inquiry conducted by undergraduates that seeks to make a scholarly or artistic contribution to knowledge.

This is much more comprehensive than the previous definition in which UR was defined as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”

CUR highlights that fact that issues of diversity, equity and inclusion were taken into consideration with this new definition. One important change is broadening the definition to include “scholarly or artistic contribution to knowledge”—a change that is inclusive of various disciplines. Secondly, focusing on the “process” of undergraduate research acknowledges that students can engage in the research process at different developmental stages, including as early-career students. Although an original contribution is still a valued outcome of UR, making one is no longer necessary for the activity to be considered UR. Finally, highlighting that UR is a “pedagogical approach to teaching and learning” may allow the definition to extend to the classroom and course-embedded or course-based UR, which has become a popular way to scale up access to the experience (Hensel 2018) and could be used as a way to promote inclusion and equity (Bangera and Brownell 2014).

Although the revised definition takes needed steps in the direction of increasing inclusivity to UR, I believe that a central piece is not yet addressed—the role of mentoring. The inclusion of mentoring is what first drew my attention to this new definition because of my interest in undergraduate research mentoring. High-quality mentoring is thought to be essential for students (and possibly faculty), especially in minority students, to have the greatest benefits (Vandermaas-Peeler, Miller, and Moore 2018; Linn et al. 2015; Ishiyama 2007). We have advocated for the use of the salient practices framework of undergraduate research mentoring (Shanahan et al. 2015; Walkington et al. 2018, 2020) as one intentional way to ensure high-quality mentoring. Through our work on the implementation of this framework, we have seen it adopted in different disciplines (Moore et al. 2020; Shawyer et al. 2019) and contexts (Hall et al. 2018; Hall et al. 2021; Ketcham et al. 2018), suggesting that it is an inclusive framework for undergraduate research mentoring.

In attempts to increase accessibility through this definition, I am afraid that we will lose the intentionality required to mentor students in research and start to equate mentorship with teaching. This is not to say that teaching is not important and that through teaching courses with embedded research we can’t begin to scale up and introduce students to research. There is no doubt that, to some degree, excellent pedagogy embodies many of the salient practices, such as strategic pre-planning (salient practice [SP] 1), clear, scaffolded expectations (SP 2), teaching technical skills (SP 3) and possibly even building a community of scholars (SP 5) and presenting research (SP 10). Other practices might need more time than just a course to implement. This might be especially true for the salient practices of increasing ownership (SP 7), introducing students to disciplinary norms and professional development (SP 8), and being taught how to mentor peers (SP 9). The difference between mentoring and teaching might be time, as mentored relationships are often created and cultivated over multiple semesters and possibly years.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the new CUR definition of undergraduate research. Join the conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn, or email me at


Bangera, Gita, and Sara E. Brownell. 2014. “Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences Can Make Scientific Research More Inclusive.” CBE—Life Sciences Education 13 (4): 602–6.

Hall, Eric, Elizabeth Bailey, Simon Higgins, Caroline Ketcham, Svetlana Nepocatych, and Matthew Wittstein. 2021. “Application of the Salient Practices Framework for Undergraduate Research Mentoring in Virtual Environments.” Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 22 (1): ev22i1.2287.

Hall, Eric E, Helen Walkington, Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, Jenny Olin Shanahan, Rikke Kolbech Gudiksen, and Margaret Mackenzie Zimmer. 2018. “Enhancing Short-Term Undergraduate Research Experiences in Study Abroad: Curriculum Design and Mentor Development.” Perspectives on Undergraduate Research and Mentoring 7 (1): 1–17.

Hensel, Nancy, ed. 2018. Course-Based Undergraduate Research: Educational Equity and High-Impact Practice. Stylus Publishing.

Ishiyama, John. 2007. “Expectations and Perceptions of Undergraduate Research Mentoring: Comparing First Generation, Low Income White/Caucasian and African American Students.” College Student Journal 41 (3): 540–49.

Ketcham, Caroline J., Eric E. Hall, Heather Fitz-Gibbons, and Helen Walkington. 2018. “Co-Mentoring in Undergraduate Research: A Faculty Development Perspective.” In Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research, edited by Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, Paul C. Miller, and Jessie Moore, 155–79. Washington, D.C.: Council for Undergraduate Research.

Linn, Marcia C., Erin Palmer, Anne Baranger, Elizabeth Gerard, and Elisa Stone. 2015. “Undergraduate Research Experiences: Impacts and Opportunities.” Science 347 (6222): 1261757.

Moore, Jessie L., Sophia Abbot, Hannah Bellwoar, and Field Watts. 2020. “Mentoring: Partnering with All Undergraduate Researchers in Writing.” In The Naylor Report on Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies, edited by Dominic DelliCarpini, Jenn Fishman, and Jane Greer, 29–44. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press.

Shanahan, Jenny Olin, Elizabeth Ackley-Holbrook, Eric Hall, Kearsley Stewart, and Helen Walkington. 2015. “Ten Salient Practices of Undergraduate Research Mentors: A Review of the Literature.” Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning 23 (5): 359–76.

Shawyer, Susanne, Renay Aumiller, Eric E. Hall, and Kim Shively. 2019. “Mentoring Undergraduate Research in Theatre and Dance: Case Studies of the Salient Practices Framework in Action.” Perspectives on Undergraduate Research and Mentoring 8.1: 1–12.

Vandermaas-Peeler, Maureen, Paul C. Miller, and Jessie L. Moore, eds. 2018. Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research. Washington, D.C.: Council on Undergraduate Research.

Walkington, Helen, Eric Hall, Jenny Olin Shanahan, Elizabeth Ackley, and Kearsley Stewart. 2018. “Striving for Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring: The Challenges and Approaches to Ten Salient Practices.” In Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research, edited by Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, Paul Miller, and Jessie Moore, 105–30. Washington, D.C.: Council on Undergraduate Research.

Walkington, Helen, Kearsley A. Stewart, Eric E. Hall, Elizabeth Ackley, and Jenny Olin Shanahan. 2020. “Salient Practices of Award-Winning Undergraduate Research Mentors – Balancing Freedom and Control to Achieve Excellence.” Studies in Higher Education 45 (7): 1519–32.

Eric Hall is a professor of exercise science at Elon University, served as the inaugural CEL Senior Scholar, and co-leads the 2020-2023 research seminar on (Re)Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences.

How to cite this post

Hall, Eric E. 2022. “Centering Inclusivity (and Mentoring?) in Undergraduate Research.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. January 11, 2022.