Based on an extensive review of literature on Undergraduate Research mentoring, Jenny Olin Shanahan, Elizabeth Ackley-Holbrook, Eric Hall, Kearsley Stewart, and Helen Walkington (2015) identified ten salient practices of mentoring that offer undergraduate researchers intellectual, personal/emotional, and professional socialization support. They based these initial practices on the literature on mentorship, and because members of the initial group came from diverse disciplines, they gave great intentionality to write the practices in such a way that any discipline could adapt and apply them within a variety of contexts.

Additionally, we can view this set of practices as a form of pedagogy. More disciplinary specific examples can create more resources for their use and increase the scalability of undergraduate research mentoring in certain disciplines. In the humanities, some of the practices require creative interpretation in order to better reflect the research practices in the humanities disciplines. Take, for example, #5 “Build a community among members of the team.” In writing studies, students may work in teams in contexts like the writing center, or they may work individually to write a thesis. Team, then, might be interpreted as cohort instead, especially if students are working individually on a project. Because community can benefit students working on individual projects as well, finding community identifications is the key part of this practice. This is one example where a disciplinary specific example can increase scalability of a practice in the humanities.

Nicole Galante presenting Professional Writing & Rhetoric research at Elon University's Spring Undergraduate Research Forum
Nicole Galante presenting Professional Writing & Rhetoric research at Elon University’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum

At the 2018 Naylor Symposium, a group of faculty and graduate students (Hannah Bellwoar, Jessie L. Moore, Field Watts, and Sophia Abbot) interested in undergraduate research in writing studies came together and made recommendations for mentoring in the context of writing studies. One recommendation was to use the salient practices framework to inform mentoring in writing studies.

They developed the following adaptations for mentoring in writing studies:

  1. Engage in strategic pre-planning;
    • Articulate learner’s goals, interests, and (draft) inquiry questions
    • Identify students’ intended/ideal audience for their research
  2. Set clear, and well-scaffolded expectations;
    • Discuss possible outcomes – not just traditional, course-like outcomes
    • Establish tentative timelines for progressing towards those outcomes
    • Identify knowledge/resource gaps that need addressed to progress towards/through benchmarks
    • Acknowledge that, like writing, research is messy and an iterative process
    • Track time spent, in part to facilitate future reflection on the research process
    • Build in time for midpoint check-ins and adjustments
  3. Teach technical skills, methods, and techniques;
    • Integrate methods instruction across coursework and/or offer a stand-alone methods course
    • Introduce relevant theoretical frameworks (e.g., theories about writing transfer, process writing, threshold concepts of writing, etc.) used in the field in which students can situate their research questions
    • Introduce commonly used qualitative and quantitative research methods – and resources (such as Researching Writing, by Joyce Kinkead) – so that students can pursue the best fit for their research question
    • Model for students how to align their research questions, methods, and theoretical framework
    • Share our own research methods, and connect students with mentors who use other methods
    • Showcase past UR to highlight the range of methods used
  4. Balance rigorous expectations with emotional support and appropriate personal interest in students;
    • Use mutual-mentoring strategies to mentor the whole person
    • Build cohorts to foster community
    • Connect students to professional writers with related interests
      • Who can connect students to relevant resources
      • Who can speak to external-to-academia expectations
      • Who can help students meet members of professional networks
    • Meet with students outside the classroom / office / research space (e.g., coffee shop)
  5. Build a community among members of the team;
    • Celebrate birthdays and other life markers
    • Encourage community-building activities outside of work (from small trips for coffee or ice cream to activities within the university or local community)
    • Have meals together (or potlucks, baked goods exchanges, etc.)
    • Create a workspace and opportunities for students to work independently – and collaboratively – on their research
  6. Dedicate time to one-on-one, hands-on mentoring;
    • Meet with students routinely, with writing as a central document for the meeting (e.g., research progress memo, reflections on readings, annotated bibs, drafts, presentations)
    • Even in research teams and CURE, make time for multiple connections within the mentoring constellation; faculty mentors still need to make time to meet routinely with each member of the team/course to check-in about individual goals/learning
    • Meet with near-peers (more experienced team members) to discuss strategies for mentoring newer members of the team.
  7. Increase student ownership over time;
    • Encourage students to shadow and assist more experienced researchers before they develop their own research question.
    • Ask more established researchers to mentor less experienced researchers.
    • Encourage students to present/publish their work to broader audiences for feedback (e.g. user/audience groups, internal UR symposia, NCUR, Naylor, CCCC Undergraduate Researcher Poster Session, Young Scholars in Writing, and field conferences/publications that aren’t specific to UR).
    • Invite students to co-author presentations and publications.
  8. Support students’ professional development through networking and explaining norms of the discipline;
    • Invite students to attend (and present at) Naylor, CCCC, IWCA, regional CCCC & writing center conferences, etc.
    • Introduce students to the scholars they’re citing.
  9. Create intentional opportunities for peers and near-peers to learn mentoring skills;
    • Host journal groups about mentoring and/or about research in writing; invite different team members to select readings and facilitate discussion.
    • Share the 10 salient practices with all members of the research team.
  10. Encourage and guide students through the dissemination of their findings.
    • Encourage students to attend Naylor for discipline-specific UR support.
    • Share CCCC UR Poster Session CFP with students and encourage them to participate in feedback process.
    • Explain that a revise and resubmit in YSW (and other publications) really means they want you to resubmit.
    • Offer feedback on drafts of presentations and publications.
    • Have students rehearse their presentations, perhaps with other UR students who can offer feedback.
    • Help students practice talking about their research for a non-disciplinary audience and create an elevator pitch.
    • Encourage students to share their findings with non-academic, public audiences.

Adapted from Shanahan, Ackley-Holbrook, Hall, Stewart, and Walkington 2015, pp. 362-370

We hope that other groups will think about adopting and adapting these salient practices into their specific contexts to allow for higher quality undergraduate research mentoring and beneficial outcomes for both the mentors and mentees.


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), 359–376.

Eric Hall, Professor of Exercise Science, is the 2018-2019 Senior Center for Engaged Learning Scholar. Dr. Hall’s Senior CEL Scholar project focuses on undergraduate research mentoring. For more information about the salient practices of undergraduate research please check out our website:

Hannah Bellwoar is Associate Professor of English at Juniata College. Her professional research centers on how people use health-related writings and information, particularly how laypeople use the texts outside of institutional spaces such as hospitals or medical facilities.

Sophia Abbot is the 2018-2020 Center for Engaged Learning Graduate Apprentice and a student in the Masters of Higher Education program at Elon University.

How to cite this post:

Hall, Eric, Hannah Bellwoar, and Sophia Abbot. 2019, May 14. Salient Practices of Mentoring Undergraduate Research [in Writing]. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from