Salient Practices of Undergraduate Research Mentors

Following an extensive review of the literature on mentoring undergraduate research, ten salient practices emerged which support effective mentoring of undergraduate researchers. These practices can be used to develop a mentoring pedagogy of high quality.

  1. Strategic pre-planning to support students’ varying needs and abilities during research process
    • Invest time early in the process for project selection and planning
    • Consider wide variability in preparation, motivation and skills
    • Set achievable timelines
    • Don’t underestimate potential for authentic scholarship
  2. Setting clear and well-scaffolded expectations
    • Attend to fluctuating needs of students at different points in the process
    • Provide strong support early on
    • Gradually give students more independence
    • Outline your expectations in learning contracts or syllabi
  3. Teaching the technical skills, methods, and techniques of conducting research in the discipline
    • Introduce students to the expectations of research in your discipline
    • Guide students through the technical practices needed to support project goals (e.g., protocols for labs, databases, studios, archives, software)
    • Emphasize the importance of ethical standards and safety
  4. Balancing rigorous expectations with appropriate emotional support
    • Provide positive yet constructive feedback
    • Remain approachable to minimize anxiety and bolster confidence
    • Adapt your emphasis to suit student needs
  5. Building community among groups of students or a research team
    • Build trusting interpersonal relationships on the team
    • Practice intentional team development
    • Engage the team in common interest, non-research activities to foster connections
  6. Dedicating time to one-on-one mentoring
    • Minimize false assumptions regarding ability and progress
    • Provide personalized guidance and advice
    • Exemplify the value of time-intensive, hands-on mentoring experiences with students
  7. Increasing student ownership over time
    • Explain how student tasks relate to larger project goals
    • Welcome student opinions about their work
    • Listen with patience and openness
    • Foster autonomy by giving students ownership of specific tasks and important aspects of the overall project
  8. Supporting students’ professional development
    • Provide networking opportunities by introducing students to colleagues on campus and at conferences
    • Students often report that networking opportunities in informal environments are even more meaningful than presenting research at conferences
  9. Creating intentional, laddered opportunities for peers/near-peers to learn mentoring skills
    • Create intentional opportunities for peers and near-peers to learn mentoring skills
    • Model the characteristics of a successful researcher—as well as of a successful mentor
    • Address different learning styles
    • Provide guidance for expectations of the relationships
  10. Encouraging students to disseminate their findings
    • Develop avenues for dissemination: essential to student understanding of what it means to be a scholar
    • Have students present work to peers, experts, community: best way to develop oral and written communication skills
    • Take students to conferences: most important thing mentor did for them, access to students across demographic groups