SEPTEMBER 2013 • MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY 65
Review of Undergraduate Research in Psychology. “This is the
stereotype we’re trying to break with our publication.” And
they’re succeeding. This year, the journal received more than 50
submissions from more than 30 schools; they publish eight to 10.
An added bonus, says Bonfiglio: Undergrads who participate
in research often feel more involved with and attached to their
departments, and tend to stick around.
It fosters collaboration and other key
Research is pretty much always a group endeavor — which
means students engaged in research must learn to work with
others. “There’s a lot of team building and communication
skills involved,” says Becker. “They’re not sitting alone in a lab.”
A 2010 study in Insight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching,
headed by H. Russell Searight, PhD, a psychology professor at
Lake Superior State University, identified five other important
skills built in the lab. Doing research and presenting at
conferences, Searight found, help students develop follow-through, confidence, competence and independence — crucial
skills for any young adults. It also teaches them to appreciate
the importance of a shared foundation of knowledge — team
It facilitates mentoring relationships.
“You’re working with professors very closely who
otherwise you’d only see in classes and big lectures,” says
Toneva. “It’s an intimate sort of setting.” Toneva, who has done
research since her freshman year, notes that grad students can
make great mentors, too. “In the lab, I get all sorts of advice on
research and life,” she says. “That’s probably been the biggest
benefit to me, being able to have a community of scientists
The flip side is that undergraduates, too, can learn to
mentor. Becker fell in love with science by doing undergraduate
psychology research at Wright State University. “Being able to be
in the lab for three years, I was able to foster undergrads behind
me, which helped me understand how to work with someone in
research and train them,” she says.
It enhances professors’ creativity.
While teaching undergrads research skills can be
labor intensive, professors benefit, too. Students can take on
some of the more mundane tasks that come with any hands-on project. And students bring fresh eyes to long-term projects.
“As researchers we spend a lot of time reading the experts,
which is important, but we may miss some of the more obvious
questions,” says Bonfiglio. “Students can make me think
about things in a different way. Or they may identify more
unconventional directions to move the research forward.”
Plus, she adds, undergrads tend to be enthusiastic about being
in the lab, which makes the experience more fun for everyone. n
Harriet Brown is a writer in Syracuse, N. Y.
Check out APA’s Online Psychology Lab
More schools are developing research
opportunities for undergraduates. But even
students whose schools don’t yet give them a
chance to get into the lab can get involved in
research, thanks to APA’s Online Psychology
Laboratory (OPL). The site, which is funded by
the National Science Foundation, offers resources
for teachers looking to incorporate research
into their classrooms, including links to ongoing
studies, data sets, statistical simulations and
more, organized by subject. Teachers can use the
OPL to give students opportunities to collect and
interpret data starting from their first introductory
class in psychology.