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Undergraduate Research (UR) can be defined as an investigation into a specific topic within a discipline by an undergraduate student that makes an original contribution to the field. It has become a major consideration among research universities around the world, in order to advance both academic teaching and research productivity. Edited by an international team of world authorities in UR, this Handbook is the first truly comprehensive and systematic account of undergraduate research, which brings together different international approaches, with attention to both theory and practice. It is split into sections covering different countries, disciplines, and methodologies. It also provides an overview of current research and theoretical perspectives on undergraduate research as well as future developmental prospects of UR. Written in an engaging style, yet wide-ranging in its scope, it is essential reading for anyone wishing to broaden their understanding of how undergraduate research is implemented worldwide.
The chapter provides an overview of the Austrian higher education system and its legal, cultural, and administrative frameworks for Austrian universities, particularly regarding research-based education. Four short case studies give insights into specific approaches showing how undergraduate research is promoted and supported. In the conclusion further national developments for the promotion of undergraduate research are discussed.
This chapter provides a synopsis of our Cambridge Handbook of Undergraduate Research. We argue that undergraduate research is made possible by, and responds to, changes in the ways we think about knowledge. Readers will be familiar with the contemporary social context, which often sees knowledge as a kind of free-for-all in which opinion is presented as fact, where knowledge gained through research competes in the political realm with supposition, and public discourse is steeped in deliberate misinformation. In the context of our handbook, such developments not only open up opportunities for students to engage in research, they also emphasize the importance of all students developing the skills to engage meaningfully and rigorously in evidence-based practice and to challenge unfounded assumptions. Knowledge has become democratized, and it is this that provides both the impetus and opportunity for widespread and equitable undergraduate research engagement.
This is the general introduction to the Cambridge Handbook of Undergraduate Research. It deals with the history of the university as an institution (which has been a research institution only since the nineteenth century); with the concept of undergraduate research and its dimesions (e.g., student- or staff-initiated research); with possible alternative concepts (e.g., critical thinking or lifelong learning); with research on undergraduate research (e.g., increased retention rate but necessary mentoring); and with implementation challenges (for universities and faculty). We see a new role for students: that in ever more differentiated modern societies, collaborative, cross-segmental knowledge production becomes a new necessity, the educational means to which might be undergraduate research.
At the time of writing, there clearly is more research on undergraduate research than there are explicit efforts at formulating theory. However, any questionnaire designed to assess the effects of undergraduate research also contains theoretical assumptions; while these may not always become explicit, they can nonetheless contribute to theory-building.
This introduction has three parts. The first part will briefly introduce existing models of undergraduate research with theoretical significance, here in the context of the research–teaching nexus. The second part will introduce the four theoretical perspectives that provide the framework(s) for an understanding of undergraduate research in this handbook, namely: higher education policy, psychology, philosophy, and the sociocultural perspective. The third part will briefly discuss how we might develop a theory of undergraduate research.