A How-to Guide for the Humanities

Why Engage Undergraduates in Scholarly Research?

Each year, roughly a third of the faculty research projects the Aresty Center supports are in the humanities. Yet, unlike in the STEM disciplines, for example, undergraduate participation in humanistic research has not typically been treated as part of student development.

Undergraduates reap clear professional, personal, and academic gains from participation in research. They gain critical professional and personal skills like the ability to plan projects, manage time, and navigate ambiguity, while also confirming their academic aspirations through first-hand engagement with authentic scholarship.

What Types of Activities Can Undergraduate Researchers Do?

Students also make valuable contributions to professors' research projects. Across projects, students engage in a consistent set of scholarly activities. The table below is drawn from descriptions of researcher responsibilities in current Aresty Center projects in the humanities:

Common Research Activities in the Humanities
Primary and Secondary Research Data Management Manuscript Preparation
Bibliographic research Sorting and organizing data Fact-checking
Translation Database creation Copy editing
Archival research Transcription and coding  
Interviewing Digitizing data and sources  
Document summarizing Data visualization  
Locating materials Website creation  








Undergraduates support faculty research across a range of project types. Recent projects in the humanities have included:

  • Bibliographic research for course and manuscript development
  • Creating websites for digital texts and curating blogs on scholarly research
  • Gathering, distilling, and codiing data for digital humanities projects
  • Locating and translating archival documents
  • Fact-checking and proofreading manuscripts

What are the Characteristics of Strong Undergraduate Researchers?

Students applying to the Aresty Center's Research Assistant Program will have no formal research experience. Soft skills--like reliability, comfort asking questions, enthusiasm, and a focus on details--are hard to find and hard to train