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Student Research by Department

Many departments have their own vision of student research. If a department has a student research page on its website, then the department name links to that page.



Student-faculty research in Biology seeks to answer questions about organisms or their environments using scientific inquiry and to model scientific curiosity for motivated and capable students. The research entails reading and synthesis of the literature, thoughtful reflection and discussion of problems and questions, trial and error to learn and to teach techniques, large blocks of time to accomplish these things, and adequate facilities and equipment to pursue technical questions with modern approaches. Ideally, it results in new knowledge that is shared with the scientific community and society.



Research in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry typically entails undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry majors working alongside faculty in their respective laboratories for at least one calendar year, including extensive summer research funded through available grants. Students choose a project within the various sub-disciplines of chemistry (biochemistry, analytical, physical/computational, inorganic, organic) that aligns with their interests and talents and students are welcome to participate in more than one project during their studies. Students present the results of their work at national meetings for the American Chemical Society and their travel is funded via university sources.


Computer Science  

Our department considers the following things as undergraduate "research."


  • Every student does a senior research project and these also reflect "research" we do with undergraduates outside of this requirement.  These projects fall into three categories:
    • confirmation research (reproducing a published experiment)
    • discovery research (traditional research)
    • development (producing a product for a customer)
  • BROADSIDE - a center that allows us to partner with local industry to develop a software/hardware solution for that business
  • Extra-curricular activities - We have a number of extra-curricular groups that develop innovative projects that we would also consider as undergraduate research. Our Women in Computer Science builds something for Maker Faires each year. Our Software Engineering Team has built software applications for competitions and works with our Computer Engineering Team to develop interesting projects like our upcoming laser harp.


Criminal Justice

Over the past thirty years, criminal justice has steadily become an evidence-based discipline.  From computerized crime analysis, to develop principles of effective intervention and standards of best practice in corrections, practitioners are increasingly required to understand and conduct empirical research to augment these activities.  To build on these competencies in our undergraduates, the Department of Criminal Justice requires its students to complete in-class research activities and encourages participation in extended and extracurricular student-centered and student-faculty research opportunities.  These include, but are not limited to:


  • Empirical literature reviews to analyze, interpret, and apply scholarly research to contemporary issues facing criminal justice (e.g., trends, policy, practice);
  • Collaboration with faculty on innovative research projects;
  • Submission of individual and group projects for presentation at local, regional, and national conferences (e.g., Ship’s Celebration of Student Research Conference; Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology); and,
  • Submission of individual and co-authored evidence-based theses for consideration in University and discipline-related publications.



 The Research and Analysis course gives students the opportunity to have hands-on experience in applying various quantitative and qualitative methodologies to address social and economic issues.  Students working together with faculty undertake research projects of significant interest. Students will learn to create a research design, use statistical software to test hypotheses, and write a professional research paper.  Students also have the opportunity to submit their papers for publication and present their findings to audiences on campus or at regional and national conferences. 



Research in English involves the study of primary cultural texts (written, oral, visual, virtual). Scholars in literary studies formulate original arguments about the social, historical, political, artistic, or cultural significance of such texts, informed by the work of other established scholars within our discipline; they produce original creative work, and they develop materials and approaches for use by other scholars and teachers of English and cultural studies.


Exercise Science

After completing most of their major coursework, students are ready to conduct their own research projects.  Part of the capstone experience in the Exercise Science curriculum is the Research Design and Statistics course, where all students gather data and analyze and interpret results.  Faculty within the Department mentor students through the process of creating and completing a scientific research project.  

The Department of Exercise Science invests a tremendous amount of effort in support of undergraduate student research.  Exercise Science students are encouraged to pursue funding from the Shippensburg University Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee to support their research efforts.  Outcomes of these efforts are seen each year at the campus Celebration of Student Research Conference.  Furthermore, Exercise Science students have been published in the Keystone Journal for Undergraduate Research and they have presented at regional and national conferences.  Finally, students are encouraged to pursue professional development activities, such as attending the annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine Conference and broaden their knowledge within the field of Exercise Science.


Geography/Earth Science  

Research in the field of Geography and Earth Science provides students the opportunity to learn through direct experience. Students who become engaged in a facet of this discipline discover a problem or an unanswered question in the literature with a faculty mentor who assists the student off-load. Together, students and professors devise a question and develop a method of study. The answer comes through the collection of original data in the field or in the lab, analysis of these data, and the preparation of a plausible conclusion.



Historical research is an interpretation of the past in a meaningful, original way, based on the author's use of a variety of primary sources (first-hand accounts such as government and other archival documents, newspapers, personal effects, music, works of art, interviews, and participant observation, among others) as well as secondary sources (scholarly accounts by individuals who did not witness the events being described). The author reviews the source material to construct an original argument that interprets the past in a new way and to analyze the material's significance in the realm of politics, economics, religion, gender, or a number of other categories. The finished product may take a variety of forms, including books, journal articles, poster presentations, or museum exhibits. Because historians typically, though not always, work alone, student historical research is rarely done alongside a faculty member. Rather the faculty member serves as a mentor who potentially helps the student select a topic, find source material, or sharpen his or her analysis.


Human Communication Studies  

The Department of Human Communication defines research as the systemic, rigorous qualitative, quantitative, or interpretive assessment of communication processes and messages, which may include verbal, nonverbal, and/or visual cues. As a discipline, Communication Studies values basic and applied research that produces knowledge that furthers the understanding and advances the efficacious practice of human communication.



In the mathematics department, students and faculty members may team up outside of class time to research interesting topics or problems in depth. Undergraduate research is a collaborative effort between the students and faculty, and often the research involves trying to find an answer to a problem whose solution is unknown.  These problems may be in pure mathematics, or they may have applications to other disciplines and require interdisciplinary collaborations.  Ideally, the research process involves a literature review, new discoveries by the student, and implementing computational methods to approximate solutions or test hypotheses.  We look for opportunities to share the results of our research at Ship’s Celebration of Student Research and also at regional or national mathematics conferences.


Modern Languages  

In the languages, undergraduate research is a process that includes the reinterpretation or rediscovery of known artifacts (texts and other cultural products) from a critical or creative perspective to generate new analyses (scholarly research: literary studies, cultural studies, linguistics) or innovative art (literary authorship: creative writing, translation), under the close mentorship and guidance of faculty.

Undergraduate researchers are expected to make cross-cultural comparisons and connections between their first language and the target language, focusing on linguistic (speech patterns at the lexical, phonological, and syntactical levels), cultural, artistic, and/or literary aspects, in order to answer questions about, and gain a deeper understanding of, the target language, cultures, practices, and perspectives. It is also interdisciplinary and involves the coordination of historical-socio-political knowledge with textual analysis or creativity (textual being broadly defined and being applied to an artifact from the target language/culture).

Research in the languages is conducted individually, is student-centered, and focused on the process rather than on the outcome. It entails identifying and acquiring a discipline-specific or inter-disciplinary methodology, defining a concrete investigative issue, carrying out the actual project through literature review (reading, analyzing, interpreting, and synthesizing) in the target language, articulating and discussing the issues, and finally sharing findings (which do not have to be entirely new, other than to the student) with a paper or a poster in the target language.


Music and Theater Arts  

For most musicians and theater artists, “scholarly activity” means performance and/or composition and “research” represents:

MUSIC- music history, musicology, music theory, composition; performance - an exploration of literature, suitability for student ensembles, score study; all require countless hours of study, practice, and listening within the confines of a library, practice room/studio.

THEATRE- clothing and architecture, cultural history and etiquette, dramatic literature, and styles of performance and voice and movement.

Performers in each discipline spend months, sometimes years in preparation before stepping on stage for a solo or ensemble performance, lecture recital, recording session, or play.



“Undergraduate research in the Department of Psychology is an intensive faculty-student collaboration. Following the formal scientific method and using both experimental and non-experimental methodologies, students generate testable, novel hypotheses about human behavior, design, and conduct both animal and human studies, analyze study results using professional statistical software, present their results at state, regional, national, and international professional conferences, and participate in the writing and submission of resulting manuscripts for publication. Research topics explored by undergraduate researchers are as broad as their and their faculty mentor’s interests, ranging from dating behavior, high-risk drinking, the development of wisdom, the resilience of children, parent-child attachment, cellphone use and thinking, women’s self-defense behaviors, attitudes of sports fans, subliminal perception, workplace behaviors, extinction of behavior, ego depletion, food preferences, personality disorders, shunning behavior, health-related choices, optimism, and death attitudes of extreme sports participants, to name a few.



Research involves the collection of primary and/or secondary DATA to find patterns and correlations among variables. Research is a systematic collection of data to answer a research question. Sociology is the study of human behavior, especially in the context of social groups. Sociologists gather and analyze to ask questions and find answers about human behavior. Our questions may be exploratory, such as, “ What is this new practice called ‘butt chugging’ on college campuses?” Sometimes we ask questions that are descriptive, such as, “What type of romantic couple is most likely to break up?” And finally, we may ask questions that are meant to explain behavior. Explanatory questions are posed with cause and effect relationships between independent and dependent variables. An example of an explanatory question is “Does the education of women influence the fertility rate of a country?” We can use the scientific method with explanatory questions, especially once we state the question as a hypothesis: “Countries with low rates of education among women have high fertility rates.”

Senior Seminar Research Project
During their final internship semester, all students in the Department of Social Work and Gerontology complete an agency-based research project as part of their Senior Seminar course.  Students go through the entire research process: developing a research question, completing an IRB application, conducting a review of literature, collecting data, analyzing data, interpreting data, and finally, presenting their research at the formal senior presentations event that takes place at the close of each semester.
The Social Work Research Club
The Department of Social Work and Gerontology hosts the Social Work Research Club.  This is a student-led, and faculty-mentored club that engages social work students in the processes of research methodology development, data analysis, and the presentation of research findings at local, statewide, and national conferences. During the academic year, the typical process followed by the Research Club involves 1) coming up with a research topic and question during September of the Fall semester, 2) submitting an IRB application on October, 3) creating a measurement tool for the data collection on November, 4) collecting data on December, 5) analyzing data in January of the Spring semester, 6) developing a poster for presentations on February, 7) presenting the poster at a national social work conference on March, 8) presenting the poster at the Celebration of Student Research conference at Shippensburg University in April.  In the past, students have presented their research at conferences in Long Island, NY, Myrtle Beach, SC, Louisville, KY, and San Antonio, TX.  In order to facilitate these presentations at national, state, and local conferences, Research Club members also have the opportunity to write, edit, and submit research proposals and grants to the various on-campus organizations as well as national and state social work organizations.

Contact the Institute for Public Service and Sponsored Programs Old Main 207 1871 Old Main Drive Shippensburg, PA 17257 Phone: 717-477-1251 Fax: (717) 477-4053