Undergraduate Research

BUS 499 and ACCT 499

Independent research under the supervision of a department faculty mentor.


BUS 352 or an appropriate social science methods course approved by the chairperson; submission and approval of research proposal by the supervising departmental faculty member and chairperson.

Offered Fall and Spring.

What is an Undergraduate Research Project?

A research project is a creative process that uses systematic methods of inquiry to discover new knowledge about a research question or problem that you formulate.   If you are an independent thinker who works well on your own, with little structure and periodic feedback, you may want to consider working on an undergraduate research project.

How do you begin?  Think about… What are you curious about?  In an Undergraduate Research Project, you will formulate a question or problem statement that guides your research.

Research projects move through a process.  For example, you may start with a literature review which examines the existing body of knowledge about your research topic.  If empirical, you will choose a methodology and design for your research (e.g., experimental; ethnographic; case study). If theoretical, you may conduct a meta-analysis or design a conceptual model with research propositions.

Performing a Literature Review:

You will typically do a literature review (e.g., a literature search of keywords in Proquest Central) and then read the articles you found that are from  the existing body of knowledge related to your research question. This steps helps you understand where your research question falls in the larger body of literature related to your topic.  The idea is to understand what research has been done before you and determine how you can add to the body of knowledge.  This step is very important because it is your research question or problem statement that guides the entire research process.

Determining a Methodological Approach:

At some point, you will determine how best to approach your topic and question.  The method you choose for your project will vary depending upon the question being asked and approach you choose to take.  For example, you might choose a method that uses a data or evidence based approach, or your topic and question may instead involve building a conceptual model.  Data may come in the form of observations, models, numbers, theories, etc.  For example, you might gather any, or a combination of market data, questionnaire data, observations, financial data, demographic data, etc.  Along the way, you must be sure to record and cite the sources of all your data and tie those sources to your paper.

Analyzing the Evidence and/or Data and Presenting your Findings or Model:

As you work through the research process, you will begin to write about your project, which will ultimately be presented in the form of a research paper, business plan, or poster presentation. As you are writing, you will want to address how the results of your research project advance the prior knowledge or understanding to create value. You are likely to find that is exciting to share the new knowledge you discovered.

Thinking About an Undergraduate Research Project?  Next Steps and Considerations

If you think you would like to do an undergraduate research project, you will need to do the following, preferably beginning in the semester before you plan to begin your data and evidence gathering and analysis.

Step 1: Draft Your Proposal

Create a short description of the research topic you would like to explore. In approximately 2-pages, put your ideas in writing.  This will help you organize your thoughts and communicate your interest(s) to the faculty member.  This project description must contain the following:

  1. a)  Student information: name, major (and emphasis area(s), if applicable), and expected month and year of graduation
  2. Problem statement and/or research question you would like to explore:  All research projects have more than just a topic– they must have a “problem” or “question” that guides the research.
  3. Research design, including the methodology (if applicable): Explain what you plan to do to address the problem or question you stated above.
  4. Deliverable: Explain how you will report the results of your research.  Do you expect to prepare a paper, do a presentation at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research or other conference, and/or present at the UNC Asheville Undergraduate Symposium?

Step 2: Share Proposal with a Faculty Member

Share your written description and discuss your interests with one or more faculty members who might consider being your research advisor:  Each faculty member has the option of advising your project and will likely do so only if he/she has the background and interests that complement the research topic you wish to pursue and has the time to devote to helping you with your project.

  1. In order to investigate who might be interested in advising your research, review the faculty profiles on the Business Department faculty profile pages.
  2. Email your short description to the faculty member(s) who may be a fit for your project.  Request an appointment time and meet in person to discuss the possibilities.

Step 3: Project Review Process

If you find a faculty member who agrees to advise your project, complete the DMA Undergraduate Research Proposal form that will prompt you for some specific information:

  1. Date, project title, your name, name of faculty adviser
  2. Research question or problem statement or project goal
  3. Methodology you will use to answer the question and/or address the problem and/or reach the goal
  4. Deliverable(s)
  5. Timeline with milestones and deadlines

Step 4: Enrolling in BUS or ACCT 499

Upon approval, the Department Chairperson will add a section of BUS or ACCT 499 to the schedule for you (if one does not exist already), and you will register for it.  The course will be added after the items in #3 are completed and approved by the faculty sponsor and department chair.  Note that expectations for your Undergraduate Research Project are linked to the number of credit hours for which you have registered.  See below as a guide to project expectations based upon credit hours:

  • 3-Credit Hours: (minimum requirement to fulfill the experiential learning requirement for the business major): A meta analysis, with model-building and proposition/hypotheses formation and/or a problem statement or research question, a literature search, some data collection and analysis
  • 2-Credit Hours: A literature review with a significant number of peer-reviewed articles (as determined in collaboration with the faculty advisor), a well-organized paper complete with tables showing dependent / independent variables and descriptions as well as implications and directions for future research.
  • 1-Credit Hour: Building off an existing course by doing a field study, such as interviews and/or observations, with summary, analysis, interpretations such as strengths, weaknesses and recommendations.
  • 4-6 Credit Hours: As an option, students may extend the work done in the three-credit option with a more specific research goal, problem statement, and/or research question as determined in collaboration with the faculty advisor; This may involve an increase in the amount of data, analysis, and reporting required for the project.  These extended research requirements should be sufficient to meet the requirements for university Undergraduate Research Scholar and the work is of the quality that could be submitted to a professional journal.

Considerations with Undergraduate Research Projects

  1. Research projects require an investment of time, dedication and commitment on the part of both the student and faculty. The completion of a project that includes a literature review with data collection and analysis can take two or more semesters to design, complete, write and present.  Therefore, it may not be wise to start and attempt to complete your project during your final semester before graduation.  Plan accordingly.
  2. Research projects that work with human subjects will need Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. Human subjects research is any scholarly activity that involves obtaining data or private information about a living individual. The UNC Asheville Institutional Review Board (IRB) is an ethics committee that is tasked with reviewing, approving, and monitoring research and classroom activities that involve the use of human subjects. Click here for more details on the IRB process. If your data collection methods include human subjects, your faculty adviser can help you with the IRB paperwork.  It usually takes about 30 days to complete the paperwork, submit it to IRB, revise it, and finally get the approval.  You cannot begin your research until this is complete, so plan accordingly.
  3. Students who work on their projects for more than one semester can get an “in progress” (IP) grade in the 499 course.
  4. The UNC Asheville Undergraduate Research Office may be able to provide resources for your project such as travel and research grants.
  5. You may also be able to graduate as an Undergraduate Research Scholar.  This designation is awarded to graduating seniors for outstanding performance in undergraduate research.
  6. There are many exciting options for presenting and publishing your work. These include the UNC Asheville Fall and Spring Symposiums, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, or other discipline related conferences.  Presenting your work is not a requirement to fulfill your experiential learning requirement.  However, it is encouraged as an opportunity to showcase your ideas and project findings.

Example of Undergraduate Research Deliverable