Student Notebook

When Graduate and Undergraduate Students Collaborate — Everybody Wins!

Many psychology training programs have a strong research emphasis. There are multiple demands on graduate students and they must conduct research while also managing coursework, teaching duties, and any applied responsibilities. Undergraduate students are often limited to class-based research and have minimal academic advising.

Collaboration between graduate and undergraduate students can have many benefits. At the University of Georgia, undergraduates who are majoring in psychology are given the opportunity to work in research labs with graduate students and faculty. Beyond direct exposure to experimental methods, this collaboration helps guide students in career planning and long-term professional relationships.

How Graduate Students Benefit
Graduate students’ productivity is often improved by working with undergraduate research assistants. It is possible to increase the number, breadth, and quality of projects with the additional support. Undergraduates can assist with literature reviews, preparing materials for research, data collection, data entry, basic analyses, and the interpretation of results.

If interested and motivated, undergraduate students can also assist in editing papers and developing visual presentations of the graduate student’s projects. Attending professional conferences together, as well, provides exposure to the presentation of research findings and networking opportunities. Assistance of undergraduates can help to ease the frequently overwhelming demands of graduate school.

Opportunities to mentor undergraduates can help raise self-efficacy in graduate students and contribute to the development of future professionals in the field. Teaching the tools of the trade is one of the best ways to reinforce our own understanding of the material.

How Undergraduate Students Benefit
Undergraduate research assistants are given the opportunity to be involved in all levels of the research process. It offers them more “hands-on” experiences than are typically derived from classroom investigations. This direct exposure allows undergraduate students to apply abstract concepts of the experimental design to actual research. These experiences can also increase the appreciation and enjoyment of the research process.

Additionally, collaborating with graduate students enables undergraduates to comprehend classroom discussions on research more effectively. These partnerships also allow undergraduate research assistants to have a stronger role in conducting independent analyses for classroom projects and to regard published research articles more critically.

Working in a research lab can highlight the myriad of options available for psychology majors. Some students will realize that they do not have an affinity for research and will opt to pursue different vocations. Alternatively, working in a lab can create additional enthusiasm for a research-oriented career, which includes the pursuit of graduate training.

These mentoring relationships can provide undergraduates with information regarding the process of and timeline for applying to graduate schools. Logistic and emotional support can be crucial for navigating the complex and stressful process of pursuing professional training.

Long-Term Benefits
Have you ever wondered how people from universities on opposite coasts can be co-authors on journal articles? Perhaps their relationships began earlier in their training. Through working together while graduate and undergraduate students, students create the potential to continue their collaboration. Even when they no longer remain at the same institution, they are able to support each other in expanding their research programs.

On a personal note, the hours we spent working in our lab allowed us to develop a friendship which provided emotional support beyond the lab and classroom. We were able to discuss the stresses and benefits of the field of psychology and how they related to our lives.

Everbody Wins!
In summary, we highly recommend that graduate and undergraduate students consider the plethora of benefits of working together. Through this collaboration, graduate students can increase productivity and undergraduate students can gain research experience and mentoring beyond the classroom.

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