Learning Abroad Center

Undergraduate Research Abroad

The Learning Abroad Center supports meaningful research for undergraduate students as part of a comprehensive study abroad program in order to deepen student learning and develop solid investigative skills. The Learning Abroad Center offers a number of international UROP eligible programs that include research opportunities and are eligible for the Learning Abroad Center’s research scholarship.

What is a research project?

A research project involves a systematic investigation of a specific topic, question, hypothesis or theory. The purpose of research is to establish new knowledge or confirm what is already known. The research process involves discovery, documentation, and interpretation using a variety of reliable, scholarly resources.

Under the guidance of a faculty mentor, students consult relevant primary and secondary sources, analyze findings, and draw conclusions culminating in a final paper or project that demonstrates the knowledge gained through the investigation. Research typically does not involve applied work, internship or volunteer activities.

What is a research hypothesis?

A research hypothesis is central to all research endeavors. At its most basic, a research hypothesis is a critical statement that guides the entire study. A hypothesis is not the same as a literature review or a descriptive essay. The research project must have a question that you will either prove or disprove through your research. Examining whether a policy, practice or procedure has been effective and whether (or how) a particular organization has been effective in implementing a policy, practice or procedure by analyzing successes and challenges can form a hypothesis that your research project will critically examine and from which you will draw initial conclusions.

How can I conduct research abroad?

Many of the study abroad programs listed on the Learning Abroad Center’s website offer credit-bearing research opportunities. These may consist of a formal course that includes a research project or a directed study opportunity with an on-site faculty member. Use the “Program Features” field on the Learning Abroad Center’s program search for a list of programs that offer research opportunities.

In some cases, a student may pursue a directed study with a University of Minnesota faculty member that may include an international research component.

Funding available for international research

In addition to the many scholarships available for students planning to study abroad, there is funding available specific to undergraduate international research.   

Funding for non-credit research opportunities is provided by the University of Minnesota’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Office (UROP).

What should I know about conducting research abroad?

Research projects can include interactions and interviews with human beings without requiring IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval. When planning your research, consider if the project focuses on the person and his/her personal identity/history/background or if the focus is on the policies, practices or procedures about which the person is knowledgeable. Projects which collect information about policies, practices or procedures—even if the person who provided that information is identified—do not constitute human subject research and do not require IRB review.

Research projects which focus on the person and his/her personal identity/history/background constitute “human subjects research”. In other words, human subjects research is research regarding a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains identifiable private information as well as projects which involve “sensitive populations.” These are subject to IRB review and should not be pursued during a study abroad program. The IRB review process is lengthy and detailed and is in place as part of the University of Minnesota’s Human Subjects Protection Program.

For a quick reference of the key considerations to keep in mind, view the Key Guidelines on Conducting Research Abroad.

For details on the different kinds of IRB review, visit the IRB research web page.

A separate process is required for research projects involving animals.

Students pursuing independent international research should investigate any visa restrictions or required procedures in addition to the reviews listed above.

Considerations for designing research abroad

  1. Is the research topic realistic to accomplish? Think about the scope, the realities of the overseas location and the time allotted to accomplish it.
  2. Have you identified 2-3 key questions that you would like to investigate? Consider your own depth of knowledge of the topic and select focused, concrete questions.
  3. Does the project focus on private identifiable data or a person’s personal history/background/beliefs? This would constitute human subjects research and would be subject to the IRB review process.
  4. Which faculty member abroad has expertise on the topic and will serve as your mentor?
  5. Have the program staff abroad confirmed that your research is feasible for the program duration and the realities of the local country context? Consult with the LAC staff to determine this for all programs offered by the Learning Abroad Center.
  6. Is the program eligible for I-UROP funding? Review I-UROP scholarship guidelines, if planning to apply.

What are some examples of past research projects?

The International UROP website lists examples of past projects.

Who can I contact in the Learning Abroad Center with additional questions?

Jess Hartnett, Program Director