Higher Education

, Volume 71, Issue 4, pp 575–592 | Cite as

Does independent research with a faculty member enhance four-year graduation and graduate/professional degree plans? Convergent results with different analytical methods

  • Cindy A. Kilgo
  • Ernest T. Pascarella


This study examines the effects of undergraduate students participating in independent research with faculty members on four-year graduation and graduate/professional degree aspirations. We analyzed four-year longitudinal data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education using multiple analytic techniques. The findings support the positive, net link between undergraduate research and fourth-year graduate degree aspirations and suggest that such involvement may have potential as a powerful programmatic and pedagogical tool.


Undergraduate research High-impact practices Student learning Independent research with a faculty mentor 



The research on which this study was based was supported by a generous grant from the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College to the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education at the University of Iowa.


  1. Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  2. Bauer, K. W., & Bennett, J. S. (2003). Alumni perceptions used to assess undergraduate research experience. The Journal of Higher Education, 72(2), 210–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blaich, C. F. (2011). Wabash national study: Overview. Retrieved from
  4. Boyer Commissionon Educating Undergraduates in the Research University. (1998). Reinventing undergraduate education: A blueprint for America’s research universities. Stony Brook: State University of New York.Google Scholar
  5. Brownell, J. E., & Swaner, L. E. (2010). Five high-impact practices: Research on learning outcomes, completion, and quality. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.Google Scholar
  6. Cabrera, A. (1994). Logistic regression analysis in higher education. In J. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 10, pp. 225–250). New York: Agathon Press.Google Scholar
  7. Council on undergraduate research. (2013). About CUR. Retrieved from:
  8. Elgren, T., & Hensel, N. (2006). Undergraduate research experiences: Synergies between scholarship and teaching. Peer review. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.Google Scholar
  9. Foster, E., Wiley-Exley, E., & Bickman, L. (2009). Old wine in new skins: The sensitivity of established findings to new methods. Evaluation Review, 33, 281–306.Google Scholar
  10. Glynn, R., Schneeweiss, S., & Sturmer, T. (2006). Indications for propensity scores and review of their use in pharmacoepidemiology. Basic Clinical Pharmacological Epidemiology, 98, 253–259.Google Scholar
  11. Hanson, J., Weeden, D., Pascarella, E., & Blaich, C. (2012). Do liberal arts colleges make students more liberal? Some initial evidence. Higher Education, 64, 355–369.Google Scholar
  12. Katkin, W. (2003). The Boyer Commission Report and its impact on undergraduate education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 93, 19–38. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  13. Kilgo, C. A., Sheets, J. K. E., & Pascarella, E. T. (2014). The link between high-impact practices and student learning: Some longitudinal evidence. Higher Education, 69(4), 509–525.Google Scholar
  14. Kinkead, J. (2005). Learning through inquiry: An overview of undergraduate research. In J. Kinkead (Ed.), Valuing and supporting undergraduate research (pp. 5–18). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  15. Kinzie, J. (2010). Undergraduate research: High impact practice for all students (power point slides). Presented at the Association of American Colleges and Universities working conference, undergraduate research across the disciplines. Durham, NC. Retrieved from:
  16. Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.Google Scholar
  17. Kuh, G. D., & O’Donnell, K. (2013). Ensuring quality and taking high-impact practices to scale. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.Google Scholar
  18. Merkel, C. A. (2003). Undergraduate research at the research universities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 93, 39–53. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  19. National Survey of Student Engagement. (2007). Experiences that matter: Enhancing student learning and success. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research.Google Scholar
  20. Pascarella, E. (1985). College environmental influences on learning and cognitive development: A critical review and synthesis.  In J. Smart (Ed.), Higher education:  Handbook of theory and research (pp. 1–61). New York:  Agathon.Google Scholar
  21. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  22. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. (2005). How college affects students (Vol. 2): A third decade of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  23. Padgett, R., Salisbury, M., An, B., & Pascarella, E. (2010). Required, practical, or unnecessary? An examination and demonstration of propensity score matching using longitudinal secondary data. New Directions for Institutional Research–Assessment Supplement (pp. 29–42). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  24. Pascarella, E., Salisbury, M., & Blaich, C. (2013). Design and analysis in college impact research: Which counts more? Journal of College Student Development, 54, 329–335.Google Scholar
  25. Prince, M. J., Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2007). Does faculty research improve undergraduate teaching? An analysis of existing and potential synergies. Journal of Engineering Education, 96(4), 283–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Raudenbush, S., & Bryk, A. (2001). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  27. Reynolds, C., & DesJardins, S. (2009). The use of matching methods in higher education research: Answering whether attendance at a 2-year institution results in differences in educational attainment. In J. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (pp. 47–104). New York: Springer Science + Business Media.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Russell, S. H., Hancock, M. P., & McCullough, J. (2007). Benefits of undergraduate research. Education Forum: Science Magazine, 316, 548–549.Google Scholar
  29. Seymour, E., Hunter, A.-B., Laursen, S. L., & Deantoni, T. (2004). Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates in the sciences: First findings from a three-year study. Science Education, 88, 493–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Shadish, W., Clark, M., & Steiner, P. (2008). Can nonrandomized experiments yield accurate answers? A randomized experiment comparing random and nonrandom assignments. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 103, 1334–1356.Google Scholar
  31. Shah, B., Laupacis, A., Hux, J., & Austin, C. (2005). Propensity score methods gave similar results to traditional regression modeling in observational studies: A systematic review. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 56, 550–559.Google Scholar
  32. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Winship, C., & Radbill, L. (1994). Sampling weights and regression analysis. Sociological Methods and Research, 23, 230–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Zanutto, E. (2006). A comparison of propensity score and linear regression analysis of complex data. Journal of Data Analysis, 4, 67–91.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Research on Undergraduate EducationThe University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.Center for Research on Undergraduate Education DirectorThe University of IowaIowa CityUSA

Personalised recommendations