Supporting students, mentors, and instructors engaged in research.

Undergraduate Research Awards

 Spring 2020

Undergraduate Research Awards


Student Application Deadline: October 31, 2019 11:59 PM CST

Update: we are now using the Academicworks system to collect UGRA applications.  The mentor references work slightly differently than before (mentors will be automatically emailed a link to their reference form), so please read the directions below for updated directions!


Undergraduate Research Awards (UGRAs) are $1,000 scholarships provided to undergraduate students pursuing original research or creative projects under the general guidance of a KU faculty member or another approved mentor.  Each UGRA proposal must be sponsored by a KU affiliated faculty member or approved mentor who has read and approved the proposal and who agrees to oversee the conduct and completion of the project. UGRAs are awarded to students conducting semester-long independent projects that constitute work that is original and substantive given the standards and objectives of the field. (The UGRAs are not intended, for example, to support trips to workshops or the like; something new has to be discovered or created). Aside from recognizing student accomplishments, the UGRA competition provides an incentive for students to practice writing about their work and to take a deeper look at the literature of their field.


Students in any major can apply. To be eligible you must be a degree-seeking undergraduate student when you receive the award.  Students receiving fall or spring awards must be enrolled full-time during the award period.  Exceptions to this rule can be made, e.g., when the applicant is studying abroad during the semester or only needs a few more credits to graduate.  To request an exception, or if you have questions about your eligibility, contact the Center for Undergraduate Research at

Selection Criteria:

UGRAs are scholarships awarded on the merit of the applicant's proposal as judged by a faculty reviewer, the applicant's preparation (including past grades and courses taken), and a recommendation from a faculty member who is familiar with the applicant and will mentor the proposed project. Reviewers utilize either the Research Project Rubric (.doc) or Creative Project Rubric (.doc) depending on the project type. Applicants will be informed of award decisions by the end of the semester.

Award Dispersal:

You will receive your UGRA scholarship through the Financial Aid distribution process. If you owe KU for any charges (e.g. tuition, required campus fees, etc.), this financial aid will be applied towards the amount due.  If a credit balance is created within your account, the credit balance will be refunded to you. You will receive your check via direct deposit if signed up for this in Enroll & Pay. Otherwise, the Bursar’s Office will mail you a check. Students receiving need-based financial aid, such as loans, should be aware that this scholarship may alter your loan or other aid amounts. If you have questions about how this award may affect your Financial Aid, please contact the Financial Aid Office and ask to speak with your Financial Aid Counselor, 785-864-4700.

Required Application Materials:

Before you start, review the student checklist.

  1. Read each tab of the webpage.
  2. If you're just getting started in research, identify a mentor to guide your project.
  3. Meet with your mentor to discuss proposal ideas and review deadlines.  Make sure your mentor knows that they should expect an email from with a link to the reference form after you complete the online application. Show your mentor the "For Mentors" tab on this website to make sure you are both clear about their role in guiding your project.  If your mentor is not a faculty member, direct them to fill out our Research Mentor Designation form. If you're not sure if your mentor is a faculty member, just ask them.
  4. Attend a UGRA information session.
  5. Write a first draft following the proposal guidelines.
  6. Use the rubric available online to evaluate and revise your proposal: Research Project Rubric (.doc) or Creative Project Rubric (.doc)
  7. Ask your mentor to read the draft and suggest revisions (repeat this process). Be sure to provide a copy of the rubric.
  8. Attend a UGRA proposal workshop. This is a good chance to ask Center staff last minute questions and have someone outside of your discipline read the proposal since reviewers will not likely be in your same field.
  9. Make final revisions.
  10. Submit your application>>: fill out the online application form and upload all supporting documents (your proposal, a pdf copy of your Advising Report, and any portfolio documents, if relevant).
  11. Check with your research mentor to make sure they fill out the mentor reference form.  Your mentor will automatically be sent an email with a link to the reference form from AFTER you submit your application, so be sure to get your application in early so your mentor has plenty of time to fill out the reference.


The UGRA application consists of:

  1. Student Application Materials: due October 31, 2019, 11:59 PM CST.
    1. UGRA Student Application Form >>: This link will take you to a page on KU's Academicworks website ( where you can apply for an UGRA. Note that any emails coming through this system will come from
    2. UGRA proposal (saved as a pdf), uploaded via application form (See the "Proposal" tab for more guidelines and information.)
    3. A pdf copy of the student's Advising Report that lists the classes you've taken at KU, uploaded via the application form.  You can download this through your myKU Portal. Note that you should upload your Advising Report, not your Degree Progress Report.  Click here for directions on how to download a pdf of your Advising Report (pdf))...>>
  2. Mentor Reference: due November 4, 2019, at noon
    1. When a student turns in their UGRA application, it will automatically generate an email to their research mentor from with a link to the mentor reference form for that application.  Mentors cannot fill out a reference form before the student starts their application. Mentors will need to create an account in the Academicworks system in order to complete the reference form. If a mentor would like to know whether their student waived or retained their right to see their reference form, please email us at and we can let you know.
    2. Note: it is the student's responsibility to ensure that the mentor reference form is filled out by the deadline.  We recommend that you give your mentor at least 2 weeks notice of the reference form deadline and make sure your mentor knows that the link for the reference will be sent to them once you fill out your application.

Both the Student Application Form and the Mentor Reference must be received in order to be considered for funding.  We do not accept late student proposals for the UGRAs.  If you experience technical difficulties in filling out your UGRA application online, email your final UGRA proposal to by the application deadline; in this case, we can work with you the following day to troubleshoot any technical problems so you can complete your application.

All applicants will be notified about the status of their application after final UGRA funding decisions are made, before the end of the semester.

Proposal Requirements

Your proposal will be evaluated using one of the following rubrics provided to faculty reviewers: Research Project Rubric (.doc) or Creative Project Rubric (.doc) We recommend that you read over the appropriate rubric and use it while revising your proposal.

Your proposal should be no longer than 2,000 words (~4 pages). Your figures, images, image captions, references, footnotes, and appendices do not count towards this word count.  Proposals exceeding the word count will be cut off at 2,000 words before being sent out to reviewers.

Students applying as part of a group need to each submit their own proposal. Proposals should not be written together and, therefore, should not share written content (ie, identical sentences or paragraphs). Reviewers must be able to see that each student has a full understanding of the project since each student will receive an individual scholarship.

Students who have previously received a UGRA are required to submit a full proposal even when continuing on the same project. This proposal needs to include a brief update on their progress either in the Background and Introduction section or the Methods and Approach section. The Methods and Approach should then describe the next steps of the project. Much of your proposal may stay the same, but be sure to include any newly relevant background information if the project has shifted directions or new information was published.

The proposal must be organized to include the following sections:

1. Abstract/Summary

Purpose: In one paragraph, summarize your proposal. Give the reader a general sense of the field, the problem or idea your work will address, and how you will accomplish this project.

Guiding Questions
  • Why will you do this work?
  • What will you do (think broadly for this section)?
  • And how will you do it?

2. Background and Introduction 

Purpose: This section has two goals: 1) summarize the work that’s been done in your area and 2) explain how your work will contribute to this field of study. In many fields, this section is referred to as the literature review. It must include citations of previous research or creative work related to your topic.

Guiding Questions
  • Summary:
    • What is already known or has been done in this area?
    • For creative projects: Which artists have done similar work or explored similar themes? 
  • Contribution:
    • How will this project add to what is already known or has been done?
    • For creative projects: What is your creative vision for the project? What is the inspiration for your project?
  • This section is commonly referred to as a literature review.  The purpose is to position your project within the academic conversation about your topic.
  • You must cite the published work that you review in this section and list it in the References section. Proposals that do not cite other works in this section and include them in the References section will not be funded.
  • Focus on the key publications needed to outline the current state of the field; typical UGRA proposals include 5-10 sources.
  • Be sure to synthesize your sources; this section should read more like a story than a list. Avoid direct quotes; they make it harder for you to synthesize multiple works into a story. Show how your project continues the story by explaining your contribution.
  • Watch this video for help:

3. Methods and Approach

Purpose: Describe what you will actually do for your project and why you will take this approach. Include a timeline of key project milestones.

Guiding Questions
  • What will you actually do? What data will you be using?  How will you collect it?  How will you analyze it? What materials or resources will you need? 
  • What are the major steps to complete this project?
  • How will the results of these methods allow you to address your original question?
  • Is the project that you’ve outlined feasible in one semester?
  • Will you work with human subjects? If so, how will you meet the requirements of the KU Human Subjects Committee (HSCL)? Consult your mentor for help with this process.
  • For creative projects: How will you approach and get feedback on your work?
  • Why did you select the particular methods/techniques you’ve described?
  • Be specific to show the reviewer that you have thought through the process and are prepared to begin your project.
  • Relevant details you might mention (depending on project type) include: descriptions of methods and rationale for choosing them, any software or equipment you’ll use and why, a description of your creative process, and/or controls for proposed experiments.
  • Explain the choices you have made in designing your project.  Why are you choosing this method over another?  Are there other studies that have used a similar approach?  Show the reviewer that you understand not just what you are doing for your project, but why you are doing it.
  • Use the timeline to help you and the reviewers ensure that you are proposing a feasible project for one semester. A chart or table is an easy way to provide the timeline.
  • If the project is part of a larger research program or a long-term interest, make clear what part of the larger project will be completed during the one semester term of the grant.
  • Cite your method's origin paper or other work using this technique to show that your approach is standard in the field.
  • Use a first person narrative here, especially when you are working as part of a research group. Reviewers will have a better idea of what you are doing versus what others will do.
  • Don't forget to describe your data analysis plan, especially any statistical methods you plan to use, and how this analysis will tie back to the original question you set out to address. This is a common mistake that reviewers catch.

4. Applicant's preparation

Purpose: Describe your preparation and qualifications to complete this project.

Guiding Questions
  • How did you prepare to complete this project?
  • Did you complete coursework that is relevant? What did you learn that prepared you for your project?
  • Did you learn a language, technique, or laboratory skill that you’ll use?
  • Have you already completed bibliographic or other background research?
  • Or have you already been doing faculty mentored research or independent study on this topic?
  • Do not skimp on this section; be sure to write at least one paragraph here.  The reviewer needs to be able to see whether you have the skills and background knowledge needed to complete the project.
  • Rather than telling the reviewer that you are qualified, show them.  Saying "I am prepared to do this research project" is not as convincing as saying "I used X technique in my BIOL 123 class, earned an A in my BIOL 456 course, and have already begun preparations to do Y procedure in my work in Prof. Z's lab this semester."
  • If you do not already have a skill that you will need to complete the project, be sure to address how you will get that knowledge or training. 

5. Conclusion

Purpose: Show a clear connection between the different parts of your proposal.  Summarize key points of your proposal for one final reminder of what you’re doing, how you’ll do it, and why. This is your final sales pitch to the reviewer and a good time to return to how your project relates to the big picture.

Guiding Questions
  • How will the results and outcomes of your proposed work tie back to your original intent?   In other words, explain how and why your proposed approach will help you achieve your goal. 
  • How will you disseminate your work? 
  • What criteria will you use to evaluate your success?
  • Clearly show the reviewer the connections between your initial intent, proposed work, and anticipated outcomes.  You want to convince your reviewer that the overall goals of your project are important, and that the plan you’ve outlined will move you toward those goals.

6. References

Purpose: List the materials you are citing in your proposal. 

Guiding Questions
  • Did you list every source you cited in the text?
  • Did you include the most important and relevant sources for your project?
  • Use the citation style most commonly used in your discipline for both the in-text citations and the reference list.
  • Your references do not count towards your 2,000 word limit.
  • You should not include any references that are not cited in the text of the proposal.

7. Figures, Charts, and Images

Purpose: You may include any figures, charts, images, etc. that are helpful in explaining your work, either as an appendix or within the body of your work. 

Guiding Questions
  • Is there an idea you’re trying to communicate in words that would be easier to understand in picture form?
  • Do you have portfolio pieces that will demonstrate the type of artwork or product you are proposing to create?
  • Do you have a survey or interview tool you’d like to reference as an appendix?
  • Do you have preliminary data showing that a new technique works?
  • Keep it simple. Only include information that is needed to understand the proposal. Don’t include a figure or image just to have one.
  • Any figures, charts, images, and examples of artwork need to be referred to within the text of the proposal. Without explanation, the reader does not know why you are including them.
  • Label any figures, charts, and images with a descriptive title, caption, and/or legend for easy reference.

Example proposals

See below for some example UGRA proposals from past semesters.  If you hover over the text that is highlighted in yellow, you should see some tips and comments to help you as you work on your proposal.


Information Sessions & Proposal Workshops:

The Center for Undergraduate Research will host several events to help you prepare a strong UGRA application.  There is no need to register for these workshops in advance. 

  • At the UGRA Information Sessions, we'll talk about the details of the application and proposal, answer questions, and do hands-on activities to help you get started writing your proposal.  Staff from the Center will offer tips for a successful proposal. 
  • At the UGRA Proposal Workshop, you should bring a close-to-final version of your proposal. We'll take time for peer review and staff from the Center for Undergraduate Research will answer questions and give feedback. 

UGRA Information Session: Wednesday, September 25, 2019 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM; Pine Room, Kansas Union
Come prepared to discuss ideas and plan your proposal.

UGRA Information Session: Thursday, September 26, 2019 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM; Pine Room, Kansas Union
Come prepared to discuss ideas and plan your proposal.

UGRA Proposal Workshop: Monday, October 28, 2019 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM; Pine Room, Kansas Union
Bring a draft for review.


UGRA Student Proposal Deadline: October 31, 2019 11:59 PM CST

If these dates and times do not fit your schedule - remember that the Center for Undergraduate Research hosts drop-in office hours on Fridays from 10am-12pm.  You can also email or call 785-864-5733 to schedule a meeting for information.


Frequently Asked Questions


1. Are creative projects (artwork, films, creative writing, etc) eligible?

Yes! We welcome applications from all disciplines.

2. Am I eligible if my work is in a lab-based research group and my research is part of a professor's larger project?

Yes, many of our UGRA recipients are working in a lab or research group. When you apply, you should write your proposal about the piece of the research that you are working on. Your Background & Introduction section should address the overall questions or problems that the group is studying, but most of the explanation should be written with the goal of helping us understand the work that you are doing.

3. I'm working with a partner. Can we both apply? How should we do that?

You can both apply for UGRAs. In order to do that, you each need to submit your own proposal describing 1) the overall project, 2) how each of you will contribute to the project. For example, are you both collecting field samples and analyzing them together in the lab, or will one of you do the field work while the other does the lab work? These proposals should not include identical language and should be written separately. Each student should gain experience in writing their own proposal. Reviewers will use your proposal to evaluate whether you as an individual have a good grasp of your project and have a feasible plan in place. Therefore, the reviewers need to see a proposal that is your own work in order to decide whether to award you as an individual the UGRA.

4. I received a UGRA in the past. Can I still apply for one this semester?

Yes, past UGRA recipients may apply again for a UGRA. However, please keep in mind that we require that you do not just submit the same proposal. You must describe the progress you have made on the project and explain the current and proposed next steps of your work. Reviewers will compare your new proposal to your past proposal, so make sure you have updated it. If you're taking a new direction in the project, make sure you also update your literature review or background section to reflect any new information that reviewers will need to know to understand your project.

5. Am I eligible if I've graduated but will be enrolled in a class during the upcoming semester?

Applicants must be currently enrolled degree-seeking undergraduate students. Once you have graduated you are no longer eligible for a UGRA. For example, if you graduate in May, you cannot receive a summer award unless you are considered a degree-seeking student for another undergraduate degree. If you graduate in December, you cannot receive a spring award unless you are a degree-seeking student for another undergraduate degree.

6. Can I apply for both a summer and a fall award?

No, applicants submitting a proposal for the March deadline must choose to apply for either a summer award or a fall award.

General Questions

1. What are some common reviewer critiques, and how can I make my proposal stand out?

The most common critiques of UGRA proposals are:

  • Literature review: It's not clear that the student understands how their project fits within the bigger picture of what research has already been conducted on the topic. Make sure to attend our workshops and work with your mentor to improve this section.
  • Unclear project description: After reading the methods and timeline, it's not clear what the student will actually be doing. To test whether yours is clear, have someone else read your proposal and try to tell you what you'll be doing.
  • Student is not prepared: The qualifications section is not detailed enough so it's not clear that the student can do the project. The student has not made it clear that they have access to important resources. The proposal is lacking details, suggesting a lack of preparation. You don't need to be an expert to apply, just be sure to address how you'll get the necessary training and skills to complete your work.
  • Scope of the project is not feasible: The project is not doable in one semester or at the skill level of the student. The student needs to work with the mentor to narrow the focus of the project and make sure the timeline is realistic.

2. Do I need to submit a budget for my proposed project?

No budget is necessary.

3. What types of expenses can I use my $1,000 scholarship towards?

It's important to note that the UGRA is a scholarship. Therefore, your UGRA will be deposited in your Financial Aid account. If you have a balance due on your account, the UGRA will be credited towards that balance. If you have already paid your tuition, the funds may be refunded to you and you may use the funds in any way you like. Many students receiving a refund use these funds to pay for their time; they are able to spend time working on their research rather than taking a job to cover living expenses and tuition. Some students use the funding to contribute to travel that is necessary for their research. Others use their funds to purchase supplies.

4. What is required of me if I receive an award?

Students receiving a UGRA need to: 1) accept the award, 2) fill out an Undergraduate Research Contract with their mentor, 3) complete human subjects and/or safety training and complete international travel registry form if traveling abroad, 4) devote considerable time to the research project that semester (student and mentor should discuss what this means for their project), 5) attend a mid-semester UGRA check-in meeting, and 6) work with their mentor to evaluate their progress by returning to the Undergraduate Research Contract at the end of the semester.

5. Can I apply for a UGRA to pay for my study abroad experience?

Students planning to study abroad may apply for a UGRA to fund the research they are conducting abroad. Keep in mind that you will need to make a strong case for why this work is best done abroad. For example, are there special resources that can only be found at a specific location: a specific set of survey participants or interview subjects, a particular archive, works of art, a technical expert to consult, or historical sites? Reviewers will want to see that you are not just seeking an avenue to pay for your study abroad or a fun summer trip, but that you have a well-developed research or creative project that you are eager to pursue abroad.

6. The deadline is past. Can I go ahead and submit my application?

No, we are very strict about our deadlines when we are giving out monetary awards. Extending the deadline by even a few hours can make a very large difference in the quality of the proposal, so we do not make exceptions to the deadline. If you experience technical difficulties in filling out your UGRA application online, email your final UGRA proposal to by the application deadline; in this case, we can work with you the following day to troubleshoot any technical problems so you can complete your application.

7. Do references, footnotes, photos, images, charts, figures, or examples of creative work count toward the 2,000 word limit?

No, none of these things count toward your 2,000 word limit.

If you have a question that is not answered here, please email us.

Guidelines for Mentors:

  • Proposal writing: While the idea for the project might come from the mentor’s own research agenda in some disciplines, students should take ownership over the writing of the UGRA proposal.  The writing should reflect the student’s own understanding of the project and how it relates to other scholarship in the field.  It is expected that the mentor act as proposal-writing guide rather than an editor: mentors should read drafts of the student’s proposal and give comments, but should not directly change wording in a student’s proposal.  This approach ensures that the student takes intellectual ownership over the project and that the proposal accurately reflects the student’s level of understanding of the proposed work.
  • Mentor recommendation: Mentors fill out a short reference form for the UGRAs rather than a full letter of reference.  Once your student fills out the online application, you will be sent an email from with a link to the mentor reference form.  Please fill this out by the mentor reference deadline.  If you would like to know whether your student waived or retained their right to see their reference form, please email us at and we can let you know.
  • Award period: If your student receives an award, they will ask you to help fill out an Undergraduate Research Contract to establish clear expectations and a timeline for the semester. 
  • Mentor eligibility: All tenure-track KU faculty are eligible to sponsor student UGRA applications, as are many KU employees who have expertise in an area of research.  If you are a KU employee who is not a tenured or tenure-track faculty member, please fill out our Research Mentor Designation form before your student applies for an UGRA.  Graduate students are not eligible to be the primary sponsor of an UGRA.

If you have any questions about the application process or the UGRAs, please email us at

Expectations of UGRA Recipients:

1) Undergraduate Research Contract: Recipients of the UGRAs are expected to devote considerable time during this award period to carrying out the research proposed in their application.  Because research is different in each discipline, we rely on the student and mentor to agree on the time commitment and progress that is appropriate for an UGRA project.  To receive the award, each student and his or her mentor are required to work together to complete an Undergraduate Research Contract.  This Contract will clearly delineate the expectations that the student and mentor have of one another and will include a list of milestones and their anticipated completion date. 

2) UGRA Check-in meeting: Sometime during the award period, the Center for Undergraduate Research will contact the student to schedule a short meeting during which the student will update the staff member on the progress of the research.  This meeting is a requirement for those receiving UGRA funding.  Students are also strongly encouraged to share their research results or creative project with others through such venues as performances, professional meetings, or the Undergraduate Research Symposium held at KU each spring.

3) If relevant, Student International Travel Registry: Students traveling abroad to conduct research are required to register through the Office of Study Abroad regardless of whether they are enrolled in course credit. For more information, consult the Office of Study Abroad website or register online.

4) If relevant, Human Subjects Committee Lawrence (HSCL) approval: Students completing research with human subjects must obtain approval of their project via the Human Subjects Committee of Lawrence (HSCL) prior to beginning their work with human subjects.  For more information, visit the HSCL website, call phone785-864-7429 (ext. #1), or email

5) If relevant, complete (free) Environmental, Health, and Safety Blackboard courses (Lab Safety 101, Art Safety 101, etc). Instructions for enrollment are available on the EHS website.

UGRA Quick Links

To apply:

  • Student Application Deadline: October 31, 2019, 11:59 PM; UGRA Student Application Form>>
  • Mentor Reference Deadline: November 4, 2019, noon; mentor will be emailed link to reference form when student fills out UGRA application

For award recipients:

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