Getting Started

If you're a first-year student

As a first-year student, you do not need to focus on the specific requirements for the Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil). Rather, you should use your freshman year to learn about your new roles as a college student and to adjust to your new environment. This includes learning about your academic options for majors and the postgraduate opportunities in these disciplines.

As a first-year student, you are beginning to design a rigorous program of study by working with your academic advisor to choose courses that will challenge you and allow you to build a solid foundation within your academic discipline(s). At the same time, you also will learn about specifics associated with your academic disciplines, including the nature of discourse in these areas and how research is conducted in these fields. You may even begin to "apprentice" by doing some basic research work with a faculty member at this time. An excellent way to learn about research is to participate in the First Experiences in Research program.

If you're an upper-class student

If you've never conducted any research, many of the same steps a first-year student must do to learn about research apply to you as well.

The most important aspect you will need to learn initially is “what is research?” within your academic field or discipline. One of the best ways to do this is to talk with faculty members about their research. For example, if a faculty member for one of your classes talks about something that you find interesting (especially if they talk about it in relation to their own research), go to that faculty member's office hours and ask him or her to tell you more about it. If you find their research particularly compelling, ask them how you can learn more about it or even how you can get involved in doing this kind of research.

Of course, the closer you are to graduation, the shorter the time you have to learn about research. As it relates to the BPhil, there might not be enough time for you to develop and execute the caliber of research required. But even if you do not have the time to complete the BPhil, you should not rule out doing research. There are many opportunities at Pitt to do research at many different levels. One of the best resources for you in this regard is the Office of Experiential Learning.

If you already have been conducting research and are considering the BPhil, review the overview of the BPhil to familiarize yourself with the requirements. You also should discuss this possibility with the faculty members with whom you're working, especially to see if they believe you have the time to take your research to the level required for the BPhil.

Some general comments about undergraduate research in preparation for the BPhil

The key to getting involved in research as an undergraduate is finding the right faculty member with whom to work. There is no "list" of faculty members who are willing to work with undergraduates on the BPhil research project, so becoming involved in research requires some effort on your part by taking the initiative to approach faculty members working in an area of special interest to you. There is no one way to approach a faculty member. Factors from the nature of research in the discipline to your own personality may influence the best way for you to begin to explore research opportunities. You can learn more about research opportunities on the UHC research page. The UHC staff is available to offer you advice on how to approach a faculty member and even to suggest some names of individuals as you begin to explore research options.

The University of Pittsburgh is committed to fostering undergraduate research; learn more about this at the undergraduate research website.