What Research Looks Like

Read more below to discover what kind of things the University of Iowa's undergraduate researchers are doing with their faculty and staff mentors and how their work may vary by discipline. 

Arts and Humanities 

Research in the arts or humanistic studies is often approached differently than in the natural and social sciences, as it requires methods that are creative, tangible, historical, interpretive and analytical in nature. 

Those who engage in arts or humanities research are often posing questions about common assumptions, uncovering new meanings in artistic works, or finding new ways to understand human interactions. This type of inquiry can produce clearer pictures of the past and help us better to prepare for the future.  Arts projects build on creative skills and are situated within a larger artistic or design context.

Examples of majors that could be considered Arts & Humanities:

  • Art & Art History, Classics, Literature, History, Religion, Philosophy, Theater Arts, Languages, English, Writing, Dance, Music, etc.

Examples of Arts & Humanities Research and Creative Projects at the University of Iowa

Social Sciences

Often interdisciplinary in nature, research in the social sciences employs a wide range of both qualitative and quantitative methods -  fieldwork, database searches, and statistical analysis, to name a few - to study society, human behavior, and how groups of people relate.

Social Science fields of study usually involve several sub-disciplines or branches. Social scientists often emphasize the subjective nature of research, because the human experience cannot be adequately captured by facts and figures alone. 

Examples of majors that could be considered Social Sciences:

  • Anthropology, Communication, Economics, Management, Geography, Law, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, etc.

Examples of Social Sciences Research at the University of Iowa

Natural Sciences and Engineering

Research in the natural sciences & engineering usually involves the scientific study of the physical world, and the application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends, such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.

The term "natural science" distinguishes these disciplines from the social sciences (which apply the scientific method to study human behavior and social patterns), the humanities (which use a critical or analytical approach to study the human condition), and other sciences such as mathematics.

Examples of majors/focus areas that could be considered Natural Sciences or Engineering:

  • Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics & Astronomy, Geoscience, Heath & Human Physiology, Medicine, etc.

  • Engineering: Civil, Environmental, Chemical, Mechanical, Computer Science, Biomedical, etc.

Examples of Natural Sciences & Engineering Research at the University of Iowa