Skip to content

Undergraduate Research

Pursuing research makes students knowledge creators and develops their teamwork skills. The discipline of mind that research requires is one of the best ways to learn to think critically. Also, graduate and professional schools often expect students to conduct research during their undergraduate careers.

Dana DeBari, a student member of the department’s Undergraduate Research Committee, presents results from her data gathering on undergraduate research programs at Northeastern and other universities with a focus on identifying best practices.

There are many opportunities for undergraduate political science majors to be a part of ongoing research or to launch their own projects in collaboration with faculty. 

When the “Boyer” Report on reinventing undergraduate education was published by the Carnegie Foundation in the late 1990s, it accented the importance of a “research-based education.” What this meant, in concrete terms, was not merely exposing all students to high-quality instruction in the classroom informed by the latest disciplinary research findings. Rather, what was also being recommended was that students learn first-hand the essentials of good research practice from the earliest stages of their undergraduate training, including opportunities to participate in original, meaningful research projects. As noted by the authors of this landmark report, collaborative investigation, mentorship by senior researchers, and applied problem solving through internships and other real-life situations were all key to this learning-as-inquiry model of education.

Students in Prof. Rochefort’s Community-Based Research Practicum present their findings to a community partner.

Today there is no longer anything new or radical about this perspective. Indeed, students looking for top-notch preparation for employment or for admission to graduate and professional school readily appreciate that this must include strong skills for consuming and conducting research.  Due to the integration of academic and experiential education throughout its curriculum, Northeastern University is an outstanding institution both for gaining these skills from accomplished scholars and for exploring the translation of research-based knowledge from the classroom to the community. Political Science is a department that has led the way regarding many of these activities over recent years.

Below are a few examples of how political science majors integrate research into their academic path. Additional information can be provided to those eager to know more.

  • The option to participate in co-op employment is a cornerstone of the Northeastern undergraduate program, and many positions available to political science students feature significant research responsibilities on topics running the gamut from law to public policy to local government operations to international security issues.
  • Our faculty has won many prestigious grants, and undergraduate majors often benefit directly by becoming valued members of the research teams assembled to complete these supported studies. In recent years, such work has explored the areas of social network analysis, the European financial crisis, the international spread of technology, and more.
  • The Community-Based Research (CBR) Practicum is a small seminar in which the instructor and students collaborate on a semester-long investigation of a research question formulated in conjunction with a community agency or group. An extensive series of CBR reports has now been published, among them discussions of the problem of health care underinsurance, budget cuts for public libraries, innovative programs for combating homelessness, container recycling, newspaper coverage of mental health issues, and public opinion on health care reform.
  • While participating in Northeastern’s Dialogue of Civilizations program—a form of course work combining travel and study—students typically are able to carry out short-term research activities across the globe. For example, students on a recent dialogue program to Germany led by a political science faculty member visited the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, and reviewed and wrote about primary documents from the Nazi era.
Students on a Dialogue-of-Civilizations program to Germany with Prof. Natalie Bormann and Ph.D. candidate Veronica Czastkiewicz visit the Institute for Contemporary History.

Students on a Dialogue-of-Civilizations program to Germany with Prof. Natalie Bormann and Ph.D. candidate Veronica Czastkiewicz visit the Institute for Contemporary History.

In short, students will find the Political Science Department to be a virtual beehive of research on different issues, using different methodologies, all reflecting the broad scope of interests encompassed by our curriculum.  As the department continues to make rapid strides in its size and in its attraction of exceptional new faculty at all levels, so too will its commitment to undergraduate research deepen and diversify.


The College of Social Sciences and Humanities Undergraduate Research Initiative encourages undergraduate students to carry out research and other creative work activities in collaboration with faculty members and offers financial support. With the support of this fund, the college wants to help undergraduate students develop or enhance research skills.