Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

George M. Bodner

Committee Member 1

Brenda M. Capobianco

Committee Member 2

Christine A. Hrycyna

Committee Member 3

Angeline M. Lyon

Committee Member 4

Marcy H. Towns


Despite the increasing popularity of undergraduate research experiences across disciplines, little information currently exists to guide the design, evaluation, and improvement of these experiences. One challenge to generating such guidelines is the lack of evidence related to the processes and contexts in which undergraduate research experiences occur. My study sought to address this deficiency by exploring the norms of discourse that framed conversations between students and their mentors in biochemistry research as a model to understand the phenomenon of undergraduate research. I used a case-study approach to investigate the conversations that occurred between three student-mentor pairs as they engaged in research. Video-recorded observations of students and mentors working together helped me to identify discursive norms. I employed a stimulated recall interview protocol to identify how participants negotiated and established norms during a research experience. Analysis of discourse was informed by previous literature on undergraduate research experiences and conversation analysis theory. Viewing my analysis across cases allowed me to identify categories of conversations that framed the research experiences of student-mentor pairs. Based on these categories, I defined two distinct classes of research experiences present in my study: holistic and targeted experiences. I investigated individual turns-at-talk in conversations to generate findings on the nature of discourse present in each class of research experience. My work adds to current understandings of the processes by which undergraduate research experiences occur by providing details about the role discourse plays in shaping these experiences. The results from this work will be used to make recommendations for researchers involved in the investigation of undergraduate research as an educational practice and educators interested in improving the research experiences of their undergraduate students.