Are the research methods learned in the undergraduate equivalent to the method in graduate school? That is, do the grad students learn another method of research, a more advanced version of how undergrads research or is it at the grad level the quality is just higher?

  • 3
    You probably need to be a bit more specific about the field and what you mean by "research method". For me, undergraduate research methods involved going to the library and looking at math books on the shelves, whereas graduate research methods involved going to the library and looking at math books on the shelves (but paying more attention to the bibliographies in the books) and looking up journal volumes to photocopy papers from. This being before the internet, of course. Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 16:26
  • I'm not too clear on what might constitute undergraduate-vs.-graduate research methods.
    – Nat
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 0:35
  • Thank you for you comment. I mean once you have the materials in hand is your methodology the same? How would the same paper be graded at the grad level and undergrad level? Is it the same paper just more detailed at the grad level?
    – Logikal
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 0:37
  • @Nat what I mean is that is the quality of the papers like an undergrad paper on steroids? Or is there new and more advanced techniques taught by the staff that goes beyond the undergrad level.
    – Logikal
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


The biggest difference between undergraduate studies and graduate research is that graduate research very specialized; in many fields, the terms used by graduate (PhD) researchers will not be familiar to most undergraduates.

As to whether the methods are different or fundamentally the same, this is a matter of philosophy. Certainly, the methods in graduate school build on those you learn during your undergraduate, and it is necessary to be an expert on the undergraduate methods before becoming a good PhD student. Depending on the field, that may be basically enough to be competent for graduate research, or, you may have to learn entirely new ways of thinking. For example, in mathematics, graduate research requires thinking at a higher level than the detailed writing of rigorous proofs in undergraduate courses.

  • I enjoyed your answer. Is it just the intensity that differs with the same research method? By research I mean using references in papers like undergrads do. Can an undergrad duplicate the same method as the PHD student or is there some information that has to be taught by an instructor?
    – Logikal
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 0:46
  • @Logikal Most undergraduates cannot do graduate research without careful instruction and supervision by a supervisor. It does of course depend on the field. The hardest thing about graduate research (as opposed to undergraduate researching in writing a paper) is that you have to be good at searching the literature for related work, and knowing the area of your research very well. Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 0:57
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    By research I mean using references in papers like undergrads do. -- This sounds like a literature review; PhD students are expected to develop new knowledge. @Logikal
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 15:18

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