Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) have become popular pedagogical tools to enhance the learning experience of undergraduate students (Buchanan & Fisher, 2022). Their rise in the natural sciences, particularly biology and chemistry, has given way to a broader application across the college curriculum, and beyond. The increased use of CUREs across disciplines has led to numerous analyses and meta-analyses of the effectiveness of this teaching approach. There have also been numerous reviews of the nature and development process of CUREs (e.g., Dolan, 2016) and several discipline-focused guides on CURE design aimed at instructors (e.g., Bakshi et al., 2016; Govindan et al., 2020; Provost, 2022). The goal of this pressbook is to draw on these efforts and expand on them to provide guidance for instructors at the Ohio State University and beyond in designing and implementing CUREs.

Part I of this pressbook is primarily aimed at instructors at the Ohio State University and places CUREs within the framework of the Ohio State curriculum. Part II presents ideas, recommendations, and best practices from the primary and secondary literature to guide the development and implementation of your own course, wherever you teach. References are made in this second part of the pressbook to courses and curriculum elements of the Ohio State University, but they are relevant to a wide audience. Although not explicitly designed as a workbook, the purpose of this pressbook is indeed to encourage your reflection and active engagement in course development as you read. To this end, the core of this pressbook is structured around a series of questions that prompt you to think about both the research and teaching aspects of your CURE. I hope that this guide will help make the challenge of developing a CURE easier, thus enabling you to experience the incredible joy, professional satisfaction, and intellectual development that CUREs bring to the classroom.

 CUREs are a model of undergraduate research experiences that actively engage students in an original research, inquiry project, or creative contribution to the discipline that is an integral component of their education and leads to a deliverable accessible to stakeholders (reviewed in Auchincloss et al., 2014). Thus, CUREs exemplify research as an iterative, ongoing, and collaborative process addressing unresolved problems or unanswered questions (ACRL). Different definitions of CUREs have emerged, and different institutions emphasize different components of the experience students engage in (e.g., University of Florida, University of Colorado, Brown University). The primary characteristic of a CURE is that it involves all students of a class; these students are primarily working during class time (Auchincloss et al., 2014). Some characteristics of CUREs are found in other models of student research (including inquiry activities and mentored research apprenticeships), but the combination of characteristics below distinguishes make CUREs a unique model of research training (Auchincloss et al., 2014; CUREnet):

  • Students engage in multiple [research or inquiry] practices
  • The purpose of the investigation is usually integrated with the instructor’s ongoing research
  • The outcome of the research is unknown
  • The findings are novel
  • The students’ work is relevant beyond the course and may provide opportunities for action
  • The research work involves collaboration among students as well as with the instructor and teaching assistants
  • The instructor’s role in the experience is to guide and mentor the students
  • The research is associated with an inherent risk of generating “messy” data
  • The research process often involves iteration

In these regards, CUREs differ from inquiry instructions by the explicit relevance of the research to the scholarly community and their integration with the research program of the supervising researcher, which guides the direction of the project and questions (CUREnet).

CUREs have predominantly been implemented in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) courses, particularly in biological sciences (Buchanan & Fisher, 2022; Dolan, 2016; Elgin et al., 2021). However, there are also instances of CUREs developed in other disciplines including in discipline-based education research (Cooper & Brownell, 2018; Mohammed et al., 2021), psychology (Hernandez-Ruiz & Dvorak, 2020; Mesmer and Gaudier-Diaz, 2022; Wilson, 2022), anthropology (Ruth et al., 2021), linguistics (Bjorndahl & Gibson, 2022), business (Sternquist et al., 2018), criminal justice (Kruis et al., 2022; McLean et al., 2021), human resource development (Hwang & Franklin, 2022), as well as writing and composition (Kao et al., 2020; Parsons et al., 2021). There is no intrinsic reason why CUREs cannot be developed across a wide range of disciplines.

All forms of authentic inquiry and scholarship can be integrated in CUREs. CUREs in STEM fields have often been centered around laboratory experiments (e.g., Chaari et al., 2020; Sarmah et al., 2016), but there are also field-based CUREs (Gonzales & Semken, 2009; Stanfield et al., 2022; Thompson et al., 2016; Tomasik et al., 2014), and museum collection based CUREs (; Hiller et al., 2017). Some models of CUREs have also been developed that do not require in-person lab/recitation time (Bennett et al., 2021; Hernandez-Ruiz et al., 2022; Karlsson et al., 2022; Sweeney et al., 2022; Waddell et al., 2021; Werth et al., 2022; Zelaya et al., 2022). In the social sciences, projects have been based on interviews (e.g., Ruth et al., 2021), surveys (e.g., McLean et al., 2021), neuroscience data (Wilson, 2022), and artefact analysis (Ruth et al., 2021). In the humanities, CURES have incorporated oral history (Parsons et al., 2021), writing projects (Kao et al., 2020), and archival work (;

CUREs have been put into effect across higher education institutions including community colleges (Genet, 2021; Hanauer et al., 2022; Hewlett, 2018; Kortz & van der Hoeven Kraft, 2016; Silvestri, 2018; Wolkow et al., 2014), primarily undergraduate institutions (e.g., Alaimo et al., 2014; Harrison et al., 2011; Ward et al., 2014; Wiley & Stover, 2014), minority serving institutions (Hanauer et al., 2022; Ing et al., 2021; Malotky et al., 2020; Martin et al., 2021; Pavlova et al., 2021; Ramírez-Lugo et al., 2021; Shuster et al., 2019; Siritunga et al., 2011), and research universities (e.g., Boltax et al., 2015; Brownell et al., 2012; Burnette & Wessler, 2013; Chen et al., 2005; Clark et al., 2016; Drew & Triplett, 2008; Gin et al., 2018; Harvey et al., 2014; Jones & Lerner, 2019; Kloser et al., 2011; Shapiro et al., 2015; Williams & Reddish, 2018; Winkelmann et al., 2015). Some CUREs have also been integrated into K-12 education (Bascom-Slack et al., 2012; Hatfull et al., 2006). The same CURE can even be implemented across institution categories (Bucklin & Mauger, 2022; Lopatto et al., 2020; Stoeckman et al., 2019). CUREs can also be collaboratively implemented by partner two-year and four-year institutions (Matyas et al., 2022). CUREs are used in both introductory and upper division courses (e.g., Buchanan & Fisher, 2022) and efforts have been made to implement CUREs in non-major courses as well (Ballen et al., 2017; Caruso et al., 2009; Smith et al., 2022). Although class size is often presented as a challenge to implementing a CURE, successful courses have been implemented in very large classes (e.g., Freeman et al., 2023; Merrell et al., 2022). Several CUREs have been taught at the Ohio State University (e.g., Clark et al., 2016; CLSE).

CUREs can represent small or large portions of the curriculum. Some CUREs are run over several classes concurrently or across semesters (e.g., Bucklin & Mauger, 2022; Sarmah et al., 2016) whereas others only represent a small portion of a given class (Table 1).


Most CUREs developed at the Ohio Satte University included in our survey were three credit courses with 15 to 25% of the class time dedicated to research.
Table 1. Data from instructor survey showing the portions of the curriculum devoted to a random sample across disciplines of CURES developed at the Ohio State University. Numbers showed are frequencies of classes in each category.