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Undergraduate research in sociology departments provides opportunities for student engagement and faculty development. Although undergraduate research in the natural and physical sciences and graduate mentoring have been extensively studied, there are few systematic studies of the process of extracurricular undergraduate research in sociology from the perspective of both faculty and students. We carried out semi-structured qualitative interviews with 23 faculty and undergraduate research assistants (RAs). Our results outline the dynamics of faculty-directed research collaborations in sociology departments. We first detail the tasks regularly performed by undergraduate RAs and then describe the development of RA-faculty partnerships, including hiring and training. Faculty-RA teams work together on faculty-directed research through mechanisms of accountability, regular meetings, and communication. Finally, we describe how relationships transform and partnerships end. We find that faculty generally have one of two outlooks on undergraduate research: they either seek RAs as facilitators of their research or they aim to develop and mentor junior colleagues. We discuss the implications of these outlooks for student learning, professionalization, and holistic development.


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