Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment (URSSA)

Developed by Tim Weston, Sandra Laursen, Anne-Barrie Hunter & Heather Thiry

Purpose To collect self-report data from students involved in an undergraduate research program in order for undergraduate research program administrators to evaluate student outcomes at the program-level.
Format Multiple-choice, Agree/disagree, Short answer
Duration 15-20 min
Focus Lab skills (Thinking and working like a scientist, Personal gains related to research work, Skills, Attitudes and behavior)
Level Undergraduate research students

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Example questions from the URSSA:


URSSA Implementation Guide

Everything you need to know about implementing the URSSA in your class.

T. Weston and S. Laursen, The Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment (URSSA): Validation for Use in Program Evaluation, CBE Life. Sci. Educ. 14 (3), 1 (2015).
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Gold Star Validation
This is the highest level of research validation, corresponding to all seven of the validation categories below.

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • Student thinking

Studied Using:

  • Student interviews
  • Expert review
  • Appropriate statistical analysis

Research Conducted:

  • At multiple institutions
  • By multiple research groups
  • Peer-reviewed publication

The questions on the URSSA were based on longitudinal interviews of 76 students about the benefits and learning gains they experienced through undergraduate research activities. A sample of 80 faculty were also interviewed about working with the undergraduate research students. Using the interview findings, the developers created a survey blueprint, wrote items and reviewed the survey with their advisory board. The survey was them piloted with students using think around interviews, and revised. The underlying structure of the survey was assessed with confirmatory factor analysis and the developers found the four components of the survey represent separate but related constructs. Average scores from item blocks formed reliable but moderate to highly correlated composite measures. Additionally, some questions about student learning gains (meant to assess individual learning) correlated to ratings of satisfaction with external aspects of the research experience. The pattern of correlation among individual items suggests that items asking students to rate external aspects of their environment were more like satisfaction ratings than items that directly ask about student skills attainment. Finally, survey items asking about student aspirations to attend graduate school in science reflected inflated estimates of the proportions of students who had actually decided on graduate education after their UR experiences. As of May 1, 2014, 3671 students had taken the URSSA across the United States and Canada. The URSSA results are published in eight peer-reviewed publications.  


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Typical Results

Comparison of biology research undergraduate experience (REU) students' URSSA mean scores with a matched sample of non-biology students who also participated in an REU, from Weston 2013. The results shown below are divided out by construct, where the constructs contained the "core" group of URSSA items. There were additional items on the version of the URSSA used by Weston, but the results are not reported here. 


The latest version of the URSSA, released in 2012, is version 1.