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University Libraries - Undergraduate Research Award

University Libraries Undergraduate Research Award


To be eligible to win, applicants must:

  • be a University of South Carolina, Columbia undergraduate at any class level and in any discipline.
  • have completed the project at the University of South Carolina, Columbia during the previous Summer, Fall, or current Spring term. Course assignments, independent studies, or other scholarly or creative projects are accepted.  What is important is that you made use of the University Libraries resources or services. Groups projects may be submitted. Some or all of a group's members may apply. Each student who has chosen to participate in the research award should individually submit an application form, faculty letter and essay and should explicitly identify his/her role and contribution.  Each submission is judged individually.
  • have a project the panel will be able to review.  Projects can be in any format (written paper, PowerPoint, video, artwork, etc.).
  • agree to contribute to a display about their research mounted by library staff for public exhibition.


Application Procedure

Applications must include the following:

All materials must be submitted by the deadline in order to be considered.



A panel of University of South Carolina faculty and librarians will judge entries based on the research essay, submitted project, bibliography and faculty letter of support. The panel is interested in the quality of the project, and evidence of the applicant's research process and personal learning. Winning entries will demonstrate an applicant's exceptional ability to discover, select, evaluate, and synthesize information in the creation of a project in any media exhibiting sophistication, originality, or unusual depth or breadth in the use of library collections and services. View the award rubric.


Essay Suggestions

In a 500-700 word personal essay, reflect upon your experience with the research process for this project and use of library collections, resources, and services. The following questions are offered as a guide to developing your essay. You are not required or restricted to addressing just these questions.

  • In what ways did using the library influence the development of your ideas for this project? How did you think about and refine your initial topic?
  • What did you discover about the tools and techniques for research in the library? Why did you use the tools and techniques that you did? What discoveries did you make by chance or serendipity and which through careful planning?
  • What did you learn about finding, selecting, and evaluating information on your topic or in the discipline? Did you have trouble finding some kinds of information? Describe your decision-making process for solving any challenges you faced.
  • What lessons about the research process did you take away from the experience?


Support Letter Guidelines

Faculty sponsoring an applicant should submit a letter of support commenting on how the student's work meets the award criteria. The student must have a letter of support from a faculty member to submit a complete application package.

The review panel is especially interested in how the student's use of library collections, resources, and services contributed to making the project comprehensive, original, or unique.

Letters may be submitted to Marilee Birchfield,, as a message or an attachment.

The letter will become the property of University Libraries, University of South Carolina and may be used in an exhibit.


Bibliography Tips

When preparing your bibliography:

  • Format your bibliography using a style guide appropriate to your project's discipline.Consult the Libraries' style guides for APA, Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, and Turabian examples of how to cite some common sources.
  • Cite all sources you used even if you did not directly quote from them.
  • If your bibliography is really long, consider organizing your sources into categories or you can organize it alphabetically.


Show Off Your Research

Award recipients are invited to contribute your project to Scholar Commons, USC’s repository for scholarly content created by faculty, staff, and students. By contributing your prize-winning submission to Scholar Commons, you’ll be preserving and showcasing your research in an open access format.  Your project will be freely and immediately available on the Internet for others to discover, read, download or distribute.  You’ll also have a permanent URL you can use to share your work. Find out more information about Scholar Commons here.



Marilee Birchfield
Chair, Undergraduate Research Award Review Panel
Research, Instruction and Reference Department
Thomas Cooper Library


University Libraries Undergraduate Research Award