National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Innovations in Undergraduate Research and Honors Education: Proceedings of the Second Shreyer National Conference 2001, ed. Josephine M. Carubia & Renata S. Engel. Copyright © 2004 The National Collegiate Honors Council.


Ernest Boyer's work is the touchstone for most contemporary discussions about research and scholarship and is as pertinent to undergraduate research as to the professional research of faculty. This introduction will begin with Boyer so that his definitions and philosophies may inform additional discussions concerning the epistemologies, methodologies, and hierarchies embedded within the creative human pursuits we call research and scholarship. Boyer's work may be valued as much for the vocabulary it endows upon this conversation as for its impact on the values and purposes of higher education. His articulation of terminology for a range of creative pursuits under the umbrella of scholarship was brilliant in its timing and effects. In 1990, a decade of discontent and reflection culminated in the publication of Boyer's Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In this short volume, Boyer addressed his conviction that "scholarship is at the core of academic life" (Boyer, 1990, p. 1) and that the vitality of the academic professions required an expanded notion of this crucial element. Reflecting on the history of educational commitments as well as years of observation, data from faculty, and conversation with other educational leaders, he formulated a definition that encompasses four functions of scholarship and that is responsive to both academic and community purposes.

Boyer reminds educators that research, the function of scholarship he designates scholarship of discovery, is a relatively new and comparatively narrow aspect of the range of activities of those we call scholars. For several generations it has been the most highly valued work of the university. Conceived primarily as an individual activity where breakthroughs are achieved or innovative models are developed, the scholarship of discovery advances new knowledge that transforms disciplines and, quite often, even our lives.