Roles and Responsibilities of Research Assistants

Responsibilities of the graduate Research Assistants must involve active research of some form, regardless of whether the research is the assistant’s own. This can involve employment for regular fieldwork, lab work, library research, data analysis, writing, curating of exhibitions, or any other activity that can be counted as research. Research Assistants are not significantly involved with teaching or primarily devoted to administrative functions, such as working as filing or reception.

The duties of Research Assistants vary considerably, but may include:

  • Searching for and reviewing published literature on a research topic
  • Helping to develop a project methodology
  • Assisting with lab work
  • Taking notes
  • Attending team or project meetings
  • Assisting in developing resources for project management
  • Collecting data
  • Entering and analyzing data
  • Supervising undergraduate research assistants or other personnel on research-related tasks
  • Assisting with manuscript or grant development
  • Preparing reports or presentations
  • Corresponding with funding agencies

In all cases, the exact responsibilities of the Research Assistant depend on the nature of the work and assignments made by the supervisor. However, work assigned should be related to research, even if it involves the least glamorous parts of research, such as organizing and storing data or managing correspondence with collaborators.

Work assignments should not include personal assistance to the supervisor or others, such as running personal errands for the supervisor’s family. If the work is primarily clerical or pedagogical, the Graduate Assistant might be more appropriately appointed as a Project Assistant or Teaching Assistant instead.

Research assistantships are offers of employment based on merit, or as part of a recruitment package to attend UWM. Assistants should not be asked to pay additional fees to work as an assistant, beyond the routine fees associated with studying at UWM.