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Some Ideas

- They can make summaries of arguments found in print.
- They can make summaries of the sort of work done in other fields on a given topic (say, you work on the ethics of X, but there is a big literature on the political science of X, and you just need a big-picture survey of what's happening in the other field).
- They can make citation graphs to figure out the genealogy of a debate, or what are the main arguments/perspectives in a debate.

Any sort of work that connects abstract problems with real-life examples. I am currently working on a project on the structure of policy recommendations in the public sector (from a philosopher's perspective--the focus is on the logical, formal and normative aspects of recommendations). The project will be irrelevant if I can't document how recommendations are typically formulated in the public sector. I have identified a sample of 60 reports that I wish to analyze. I have a first-year Master student who is going to work on it (I gave him clear indications of what I need him to document), but I could have asked a 4th year undergrad student to do this sort of work.

Newly Dr.

This sounds like a great idea to me and if I were still an undergrad I would jump at the opportunity. Particularly because as an undergrad I needed employment to pay my rent. A job as a research assistant is a much better opportunity than a job at a cafe or similar: it can provide both pay and experience.

And from that perspective I think you should actually bear in mind that there may not be anything wrong with getting them to just do administrative kinds of tasks that would free you up for other research (as long as they understand and agree to this). For example, checking proof reading manuscripts, cleaning up citation lists, and so on. I also like the suggests of Some Ideas above.

Also keep in mind that for an undergraduate interested in a career in philosophy (or academia more broadly), getting some experience of the actual amount of administration and non-research work involved may be beneficial. Both because it may teach them skills, but also because it gives them a more accurate picture of the actual job than many undergraduates get from attending classes.

Jonathan Ichikawa

I've used undergrad research assistants in a variety of ways — some of these are more interesting for the RA than others.

* helping with conference or workshops that I organize — coordinating communication with participants, setting up space, registration, preparing nametags, etc.
* coordinating communication with authors in a collection I edited
* updating my website
* reading draft papers and giving me feedback
* searching through bodies of literature to find discussions relevant to the point I was interested in
* scanning books
* proof-reading
* book indexing

Honestly for pretty much anything I might ask a grad student to do, there's at least a version of it it could make sense to ask an advanced undergrad to do.

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