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Undergraduate research programs have become increasingly important to the teaching and learning agenda of American institutions of higher education. A vast body of literature supports the need for hands-on teaching strategies in and outside of the classroom. In many ways, undergraduate research programs are a response to that need. Furthermore, many institutions of higher education encourage and foster the engagement of undergraduate research initiatives for a plethora of purposes; however, efforts have been met with varied effectiveness. The researcher conducted this study, at two private Liberal Arts colleges and nine research programs, to investigate current undergraduate research practices at the program level. Through 40 individual interviews and document analysis procedures, the researcher determined the design and structure of each research program at institutions that were nominated by national leaders in undergraduate research. The researcher also identified the benefits and challenges associated with conducting ongoing undergraduate research programs as perceived by participating students, faculty mentors, and administrators. The researcher further explored institutional resources that are necessary to support and sustain ongoing research endeavors. Student and faculty roles in undergraduate research as well as student assessment procedures were also examined. This research revealed significant weaknesses in the areas of formulating intended student learning outcomes, ongoing assessment of student learning, faculty rewards and incentives, and overall program structure. Multiple forms of data indicated that formulated student learning outcomes were not used as a foundation for the learning process. Data also revealed that limited assessment tools were used throughout the research experience and that those assessments were not directly used to improve student learning. Also, most faculty reported intrinsic benefits for conducting undergraduate research, but were not monetarily rewarded by their institution.