The growing literature on undergraduate teaching and learning currently lacks an organising framework. This article sets out to provide one, distinguishing between hard pure, soft pure, hard applied and soft applied fields of study, and hence making it possible to highlight generally unremarked similarities and differences between the various research findings. In doing so, it draws extensively on the relevant literature, offering separate analyses of knowledge-related and socially related studies. The former embody curriculum, assessment and cognitive purpose, while the latter encompass group characteristics of teachers, types of teaching method and student learning requirements. The concluding section draws out the main implications for policy and practice related to staff development, computer-based learning, assessment of student learning and quality measures.