Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) can introduce many students to authentic research activities in a cost-effective manner. Past studies have shown that students who participated in CUREs report greater interest in chemistry, better data collection and analysis skills, and enhanced scientific reasoning compared to traditional laboratory activities. Though self-reports are informative, performance measures are needed to evaluate CURE effectiveness objectively. The present study examines whether a CURE implementation at the United States Military Academy (by the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education [CASPiE]) affects students' self-reported perceptions or critical thinking test scores. Students reported significant increases in their perceptions of learning through the laboratory, authentic scientific laboratory practices and interest in chemistry when compared to previous chemistry courses with traditional laboratory activities. Results also showed a significant increase in critical thinking scores, moderated by student perception of the authenticity of the laboratory activities. Copyright © 2017 Royal Society of Chemistry.