Getting involved in research can be daunting—
below are some tips for getting started!
Define your research interest.
How should I find a professor who is doing research or wants a student assistant?
I found a project I’m interested in; now what?
The professor responded. What should I do for our first meeting?
To whom can I talk about advising on Undergraduate Research?
The topic of your research should excite you! Answer the following questions:
- Which subject areas most interest you?
- Which topics in your classes interest you?
- Do you have a specific project in mind (e.g., depression research) or do you want to acquire a set of skills that can be transferred to other sub-disciplines in the future?
- The University of Leicester offers a great overview of what to expect from the research process in many disciplines. Review this to see if this is something you might be interested in.
- Read the faculty profiles from your home department. This is perhaps the best way to learn more about what research is in your field, and it will assist you in determining what type of research you would like to conduct. Many faculty web pages list some of the publications that the faculty member has authored. It is a good idea to try to read some of these articles if possible.
- Talk with faculty you know. Talk to current and past professors from courses you have done well in and have enjoyed. Even if the professor is not currently seeking an undergraduate researcher, he or she may know of colleagues that are seeking research assistants within your discipline.
- Consult an academic advisor from your department to inquire about faculty members currently conducting research in your discipline.
- Talk to other undergraduates who are currently conducting research. They can let you know how they got their foot in the door.
- Consult this list that features projects in need of assistants.
If you want to send a professor an email indicating your interest, you can follow the outline below:
- Address your email: “Dear Professor ________,”
- Your name, major, year
- Background information about why you want to pursue research in general
- What interests you about the professor’s research specifically
- Why you think you would be a good fit for the position
- Your availability to meet to discuss in detail
- Indicate that you can send additional documents (such as transcripts or letters of recommendation) upon request.
Once you have established a first meeting with a professor, prepare for it. Use some of the tips below:
- Dress professionally
- Be ready to discuss the professor’s research based on the description given, and come prepared with questions you may have about the research
- Bring a resume
- Bring an unofficial transcript
- Show up 10 minutes early
Here are several appropriate questions:
- Do you have a research project that needs an undergraduate student’s help?
- How did you get involved in this particular area of research?
- Why is your particular area of research important?
- Where does funding come from for your research?
- What does an undergraduate working with you typically do?
- What are some projects previous students have worked on?
- Are there any specific classes you suggest I take?
- Are there any books or research articles you suggest I read?
- Do you have suggestions for other faculty members for me to talk to?
If you have specific questions about participating in research or getting grant funding for your research, you may contact the Undergraduate Research Grants Program at email@example.com or 978-6563.