How do I get started?
Be proactive! It is unlikely that anyone will approach you – you need to make the effort and seek out these opportunities. You should approach faculty members with whom you have had classes or whose research interests match your own. You can check out the webpages of faculty members in your major/minor to find out what their research interests are.
Undergraduate research opportunities are often competitive, so be sure to engage in behaviors that make you stand out from the crowd. For example, be sure to maintain a high GPA (faculty mentors can be selective about the students with whom they work). Take classes with professors with whom you might want to work, and be a stellar student in those classes (sit in the front, ask questions, complete all assignments early, visit during office hours, etc.). Visit professors during their office hours and talk to them about their research interests – indicate you would love to help out with any ongoing research projects.
Can I get credit for doing research?
Yes – most departments have a course called Directed Study (using the 4400 designation) that can be used for credit toward research participation. Some departments may have other courses that involve research; check with your department if you’re not sure. You can also volunteer to do research without credit if the faculty member agrees to it.
Can I get funding for doing research?
Yes! Students are eligible for $500 grants to travel to conferences to present their research. Faculty mentors can receive grants in which some of the funding is used for supplies and student travel. External funding options are also available – check with your department to see what’s out there.
How much time will be involved?
This varies considerably depending on the discipline, the project, the student, and the faculty mentor. Some students complete their research projects in a semester. Other students may work with faculty members for several years on several different projects. The amount of time during the semester varies a great deal as well. For example, if you are earning three credits for your Directed Study, the workload should be equivalent to what you would expect in any three-credit course. You will need to negotiate with your faculty mentor with regard to the amount of time you will spend each week on your undergraduate research project.
Do I have to wait until I’m a senior to get involved?
No! Many faculty members would prefer to begin working with undergraduates sooner so that there is more time to complete a project or even multiple projects. In some programs, less-experienced students work as apprentices for a period of time before making more substantial contributions to the research. It is important to find out the norms in your discipline early on so you can plan accordingly.
What are the requirements for doing undergraduate research?
It varies by department and by faculty member. In general, it is a good idea to have taken some coursework on research methods and perhaps statistics, but that is not always a requirement. Some departments have requirements for a particular grade point average.
What do I do when I finish a research project?
We hope that you will be involved in presenting the research at a conference and getting your research published in some way. Ask your faculty mentor for the best way for your project to find an audience.