Independent Research Project
What to do once you've decided you want to do research...
1. Establish your interests.
- What topics intrigue you?
- Are you willing to commit a large amount of time to the exploration of a particular topic?
- Think back on previous classes, volunteering and work experience, books you've read, papers you've written, and lectures you've attended.
2. Narrow down possible projects.
- Avoid topics that are too big or complex. For example, if you were interested in the jury system and its role in our judicial system, you might focus on one part of juries, such as the jury selection process, rather than juries as a whole.
3. Identify a possible mentor.
- Search faculty members on EUREKA!
- Look at departments relevant to your interests and search the faculty pages.
- Think back on classes you have taken and consider if any previous professors might be a good fit.
4. Consider course credit.
- If you're interested in pursuing a research project (independent of any degree requirement), you may be eligible to receive course credit. In most cases, the course credit is offered in the form of an upper-division conference course.
- UGS 310 and 320 are also available through the School of Undergraduate Studies.
- See Course Credit (link) for more information.
5. Get organized.
- Consider what you are trying to achieve and what your ultimate goals are.
- What skills do you already have and what skills are you hoping to gain?
- Think about your commitment in a realistic way and consider how much time you can actually devote to the project; relate that to your goals and consider if they are achievable.
- Investigate what your (possible) faculty mentor has been working on (research, publications) and think of questions you may have about their work.
- Ensure you can clearly articulate your interests.
- Think about your expectations for your mentor. How often do you want to meet? What are you hoping they can give you?
You don't have all the answers, but you need to have thought about these things.
6. Make contact.
- Send the faculty member an e-mail.
- Address the professor as "Dr." and be respectful.
- Tell the professor a little about yourself and your interests, that you are interested in conducting your own research, and are looking for a mentor.
- Don't be discouraged if the faculty member does not have time to mentor or doesn't think it's a good fit - ask if they can recommend someone else and try again.
7. Meet with the faculty member.
- When you meet with faculty, be prepared to discuss the items from step 5.
- Dress neatly and be confident and relaxed.
- Tell the professor what you are hoping to accomplish in your research and what you feel you would need from a mentor.
- Ask the professor what he/she thinks you might need to consider and what role the professor might fill as a mentor.
- Discuss course credit if it is something you are interested in.
8. Reflect after the meeting.
- Reflect and consider if both your expectations could be met if you worked together.
- If it's not a good fit, be sure to tell the faculty member - politely but directly - and ask if the faculty member can recommend someone else. You may also want to go back to step 3.
- If it is a good fit, and the faculty member agrees, begin to plan the project with your mentor as described in the next step.
9. Plan and commit to the project with your mentor.
- Decide on a start date for the project.
- Set up weekly or biweekly meetings.
- Make arrangements for course credit if you are going to pursue it.
- Plan out the exact dimensions of the project - What is the topic? What are the parameters? How will you collect data? Etc.