The first step in any research project is identifying your interests. In the early stages, you’ll want to explore all your interests, searching for ideas that excite you and warrant further exploration. Below are some steps you can take to identify and develop your interests, as well as a description of the research process.
Do Well in Class
Your first priority should be to perform well in your courses, fully engage with the course material, and explore all the opportunities for learning in and out of the classroom.
Spend some time developing skills relevant to your research interests. In some disciplines, experience with computer programs like SPSS and UNIX will be valuable.
Find a Mentor
Get to know faculty members and their research areas. You might start by browsing the faculty profiles on your department’s website and identifying their research interests.
Attend a Workshop
Explore Your Opportunities
Although differently disciplines approach research differently, there are some common characteristics:
- Almost all research begins with a research question — that is, an important question that is without satisfactory answers.
- Once researchers formulate a question, they will usually review the previous research and find an approach they think will provide new and more accurate understandings.
- Next, they will gather and analyze evidence, interpret their findings, and draw some sort of conclusion.
- Finally, they will share their conclusions.
This process is rarely orderly. New evidence will suggest a new interpretation, which might cause researchers to double-back and reconsider their ideas. But that’s what makes it interesting!
You may also notice that your discipline performs some part of this process differently. One of the exciting things about undergraduate research is that it introduces students to the research culture of their field of study.