Are you considering Undergraduate Research?
Here are some helpful tips and tools! Completing Undergraduate Research is an exciting opportunity to innovate and work alongside professors. Though you may feel intimidated to begin researching independently as an undergraduate student, you can pursue undergraduate research at any time during your Clark experience. There are many resources to guide you and opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom to pursue inquiry-based learning. Clark students have the opportunity to design their own research projects, receive feedback, gain critical thinking and organizational skills, and deepen their knowledge of their own areas of academic interest. The following steps can help you begin to develop an undergraduate research project.
- Explore your interests. Read up on research that excites you and is relevant to your academic and personal interests. Some great resources to start with are academic journals and the Clark University Digital Commons, where you can browse research and publications by fellow Clarkies. Additionally, be sure to take courses in a wide range of disciplines so that you can discover what truly excites you! That is one of the key benefits of a liberal arts education at a research university — the possibilities are truly endless and it is never too early to start looking into research positions!
- Consult with the LEEP Center Staff. Your LEEP Center Adviser will discuss your interests and help you get started designing and implementing an undergraduate research project.
- Contact your professors. If you're taking a course that is particularly intellectually stimulating for you, chat with your professor! They may be able to steer you in the direction of a new or ongoing project. Explain your interest to them and ask if they can give you advice on how to pursue an independent research project. Often, professors need research assistants and project support from students, and who better to ask than a student who has proven their passion for the subject?
- Take a capstone course. You don't have to wait for your senior year to write a research paper. Take a capstone course that will allow you to formulate and answer a research question through investigative papers, scholarly presentations, and independent research. This experience will prepare you for future research projects and potential honors thesis. Additionally, writing a capstone paper will allow you to strengthen your research and writing skills and may raise fascinating questions that you can choose to pursue later in your Clark or professional career.
- Examine other undergraduate research. (SURJ, Fall Fest, Academic Spree Day). An exceptional way to look into undergraduate research is to take a look at the work that your peers are involved in! Read an issue of the Scholarly Undergraduate Research Journal (SURJ) to become familiar with some current Clark research projects. Stop in at Fall Fest and Academic Spree Day to meet your peers who are pursuing innovative, creative, and exciting self-designed projects, and ask questions about their undergraduate research process.
- Design a project mock-up! As they say, practice makes perfect. Writing an outline or proposal for a research project that you wish to pursue will allow you to narrow down your research interests and discover your key research goals. Moreover, it may provide a basis for work in future courses. Bring your mock-up to a professor or to the LEEP center in order to receive constructive feedback.
- Consider a LEEP Project or other Academic Fellowships. Once you have an idea of an independent research project, look into opportunities such as LEEP Projects, H.E.R.O. Fellowship Projects, Steinbrecher Fellowship Projects, or one of the many opportunities for undergraduate research at Clark. The LEEP Center staff will be happy to help you review your research project and design, ensure that your project is feasible, identify a project deliverable, and apply for support funding. These opportunities are particularly important for juniors and seniors who are interested in experiential learning and applying the skills they have in the classroom.
- Consider an Honors Thesis. If you are a rising senior, completing an honors thesis is a remarkable way to pursue independent research, be recognized as an outstanding undergraduate, and prepare yourself for graduate school or a desired profession. Typically, theses must be proposed by spring of your junior year and are then completed throughout the duration of your senior year. Talk to your academic adviser about a topic that you have in mind, create a research question that you would like to answer, and, most importantly, focus on a subject that truly fascinates you. The best undergraduate research projects have a solid foundation in intellectual curiosity, interest in the subject, and desire to learn more.