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Getting Started with Research

Who can complete research projects?

Research is limitless. Any student may choose to do research no matter their major or academic rank. Boise State students have conducted a variety of research projects in areas ranging from financial planning to choreography, cancer prevention to economics, art history to genetics, substance abuse to alternative energy.

How do I get started with undergraduate research?

How do I get started with undergraduate research?

The first step is to identify your field of interest. You might become curious about more than one topic through your courses, current events, or by reflecting on things that appeal to you. Talk to other students who are currently conducting research. They can let you know how they got started. Next, identify potential faculty sponsors. Networking is a great way to learn about available opportunities. Start by talking with instructors, teaching assistants, advisors, and classmates. Talk to current and past professors from courses you have taken and were very interested in. Even if the professor is not currently sponsoring undergraduate research, she or he may know of colleagues that are seeking research assistants. Finally, request to work with a faculty sponsor.

Find a research mentor

  • Remember that you do not need to have prior research experience to get involved – everyone starts somewhere.
  • Think about what type of research you are interested in.
  • Explore what research is currently being done in your field of study.
  • Consider multidisciplinary projects that may fit your interests.
  • Explore Vertically Integrated Projects, which offer multi-semester, interdisciplinary projects for students at all levels.
  • Apply for research positions on campus.

Identify possible faculty mentors

  • Talk to professors from whom you have taken a class about the types of research they are working on.
  • Ask your academic advisor about research opportunities.
  • Browse faculty lists on departmental websites to learn about various areas of research.
  • Talk to fellow students about research they have completed and mentors they have worked with.

Contact potential faculty mentors

  • An email to a potential mentor introducing yourself and clearly stating the purpose for contacting them is the most efficient way to start the process and should include:
    • Name and major
    • Purpose for contacting them, including a request to meet with them in person
    • Research areas of interest
    • Why you are interested in working with them specifically
    • Your contact information
  • Include a curriculum vitae (CV) as an email attachment. A CV is similar to a resume but is specific to your academic career and could include:
    • Previous research experience, if any
    • Relevant coursework including techniques/concepts mastered
    • Work and leadership experience that demonstrates critical thinking, time management, organizational, and communication skills
  • Follow-up if you don’t hear back in a few days – be persistent, not pesky.

Before you meet with a potential faculty mentor

  • Think about what you want
    • Is this something you want to do for one semester, is it something you would be interested in for one or two years?
    • How much time can you commit to a research project each week?
  • Familiarize yourself with a potential faculty mentor’s scholarly interests, recent publications, etc.
  • Be sure you are willing to make the commitment to the research project.

Meeting with a potential faculty mentor

  • Be prepared! Getting involved in research is not like signing up for a class. All email correspondence and discussions with potential faculty mentors should be considered professional interactions similar to a job interview.
  • Be able to explain why you find this project interesting.
  • Identify the skills you can bring to the research experience and sell yourself.
  • There are a variety of reasons why a faculty mentor may not be able to include you in a research project. Don’t take it personally and don’t give up. That faculty mentor may have a project open up at a later date or may be able to recommend you to someone else who is doing similar or related research. Much of research is about perseverance and determination.