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Getting Started with Research

Research is limitless

Any student may choose to do research no matter their major or their prior experience. 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.

Follow the following four steps to get started on your research journey!

Four Steps to Get Started

Step 1: 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.

  • 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.

Step 2: Identify potential 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 related to your major.
  • Search the Boise State ScholarWorks database with keywords that interest you.
  • Browse faculty lists on departmental websites to learn about their areas of research.
  • Talk to fellow students about research they have completed and mentors they have worked with.

Step 3: Contact potential faculty mentors

Sending 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. Your email should include:

  1. Name and major
  2. Purpose for contacting them, including a request to meet with them in person
  3. Why you are interested in working with them specifically (Is it their research? Is it that you were inspired by a class you took with them?)
  4. Any previous research experience, if you have it.

Make sure to follow-up if you don’t hear back after a week or so – faculty often get a lot of emails and may have just missed yours – it’s okay to be persistent if you haven’t heard back from them.

Before you meet with a potential faculty mentor, think about what you want:

  1. How much time can you commit to a research project each week?
  2. Is this something you want to do for one semester, is it something you would be interested in for one or two years?

Familiarize yourself with a potential faculty mentor’s scholarly interests, recent publications, etc. (the best way to do this is either through their faculty profile on their department’s website or in the faculty ScholarWorks database).

Research can be a long-term process. Ask the faculty mentor to specify commitment expectations so that you may decide whether the project is a good fit for you.

Step 4: Your first 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.

  • Prepare questions to ask about their research, especially if you’re not super familiar with it.
  • Be able to explain why you find this topic or project interesting.
  • Identify the skills you can bring to the research experience and sell yourself.
  • Take notes during your meeting and look up anything you may not have understood after the meeting.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

I am not able to find a research mentor. Can I still get involved in research?

Finding a research mentor and a research project that works for you is a process that tends to take time. If a potential faculty mentor is unable to bring you onto a project, you can ask them (and your other professors) to recommend other colleagues in the area.

I am unsure what I should be doing research on?

ScholarWorks is an open access database that stores scholarly works created by members of the Boise State University community. Look up research topics, areas and faculty and students who were involved in these research projects. If you find faculty whose research interests you, reach out to them. If you find student research on there, look up the faculty mentor for the project and reach out to them.

I do not plan to go to graduate school. Will research still be useful for me?

Yes! Studies have shown that undergraduate research experiences develop enhanced independent critical thinking skills, oral and written communication skills, tolerance for obstacles and higher intrinsic motivation to learn. These are competencies and skills that stay with students irrespective of their career paths, and are valued by employers.

Do I need prior experience to become involved in undergraduate research

Faculty work with undergraduate students at all skill levels and experiences. While prior experience can be useful, it is not necessary.

How much time can I expect to spend doing undergraduate research?

It varies and depends on the specific research project you are going to work on. As you think about undergraduate research, make an estimate of the amount of time you have in your schedule for research and look for opportunities accordingly.

I have other questions. Who can I talk to?

Email the Office of Undergraduate Research at to set up a time to talk.

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