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10 Steps to Student Research

How to get started?
Step 1: Talk to SCoRe and your Academic Advisor

Visit your academic advisor

They know a lot about research being conducted in their department and can often steer you toward the people whose research matches your interests.

Stop by the SCoRe Office  - Tutt Library 230B

Talk to the Student Research Program Coordinator, Lisa Schwartz -- she can help you become aware of research possibilities that you have not considered.


step 2: find your interest

  • Classes can lead you to your interests. Professors with whom you have taken a class are a great starting point when looking for a research advisor or topic.
  • Look through department webpages.
  • Go to the Student Research Symposium (Friday. Sept. 28, 2018) and review previous years' programs.
  • Talk to peers about what they have been researching and with whom they have been working.

Don't stress out about finding "the perfect research project"! The term “independent research” means that a student works and collaborates on a project with a faculty member and/or other students. It does NOT mean you have to have a completely formed research idea in mind which you expect to study with a faculty member (in fact, this inflexible approach does not work well).


Step 3: Research faculty interests

  • Talk to faculty you have taken courses with about their research and the research of their colleagues.
  • Look at faculty and department webpages for information on faculty scholar research. 
  • Visit the Search for Opportunities by Topic page to look at both CC faculty research and non-CC opportunities.


Step 4: Identify 2-3 faculty members

Once you have reviewed faculty interests, you may find a faculty member interesting but not sure exactly what their research is all about. Use the library catalog or databases to search what the professor has published.

library chat screen shotRead articles or books written by the professors whose research appeals to you. If they are giving a talk or have a performance, attend. This helps you decide if you want to meet the professor. If you have trouble finding work by the professor in the catalog or the databases, contact the research librarians. They even have an online chat support for research.


Step 5: Write to the professors

Write an email or visit professors during their office hours. Be sure to identify the project and some of the information you have learned about their research. List your year in school, major, and relevant courses you have taken or training you have acquired, if any. Ask to meet to talk more about the project.

E.g., “Hello, Professor Coleman, my name is Jay Larson. I’ve been reading on disability studies and came across several articles you’ve written. I’m very interested and was wondering if I could meet with you to discuss the topic with you? If there is an opportunity, I would love to help with your research projects.”

If the professor does not need help, ask if he or she knows of someone with similar interests who is looking for help, and continue to approach the other professors on your list.


step 6: Prepare for your meeting

  • Do your homework on the front end: Read up on the research of each potential faculty you are meeting.
    • You can sometimes obtain online a copy of their curriculum vitae (similar to a résumé) which details all of their research experience. Investigate their work before you meet. Also, speak with other students who may have worked with your potential faculty research mentors.
  • Come prepared.
    • Bring a copy of your résumé or curriculum vitae, a copy of your transcript and/or a list of relevant courses you have completed. This will help the faculty determine if you are a good fit with their project or what type of project would be suitable.

step 7: Meet to discussion research

Confirm your meeting location, be on time. Be enthusiastic and be interested in what they do; remember what you have read about the professor’s research. Be polite and professional.

Explain why you want to work with this professor, what area(s) of research interest you.

Discuss opportunities and pathways. There are many ways to be involved in student research. Depending on the faculty member’s research and teaching schedule and the students’ circumstances, some options will work better than others.

  1. Volunteer to work with a faculty member on one of their research projects over a few blocks.
  2. In departments that offer these options, take an independent research block or adjunct for academic credit. This typically entails individual study and research under the supervision of a faculty member and is usually limited to juniors and seniors.
  3. Commit to a full summer of research with the faculty and receive a summer stipend.
  4. Complete a thesis or a senior capstone in your senior year.
  5. Work or volunteer for a researcher outside of the college — in a hospital, medical center, research institute, private industry or community-based organization. (CC students with a F-1 or J-1 nonimmigrant visa cannot engage in paid or unpaid off-campus work/ training without the appropriate U.S. immigration authorization and should contact the Office of International Program for more information.) 

step 8 copy

Some students do a summer of research at CC and then pursue a summer research opportunity outside of CC the following year. Some students start with doing research outside CC too. Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the many off-campus opportunities and their deadlines. Visit the Search for Research Opportunities page to see links to outside opportunities.


step 9: Understand work expectations

When you start a research position, a research block, or summer research, listen carefully, ask good questions, and communicate clearly to understand your expectations and those of your faculty mentor.

Who will you be reporting to? What is the ideal frequency and mode of communication and feedback? What will your specific duties be? Who are your collaborators? What are the mileposts for research goals and tasks along the way? Will you need to apply for funding to support the research project? What constitutes a good job and how will you get feedback for improvement?


step10: Present your research

Presenting your research develops your communication skills as you talk about your work to fellow scholars and to the lay audience. It also helps you build a professional network. See the many opportunities for research presentation. Faculty and students may also co-author papers for academic journals, or co-publish/distribute the collaborative academic project in field-specific media and avenues.