Guide to Undergraduate Summer Research

Presented at the C3 Summit 2015, November 14, Bates College

Conducting research as an undergraduate gives you the chance to apply what you’ve learned, challenge yourself, work independently, and contribute to new knowledge. Summer research, in which you work full-time on a project, also lets you experience the life of a scholar, which is especially important if you are considering graduate study.

The C3 Undergraduate Fellowship Program is one of many programs that offer summer research opportunities for undergraduate students. This guide lists some of the questions to consider, as well as programs in addition to C3’s Undergraduate Fellowships for which you may be eligible.

Thinking about research? Consider these questions:

  • Why do you want to undertake research? How does summer research relate to your undergraduate academic program? Your post-graduate plans?
  • What type of research do you want to undertake? Do you want to work with another scholar as their research assistant? Do you want to develop and undertake your own research project? Do you have the research skills and academic preparation for the project? What do you hope to gain?
  • What is your research question?
  • Where is the best place to undertake your research? At your home institution? At another university? At a different type of research institution such as a think tank or a museum?
  • Who is the best person to serve as a research advisor, and how can you line that up?
  • How much will your research cost? What do you need? Do you need to be paid so you will not need to take another job? Do you need money for travel, supplies, texts, data sets, equipment, or subject reimbursement?
  • How can you secure funding for your project? Is funding available through your home institution’s undergraduate research office, community engagement office, of career development office? Can you secure support through a faculty member’s grant? Through an outside funding program?

Advising and financial support for your research

  • Okay, you’ve answered all these questions and you are ready to move forward. Time is essential: Give yourself as much time as possible to develop be best possible proposal.
  • Consult with a faculty member about your project, both its design and avenues for funding. Take advantage of advising your college may offer through undergraduate research office.
  • Secure a research advisor who is willing to work with you. Each research mentoring relationship is different, so student and advisor need to have a clear understanding of the role played by the advisor as well as the advisor’s expectations for the student researcher.
  • Develop a project with specific research questions grounded in solid methodology and understanding existing scholarship on the topic.
  • Be mindful of research ethics and your responsibilities as a researcher. Take a research ethics training course (available online or through your college). Does your research involve human subjects? Understand your Institutional Review Board requirements.
  • Find funding. Study funding opportunities (like C3’s Undergraduate Fellowships) and make sure the goals of the funder align with your research goals.
  • Prepare a proposal for funding that is clear and well written, with a defined scope of research (don’t undertake a project in one summer that really requires a Ph.D. dissertation!), a feasible plan, a timetable, and your understanding of the existing scholarship. Have your essay reviewed by your advisor or your writing center.
  • Do not leave your request for a faculty letter of recommendation or a transcript until the last minute.
  • Make sure you’ve clearly understood the funding program’s application requirements. Submit everything that is required but don’t add superfluous materials. Observe page limits and make the deadline!

Summer research opportunities on university campuses

To maximize you chances and choice in getting a summer research experience, apply to as many relevant summer research programs as possible.

This is a non-exhaustive list. Please help us keep this list up-to-date by reporting errors, missing links, and programs that are not listed, by using the Contact Us page.

* Denotes programs where you can apply as a C3 Undergraduate Fellow

> Program description
> Who can apply?
> How can I apply?
> Guide to undergraduate summer research

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