The most important ingredient in a successful research project is the passion of the researcher: what is it that makes YOU want to learn more?
Before you find a specific research opportunity, use your early semesters at Washington University to explore your interests and learn about different approaches to knowledge.
Take some time to think about what it is about a particular field or a burning question that interests you. Some students come to Washington University with a clear idea of what they want to study and what they want to do after earning their degree. Many students wait until the very last moment to declare a major. Most students fall somewhere in between. No matter where you are on this spectrum, the Office of Undergraduate Research can start you on a path to finding a research opportunity in a field that interests you.
Find Your Discipline:
Different academic fields pursue research with different methodologies, in different environments, and toward different ends. Some projects may cross disciplinary boundaries. To learn more about what research looks like in different areas, click on the links below:
[Note: The following pages are generalizations that do not fully capture the diversity of academic disciplines. Use them to explore your interests and plan your route into research, but remember that every path and project is unique.]
- Wanda Savala, Class of 2011
Develop Your Topic:
The Washington University Libraries have a thorough online guide on conducting research, as well as research guides for specific subject areas, offering research assistance, subject guides, and useful resources compiled by your friendly Wash U librarians.
Faculty and staff in your department (a favorite instructor, the director of undergraduate studies, your advisor) or anyone else in your field will have lots of ideas about new areas of research and current opportunities. Upperclassmen in your dorm, fraternity or sorority can also be a good source of information.
Arts & Sciences hosts a weekly podcast exploring the many ways that researchers tackle issues affecting individuals, societies, and our worldwide community. Hold That Thought provides glimpses of the work currently being carried out at Wash U that could serve as inspiration for undergraduate researchers.
If you have not yet declared a major, never fear! Take time to talk to fellow students, teaching assistants and faculty in more than one discipline to gain a full understanding of what research in their field is all about. You never know where your interests may take you as you move through your studies.
Spend a semester having informational interviews, making connections, and gathering information. That way, when you're ready to begin looking for a mentor and planning a research project, you'll know what you're talking about.
Come to OUR events such as the Undergraduate Research Symposium and meet faculty and student researchers in all disciplines.
The Office of Undergraduate Research can help point you in the right direction. Schedule an appointment to come talk with us!
Once you have established your field of interest and possibly a couple of ideas about research topics, you're ready to start looking for a Wash U faculty member to serve as your mentor.