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Research Opportunities

The Department of Political Science provides many opportunities for undergraduate students to be involved in research outside the classroom. Students gain valuable skills, experiences, and insights by conducting research in collaboration with faculty mentors, graduate students, post-doctoral students, and members of our research staff. 

Students who have engaged in extracurricular research in the department of political science have traveled to present research at meetings of professional political science associations, developed research papers used for writing samples and publication, and gained experiences and skills that they have transferred into advanced educational programs and careers. 

Below are some of the opportunities available to students interested in course credit or extracurricular research experiences. Students may need prior coursework or skill sets (e.g., languages), and should discuss that with faculty responsible for each particular experience; students can find information by following the links below. Many of these experiences can be connected to the Vanderbilt Immersion Research Pathway:

Research labs and programs

Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI) — As a center devoted to studying the performance of political institutions, CSDI aspires to advance our understanding of the impact of political institutions in democracies and provide insights relevant for understanding real world politics. CSDI has supported undergraduate students in several ways, including summer reading groups and research-based internships, working as research assistants, small grants for independent studies, and resources for students to present their independent research at national conferences. More information is available at:

Center for Effective Lawmaking — In collaboration with scholars at the University of Virginia, the Center for Effective Lawmaking works to advance the generation, communication, and use of new knowledge about the effectiveness of legislators and legislative processes in the United States. Research Assistants work in paid positions to collaborate in various ways towards these objectives. More information is available at:

LAPOP — As a center for excellence in international survey research, the LAPOP team designs, oversees, and analyzes public opinion surveys on a wide range of issues, including crime and security, corruption, democracy, and civic engagement. Research Assistants contribute to these efforts in paid positions. Research Fellows assist in the lab, and also complete a course of study and an independent research project. More information is available at:

RIPS  A physical lab supported by a community of scholars investigating topics in political psychology, public opinion, and political behavior, RIPS is the experimental research program in the department of political science. Research Assistants work in paid positions to contribute to the laboratory studies conducted each semester. More information is available at:

ROCCA Lab — The undergraduate Research on Conflict and Collective Action Lab brings together undergraduates from any major to do collaborative research with political science faculty working in the areas of international or domestic conflict and collective action. The lab supports many projects in a given semester, and undergraduate researchers work in teams to do a variety of research tasks from literature review to data analysis and content writing. Students have the opportunity to advance in the lab to positions of leadership and develop their own research projects, either for the Immersion Research Pathway or their own educational or career goals. More information is available at:

Research assistantships

In addition to the above opportunities, many of our faculty hire undergraduate research assistants to work on political science research projects. Students with particular research interests and skills are encouraged to inquire about these opportunities by contacting individual faculty members.

Directed studies and independent research

With faculty sponsorship, students may sign up for directed studies and independent research for course credit. These courses permit students the opportunity to design individual learning plans, dive deep into a particular topic, and/or conduct their own studies. More information is available at:

Honors theses

Students participating in the department of political science honors program develop an honors thesis under the guidance of a faculty advisor and two other committee members. More information is available at:


The Vanderbilt University Summer Research Program (VUSRP) supports students seeking to engage in full-time research in collaboration with a faculty mentor over the summer. Students apply early in the spring semester. In advance of that deadline, students should discuss their interests and ideas with faculty members whose research portfolios are a match and identify a faculty sponsor. More information is available at: