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First Steps and General Advice

Beginning the research process seems like a daunting task. Because research can encompass so much, there isn’t necessarily a “right” way to go about doing it. It depends on what field you want to research, how much time you want to commit, and other factors. That being said, there are some commonalities to how to begin looking for research regardless of discipline. We asked some current Vanderbilt students for their advice on how to begin doing research that would help anyone looking for research opportunities in any one of Vanderbilt’s schools or department. Here is what they recommend:

  • Go to office hours, especially with your TA. Both undergraduate and graduate TAs can help connect you with a project that fits your interests and learning style.
  • Search for scholarly articles written by professors at Vanderbilt and seek out professors who have written on topics that interest you. Read professors’ online biographies to find out more about their backgrounds and current research.
  • Talk to your VUceptor, your faculty VUceptor, your Commons Head of House, or your academic adviser. Even if they are not in a similar department to the one you are interested in, they probably know someone who is.
  • Schedule a meeting at CASPAR or the Career Center to set long term goals and figure out what research department would be of greatest interest to you.
  • If you are a student interested in research in the College of Arts and Science, go to the Academic Resources page, and if you are a student interested in research in the School of Engineering, go to the Undergraduate Research Guide.
  • Take courses that are designed to prepare you for research.
  • Send out personal emails to professors you would like to meet with, even if you have not taken a class with them before. If you can, reference a former student who recommended them.
  • Even if you do not have previous experience, show professors that you are prepared by citing relevant classwork and demonstrating enthusiasm and responsibility.
  • Be honest about your availability. Research can be a substantial time commitment, so be sure to take your academic and extracurricular activities into consideration.