Research Project Design Guidelines

Research Project Design Guidelines

Many faculty who are new to Aresty ask questions about the best practices for designing research projects for undergraduates and the process of finding researchers through Aresty. This page will help answer these questions.

What is the scope of a typical Aresty research project?

Aresty projects vary with the field of research. In STEM fields, especially for faculty with research labs, Aresty students assume meaningful roles on lab work, analyze data, attend lab meetings, and conduct literature reviews while learning technical and lab skills. You can read some examples of previous STEM projects and applicant responsibilities in our research project database.

In the Social Sciences, students often assist in primary research, survey design, and data analysis. In the Humanities, many of our research assistants conduct research for course design, conduct archival research, assist in bibliography, and contribute to digitization and multimedia projects. You can browse examples of previous Aresty faculty projects in the Humanities and previous projects in the Social Sciences.

The best projects combine great research opportunities with great mentorship. The Aresty Center prioritizes strong mentoring plans, and all students are expected to have regular contact with their faculty mentors.

How does Aresty help me find student researchers?

Aresty creates a highly-visible, competitive, and structured application process for students to apply to specific research projects. For both the Summer Science program and the Research Assistant program, Aresty advertises research opportunities extensively to undergraduates. In 2013, over 1400 students applied to roughly 250 faculty research projects.

When our student application process opens, students browse research opportunities in our database by key word, department, and subject. Projects with clear titles and descriptions attract the most candidates. Students then submit a personal statement, resume, and transcript for projects that interest them. When your project receives applications, you will receive an automated email from the Aresty Center.

Once the application period closes, professors have roughly three weeks to interview candidates. Our application system allows you to track interviewees. After conducting your interviews, faculty use our system to indicate their preferred candidate as well as any alternates.

What are the best questions to ask when I interview students?

The students you interview will have no shortage of academic merit. However, many will have very limited professional experience. Veteran Aresty faculty say they focus on ensuring that candidates possess the professional behaviors necessary to succeed on a research project—a sense of ownership over results, an understanding of professional courtesy (like calling if they are going to be late), and have thought through how they will balance their other obligations to stay focused on their research.

Ask your candidates qustions that will provide insight into the behaviors that will make them successful on your project. A few questions to ask would be:

· What would you do if you realized there was an error in data or information you had been collecting?

· Tell me about a time when you missed an obligation and how you handled it.

· Tell me about a time you had to navigate competing deadlines.

· What other obligations do you have next year, inside and outside the classroom?

How do finalize my arrangement with my Aresty student?

Once you have indicated your preferred candidate in our system, the Aresty Center matches students to research projects based on both student and faculty preference. Please note that our “matching date” is firm: professors who have not indicated their top choices by then will have to choose from remaining students after matches are processed. The matching date for your program will be listed in the confirmation email you receive when your project is accepted.

On the matching date, students receive an email informing them of their research project. Faculty should then reach out to students to set expectations for when research will begin and create a contract for formalize expectations.

How are the best research projects structured?

Aresty students are expected to have enthusiasm and potential but limited research experience. The best Aresty mentors balance giving their students challenging research problems against the structure necessary to help students make progress. Ideally, students meet with their mentors weekly, or bi-weekly. Each meeting should have clear goals and expectations of demonstrable research progress. In the Humanities and Social Sciences, especially, our mentors report the greatest success when they create discrete assignments for students that move toward a complete project.