Research Assistant Peer Group Syallabus

Meeting of the Minds: The Social and Professional Context of Research

Rationale for the Aresty Peer Discussion Groups

The Aresty Center’s peer discussion groups focus on helping students master the social and professional contexts of research. Research is fundamentally a social endeavor. To find mentors, build relationships, and form partnerships, researchers must continuously cultivate their professional and ethical intelligence to become excellent teammates, colleagues and collaborators. Similarly, while many researchers operate in the relative seclusion of archives and laboratories, discoveries can have no impact on their fields or society more generally until they enter intellectual discourse. Only through effective communication to diverse audiences—through discussions, writing, and presentations—can discoveries be tested, accepted, and incorporated into our collective knowledge.

Learning goals

Through their peer discussion groups, students should:

  • Develop problem-solving skills in research environments.
  • Learn to communicate research to diverse audiences.
  • Build confidence in the social environment of research.

Peer Discussion Group Policies and Expectations

Group meetings and assignments are a major component of our program, as they connect students with a strong intellectual community and provide structure to their research experiences. Attendance and participation in the peer discussion groups and is mandatory for all research assistants. Repeated lateness or absences will result in dismissal from the Aresty RA program.

Questions, concerns, and guidance:

Your peer instructor is an experienced undergraduate researcher and a valuable resource for navigating research settings and communication challenges. Ms. Tamiah Brevard is available to discuss research-related issues, graduate school, and general advising by appointment. For scheduling conflicts or other programmatic questions, consult with the Aresty Center’s senior program coordinator, Ms. Chandni Pathak.

2018-2019 Syllabus

Meeting Group Schedule and Topics 

All students must complete the entrance survey before September 21st.


Meeting 1: Introduction to Scholarly Communication: Groups will discuss expectations for the RA program, gain familiarity with posters, and develop a plan for the year.

Project plans are due to the Aresty Center by the end of September.


Meeting 2: Can vs. Should: RAs will collaborate on case study exercises on the role of research in society and how we value different types of knowledge.

Meeting 3: Team-building: Peer instructors, with input from their groups, should decide upon an accessible meeting activity beyond Aresty’s walls.


Meeting 4: Communicating your Research: Each peer group will watch brief video presentations of research and discuss how to effectively share research with diverse audiences.

Meeting 5: Lightning Presentations: Each RA presents for 120 seconds on his or her research project. The group should provide feedback on each presentation.


RA Evaluations from professors due December 1, 2018.

No formal meetings. Advising and check-ins on research by appointment.


Winter Break – All RAs should discuss research expectations during the break with their faculty mentors. For RAs not doing research during the break, make sure you and your mentor have a plan for restarting research in late January.


Meeting 1: Creating effective abstracts and posters: RAs should begin thinking about their poster layout and gain insight into good abstract-writing practices and leave with the confidence to draft an abstract for their research project.

Meeting 2: Abstract workshop: All RAs should leave this meeting with useful feedback on improving their abstracts and submitting them by the deadline.


Final abstracts are due for official submission for Symposium on March 1, 2019.

Meeting 3: Creating powerful research images: What makes an effective presentation of research? This meeting should help RAs design and describe a key image (graph, chart, picture, etc.) that will be central to their poster.

Meeting 4: Peer-editing posters: To prepare for the Symposium, all RAs should bring drafts of their posters to this meeting for peer editing.


All posters to be printed through the Aresty Center are due April 10, 2019.

Meeting 5: Symposium Dress Rehearsal: In the final meeting, RAs should rehearse their poster presentations. RAs should also have a clear understanding of Symposium logistics.

All RAs participate in the 15th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 26, 2019.