Design a Project

Research Project Design Guidelines

Many of our new faculty have questions about designing and managing an effective research project for undergraduates. This page is intended to help answer those questions. Review the information below to learn about:

  • the scope of a typical Aresty research project
  • how we help you find students
  • what questions to ask during your interviews
  • formalizing your relationship with your researcher
  • creating a project and structure for your student that will work well.

When you're ready, submitting a project is easy--our database is open now for you to create a new project or replicate an existing one.

What is the scope of a typical Aresty research project?

The Aresty Center supports projects in all fields, but the structure of projects varies 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 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.

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 2017, over 1200 students applied to roughly 300 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.

Application and Interview Process: The application deadline for students to apply to research projects is April 15th. Students can apply to up to three projects. On April 16th, professors should begin to review applications and schedule brief interviews with finalists. On your project page ( please indicate who you have interviewed and rank your finalists. At the end of April, the Aresty Center will begin matching finalists to projects for next year. Students will have one week to confirm their acceptance.

Student eligibility for the RA program: The RA program is intended to help students gain access to their first authentic research experiences. Any student without significant research experience in the field of the Aresty project is eligible. We strongly encourage professors to consider the whole applicant (not just GPA) and are especially supportive of faculty who engage with students from traditionally underrepresented groups in their research. Students with previous experience, or who are already in a research environment, are best served through our Research Fellowship program.

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 questions 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 I 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.