When you begin your research project is up to you. When a research question begins to grow and the literature in the field does not provide a satisfactory answer to your question, the time has come to begin research.
Student projects range widely in field and depth. From marketing to English, and from microbiology to philosophy, students can choose what best suits their interests. While there is great flexibility in topic areas, the beginning researcher needs to decide which of the two main types of research opportunities to pursue:
Participating in an existing faculty project
Many students, particularly first- and second-year undergraduates in the sciences, begin by working under the direction of a faculty member as part of a research team consisting of experienced undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars. This type of project is particularly helpful for students learning the basics of doing research, building a strong foundation of basic knowledge in the field, and investigating possible approaches to conducting independent research.
Developing an independent research project
Undergraduate students at any level may opt to dive right into their own independent project. This type of project might grow out of a student’s work as part of a professor’s research team, or it might be in an area in which a student has particular expertise or experience. Developing a project on one’s own is both challenging and invigorating, permitting students to branch out in new directions that have been underexplored, or blazing a path in an entirely new scholarly direction.
What both types of projects have in common is the need for a Faculty Mentor who can guide the student in developing a research question, creating a proposal, and successfully conducting the research project and presenting the results.
CURF exists precisely to help you decide which direction best meets your needs. CURF advisors are available for brainstorming, help in formulating ideas, and identifying faculty mentors. There are countless opportunities at Penn, and CURF can help you take advantage of them.