Identify Your Research Interests
As an undergraduate student, you are not expected to know exactly what your area of focus will be. Most likely, you are still discovering and developing your interests and that's okay. However, without having some ideas about what you're interested in, you'll quickly find that searching for opportunities can be overwhelming.
Map Out Your Interests
To figure out what your interests are, take some time and write down 3-5 responses to each of these questions:
- What subjects covered in my field(s) of study interest me the most? (do this for each major/minor you have)
- Which class or classes have been the most interesting, what specifically made them interesting, and what questions did I still have after the class finished?
- What questions or problems am I most interested in exploring and/or solving?
- What other topics, areas, or fields am I interested in outside of my major/minor?
- What research topics relate to that field or sector I want to end up in and/or what interests me in that field?
- What (if any) research topics relate to my hobbies, personal interests, or extracurricular activities?
- What skills am I interested in developing which aren't addressed by my major/minor?
Now, look over all of your responses and see if there are any common themes. Did the same topic come up more than once? Are any of the topics closely related or linked? Make a note these to help focus your search for a research opportunity.
Lastly, think a little bit about the things you know you don't want to do or are not interested in and make a note of them, to help you identify opportunities that won't be a good fit.
Think About How You Want To Get Involved
The next thing you'll want to think about is how you might want to get involved in research. Below are some questions to help guide you:
- What kind of experience do you want: do you want to work in a lab or do you want to work in the field?
- Are you ok working on a team as part of a larger research topic/question or do you want to do your own original research?
- Do you want to be part of a big team, do you want to work on a smaller project, or would you prefer to work one-on-one with a faculty member / graduate student?
- Do you want to do research related to your field(s) of study and deepen your understanding / experience or do you want to do research outside your field of study and broaden your understanding / experience?
- With this information, you should have a better idea of what you're looking for which will make searching for and finding a research opportunity a bit easier.
Next, visit our Finding Research Opportunities page to learn about searching for a research opportunity.