Are you interested in doing research?
Research is an exciting process that requires critical thinking and patience. The field of Psychology has a wide variety of research fields that can fit your area of interest. As an undergraduate student, there are many opportunities in the country and abroad to experience doing research in Psychology. Below is a guideline towards preparing, seeking, applying and increasing your chances of participating in an undergraduate research opportunity.
Great, you’re interested! Now what?
Figure out the area of research that is thought-provoking and makes you want to keep exploring. You can start by reading your class notes and textbooks. As you narrow the area of interest, it may be beneficial to use Google Scholar or academic databases to access published research articles. These tools allow you to build a background knowledge of the research done in your area of interest and the path the research is currently headed. Another advantage of research articles is that they connect you to other sources if you explore the article’s citations. Lastly, it helps to talk to professors and fellow students to solidify your understanding of the field of research and how you see yourself as a research in that area.
Skills and Courses to Prepare for an Undergraduate Research Opportunity
Conducting research requires an understanding of the literature, statistics, and methodologies. It is essential to take advantage of the courses offered at Salem College to prepare for undergraduate research and be a competitive applicant. Statistics, research methods and experimental psychology courses are critical to participating in an undergraduate research opportunity. Below are the courses that can strengthen your skills as a researcher in the field of Psychology:
- PSYC 101. Statistics
- PSYC 102. Research Methods in Psychology
- PSYC 220. Test and Measurement
- PSYC 270. History and Systems in Psychology
- Experimental Psychology (PSYC 225, 240 and/or 262)
It is also beneficial to select your major electives according to your research interests.
Research at Salem College
Salem College allows students to conduct their own research through independent studies and honors independent studies. Students interested in participating in undergraduate research opportunities at other academic institutions or under national/regional research programs are strongly encouraged to start by conducting research at Salem College. Students who apply to outside research opportunities are more competitive applicants if they are currently conducting research or have previously conducted research. Additionally, there is an opportunity to work in Dr. Katharine Blackwell’s Child Lab to gain research experience under an ongoing project.
Change can be common when conducting research. It is essential to approach research with an open-mind. Additionally, strong communication and critical thinking skills is critical to your ability to discuss, develop and write scientific research. As an undergraduate student, you are strongly encouraged to practice how to read and write scientific papers, especially those in the Psychology if that is your field of interest. Most importantly, the desire to continue learning is key to conducting research.
An important aspect to keep in mind when applying and working is how you portray your passion and work in your area of interest. In your application, be clear with what your skills are, the work you have done and what you want to continue learning. It is important to know what is motivating you but be conscious of the consequences of disclosing information if it is personal. People reviewing your application would have access to it and it may influence how they view your application and work in the field.
How to Find Undergraduate Research Opportunities Outside Salem College
The APA has up to date information on undergraduate research opportunities in Psychology. The opportunities are in a wide variety of areas in Psychology and locations in the US and abroad. The deadlines, requirements, duration and pay vary by program.
The APA also has tools for improving writing and research skills, community service work, and tools for succeeding as a Psychology student. There are sections dedicated just for undergraduates and they are a fantastic source to build up your application and skills.
The NSF provides opportunities for undergraduate students in many fields of study to participate in research, while developing students’ academic, statistics, and methodological skills. These programs are referred to as REUs or Research Experiences for Undergraduates. Since REUs are for many different fields of study, you must start by selecting your area of interest which directs you to the opportunities in that area. The deadlines, requirements, duration and pay vary by program.
You can search online for the researcher conducting the research you are interested in and see if there are any opportunities to work with them over the summer or for a semester. You may also find other research programs available for undergraduate students but always make sure they are reliable.
What You Can Gain from an Undergraduate Research Opportunity
The list is endless and it varies by program. The most significant gains are in your research critical thinking, reading and writing skills. Undergraduate research opportunities in the summer often last 7-10 weeks and contain ongoing statistics, methods, and area-based classes. The combination of conducting research under a highly productive researcher and intensive classes allow students to build the strong foundations for a career in academic research. These opportunities open doors for students for graduate school, job opportunities, lab work connections, and more.
Angela Sofia Royo Romero, a current student at Salem College, participated in an REU during summer 2018. The REU was at Ohio University and she worked with Dr. Steven W. Evans and Samantha Margherio. The opportunity has opened many doors for Angela as a researcher in the field of Psychology. Angela recently present her research from the REU at ABCT, a national conference, and her poster selected by the ADHD Special Interest Group as the Exceptional Undergraduate Poster. If you are interested in learning more about Angela’s experience in an undergraduate research program, please contact Angela at email@example.com.