Many universities and governments and any other relevant institution recommend that students get involved in research as early as possible. That is why they have come up with summer research volunteering plans for those leaving high school.
These summer research programs require students to apply, and the application deadlines are either January or February, while the programs are always set to kick off from June.
In your application for these summer programs, you need to include an essay and a recommendation letter to help administrators match you to the best research institution when your application gets accepted.
Just to highlight briefly, some of the research programs you'd want to leverage includes:
- The RSI for those students who love mathematics,
- SIMR by Stanford for those students who've got a passion for biomedical sciences
- And students who are interested in political science can find themselves at Baker Institute. That out of the way, let's get to the nitty-gritty of this post - how to research.
Tips On How To Do Research
Ask Yourself Why to Participate in Research
Before you begin any research, you need to ask yourself why you need that particular research. What's your aim with that research? Do you expect a positive or a negative impact? By doing the research, is it going to change anything?
You need to make sure that you understand the three types of research questions before you kick off. What are your descriptive research questions? For example, how many calories do whites take every day?
If you are going with the comparative research questions, ask yourself questions like, what is the difference between people who consume more calories per day and those who don't? Finally, you should ask the causal research questions, such as what is the relationship between single men and single women?
Get the Hang of a Research Methodology
Next, you need to make sure that you have background information on the study you want to take. You can do it by going through various publications, journals, and any other available resources. Additionally, you need to approach scientists to walk you through by helping you to access the most relevant scientific materials.
While it's true that going through research materials may not be easy, especially if you don't have much experience with research, you need to try and go through some concepts and familiarize yourself with them. Going through research articles might help you to decide what research topics can be ideal for you.
You Can't Answer All Questions at Once
It would be best to narrow down your topic to ensure you are not trying to answer all questions at once. Again, reading through different research materials like articles will come in handy. And by the way, you need to be patient at this stage because narrowing down a research question often consumes time.
For some people, it might take quite a long time - up to months. But this should not discourage you. Instead, move at your own pace and make sure you have a research topic to help solve a problem.
Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn. Don't take any questions stupid, especially when you are conducting your research as a group. Ensure all the group members are listening carefully to get the question right and help if you can. That applies to you, too. Be inquisitive and benefit from either your group members or your research professors.
Set discussion meeting days if you are conducting your research in a group. Likewise, make sure you put meetings with your teachers to guide you through.
While it is your responsibility to do the research, your teachers also have to guide you through to make sure you are all on the right track. Make sure you correct any mistakes identified by your teachers.
Don't limit yourself
When conducting your research, you mustn't limit yourself. Plan your activities as usual, and don't start skipping other vital activities. Create a timetable and fit in the additional activities to ensure that you are not leaving anything out and doing the right thing at the right time.
Don't Expect to Improve Your Grades Through Research
While it is essential to research, you don't have to go crazy that it'll completely change your results. Only a few of the exams you will do will test the research skills you will acquire during your research period. For example, statistics are not commonly tested in exams, but it is essential to understand them properly.
Some things Might need Explanation a Couple of Times
Research is probably a new concept to you, and, naturally, you won't grasp some concepts immediately. Your lecturers will have to explain them to you over and over again. Don't put too much pressure on yourself because you failed to understand a concept too fast. It is something natural, and nearly every student will experience this.
To make sure that you grasp every concept, make sure to pay attention to detail when your scientists guide you. Write down some notes to help you remember them easily. Also, watch a couple of videos and go through the notes you wrote when in class to refresh your mind and familiarize yourself with the concepts.
Build a Strong Group
Two heads are better than one - that's for sure. But you also need to make sure that you build a strong army that will make your research work more manageable. Choose the right group members; people who are passionate about research work and those who are serious.
Having a group of serious research group members will save you from the hassle of dragging the project because other members are not taking the work seriously.
Today, there is an imbalance between men and women who conduct research, which is not good. You need to include every gender when conducting research, especially when you are in groups. Start by making sure that men and women get represented 50% each. It will solve the current imbalance we have in the research industry.
Listen for the Soundest Arguments
While basing your decision on the majority vote is a good bet, you should also learn to listen to the minority as they may have the soundest approach for the project. Most importantly, leverage arguments from both sides and decide which is best for the research.
Cultivate Social Interactions in the Group
Like I mentioned before, you need to listen to both the majority and minority votes for successful research. Interact with each member by participating in conversations that aren't related to the Science project to enhance a relaxed atmosphere for each other. It will improve the success of the project and the trust you have for one another.
Additionally, social interactions in the group will help unveil common interests and identify valuable members to add to research projects.
Consistently Communicate with Your Collaborators
Again, communication is the key to the success of any project. Consistently seek guidance from professional scientists regarding the research and keep the conversation going even after finding help.
Most importantly, participate in collaborative meetings to help you stick to the project's objective. That said, a professional collaborator will help enhance your commitments towards the project by pulling you back on track when the zeal drops.
Have a Reasonable Study Question
Choosing a research topic can be downright frustrating, especially when you don't have a professional scientist to walk you through. Meanwhile, you can identify some of the issues that you're best at and leverage your choices. Also, it would be worthwhile to keep your projects simple and avoid unchangeable variables.
Adequately understand the experiment and prove your interest in it. If you intend to carry research based on human characters, make sure you know all their behaviors.
How Will You Collect and Record Data?
Planning and organization are always crucial to anything you do. Failing to plan your research could let it fail in the long run. That is why you need to plan how you will collect, analyze and organize the data you will obtain when researching.
If you will be doing research that relates to anything about human behavior, it is best to use a computer program to collect data. You will need more data when dealing with such kinds of data to reach a research conclusion.
Capture All Data
It is not good to assume any information when researching because you might never know what information will be valuable to give a research conclusion.
That said, you may want to capture as many details as you can to ease your process of making a research conclusion. Leaving out some information might force you to go back and redo the work.
Critically Assess Your Results
You need to be aware of some misinterpretations. So it would be best if you made sure that you critically assess the results you obtained. Additionally, you need to ask yourself whether the results you got are realistic. If you notice or realize any discrepancies, make sure to redo the work and make sure you have realistic results this time around.
Your Results Should Replicate the Previous Results
It doesn't mean that you need to copy another research. It means that you need to make sure that the results you obtain closely relate to other studies that were done in the past. In other words, you need to make your results realistic.
Also, you need to make sure that you have filled the gaps that other recent or past research had. If they didn't tackle something, make sure to capture it in your research.
That means that you must never present anything generic in the name of research. The basis of doing research is to find more solutions to a problem that has existed.
Some people have had success by first experimenting using their questions before they start the actual research. It helps you identify any possible mistakes and make corrections before starting the actual research.
Be Passionate About What You are Doing
Some students have a negative feeling about research work, and that shouldn't be the case. You need to have a positive attitude towards research work and do it at your best.
Don't worry too much about the technicalities and the time investment that comes with it. Ensure you develop a growth mindset and do it with a passion for ensuring you don't fail.
It is good to celebrate every success you earn. That is why you need to have a little fun at the end of your research work. Invite your group members for a small bash. You don't have to spend a lot. You may need a few drinks or meet and congratulate yourself for the successful research work done.
3 Tips For Obtaining Research Experience
Let's face it - Identifying research topics can be a daunting prospect. Outlined below are some of the tips to walk you through the entire process.
Approach professional scientists at a nearby college or university
Usually, a good number of universities have research laboratories with students serving as Research Assistants. Feel free to reach out to any of them for guidance and ask relevant questions based on the project. Or, visit the school's website and conduct an in-depth search on the departments you intend to research.
If you're already enrolled in college, please ask your professors or even lecturers for guidance. Some colleges, however, have put in place research practice courses that let you register in, of course, at an additional fee.
If you encounter challenges in your research process, try consulting with other research lab members as they are more experienced. Most importantly, be confident to express your interests in whichever field. Who knows? You might be creating research opportunities for yourself.
And because college undergraduates tend to be more exposed to research opportunities, many colleges often volunteer to assist high school students with their science projects.
Check out if there are research programs near you
Indeed, opportunities don't exist - you have to create them. But don't take it as plain as there is no opportunity. What I mean is that you need to go out and look for these opportunities.
If you are a high school student residing in New York City, be sure to check out the "New York City Research Mentoring Consortium." It is a program put in place by the American Museum of Natural History and includes many programs students can leverage. And you may also want to check out some programs put in place by the state.
- Hutton Program for High School
- SSP in Astrophysics or BioChemistry
- Della Keats Summer Research Program
- OUR Volunteer Research Program
- High School Research Program
Don't give up
You don't have to fret when one opportunity slips away. The chances are that you will get another chance to take part in research elsewhere.
Check out for more opportunities by inquiring from your teachers if they know of any institutions with research programs. The chances are that your teachers know more and could help to get an opportunity on your behalf.
Also, you can leverage the technology you have at hand - the internet. Make good use of Google and try to research some of the best volunteering research opportunities for high school students, and you will have more than enough chances to choose from. The bottom line here is to keep trying and never lose hope. Rejections are bound to happen, but that's not the end of the world.
Few Things to Keep in Mind When Doing Research
- Find your areas of interest that could lead to a perfect research topic.
- Identify some of the volunteering research institutions.
- Create your cover letter and address it to the head of research at your preferred center.
- Include your resume when applying for a chance at the research institution.
When writing your cover letter, make sure that you have included the following:
- Emphasize that you would like to volunteer without pay.
- Cold emailing is a numbers game, so you have to email as many institutions as possible to increase your chances of getting accepted.
- Follow the 3-7-7 follow-up rule, which states that you need to follow up after three days, then seven days, then after another seven days if you still don't get a response.
If you get accepted into several research institutions, you can consider a few things to help you make a rational decision. These factors include:
- Exciting Project — You need to visit the research institution or connect with the researcher on the phone and describe the research project you would love to work on. Make sure that both of you are comfortable with the research idea before you can accept it. If the researcher looks uncomfortable, then this might not be the best deal for you.
- Interpersonal Dynamic — You also need to visit the research institution and make sure that you are comfortable with every member you will be working with during your research period. Otherwise, your research project won't succeed if you are not comfortable working with members of that research institution.
- Funding and Publication Record — While you can be desperate to land any volunteer research program as a high school student, you need to make sure that the research groups only publish high-quality research work in their journals. It is also essential to make sure that the research institution has the available resources for research work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How prestigious is RSI?
While RSI is reputable, colleges offer this summer program for free. In fact, they enroll students based on their capabilities and accomplishments and not according to fame.
Students who intend to pursue majors in STEM fields are fortunate to participate in comprehensive research and develop a conference-related presentation for their research question.
Q. How hard is it to get into RSI?
Depending on the field of study you intend to major in, the RSI will also vary. While there is no consistency in the acceptance rates, the standard acceptance rate for domestic applicants is five percent.
Because this entire process is challenging, the acceptance rates could drop below five percent. Sadly, some eligible students aren't informed about the RSI application process, forcing them not to apply at all.
Q. How competitive is RSI?
Like I mentioned before, the standard acceptance rate for RSI is five percent or even lower. As such, less than one hundred students are enrolled in the RSI every year, fifty of whom are from the United States.
So yes, admission to RSI is extremely competitive - only the lucky students get the chance to attend. The best part is that RSI offers no tuition fee to attend, and as such, students across all branches of Mathematics and Science can attend the RSI program.
Q. Can you publish without a Ph.D.?
While Ph.D. students are allowed to publish anytime in RSI, it's also possible for non-PhD students to submit papers for publishing. Meanwhile, it would be best if you were a college graduate to acquire the skills of writing such an essay. Ph.D. isn't a necessity in this case.
While choosing the right research question can be a daunting prospect, this ultimate guide will help you leverage your research interests. Just make sure that you have your facts right and choose variables that can be changed and simplified if need be.
Also, participate in productive conversations that aren't science-related to help you garner valuable skills to make your project a success. Being open and listening to each member of the group will help a long way towards the success of the research.
Enhance the trust you have for each other by letting each member's vote count regardless of the size of the group. Who knows? They might have the soundest argument on what's best for the project.
Most importantly, establish connections with renowned scientists and borrow experiences that can add value to your team.
That said, I hope you find this helpful guide and that you're able to implement each of the tips for the success of your research.
All the best in your research process!