How do you learn what research is and how to do it? Team up with the Stanford's community of scholars - the faculty, postdocs, grad students, and fellow undergraduate researchers!
What Project is Right for You?
For some disciplines, you learn best by joining a lab directed by a faculty mentor with a senior researcher (usually a postdoc or grad student) supervising your work and teaching you important lab skills. Over time as you learn more about the field and the methodology, you will have greater responsibility in the lab, perhaps eventually designing your own project or experiment to contribute to the faculty mentor's research vision. In other fields, you learn by partnering with a smaller group, or just a faculty mentor, who will coach you through techniques and the current state of your field's scholarship with suggested readings and regular one-on-one meetings. The best way to learn what scholarship looks like in your field is to connect with a faculty mentor who shares your research interests and can help you assemble your research toolbox. An important first step is to ask yourself what sort of project is right for you?
Research in the humanities raises questions about the meaning and possibilities of the human experience. You could engage in examining texts, interpreting works of music or art, or investigating language and cultural practices.
Creative projects draw on your artistic or design skills - such as choreographing a dance, writing a play, or rethinking the design of a common product. Your creative process begins with an idea and involves examining existing works and scholarship that inform this idea, and prototyping or workshopping with fellow students and mentors to refine your end product.
Research in the social sciences uses a wide range of methods - such as database searches, statistical analysis, experiments, interviewing people - to study society, human behavior, and how groups of people relate. It is helpful to take classes that introduce you to specific methods when you consider the best approach to conduct your research.
Research in the sciences and engineering involves teams. You will be joining a lab or work group and will be mentored by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, as well as with your faculty mentor. Depending on the needs of the project, you may begin by learning basic skills from your mentors or be expected to have some background and contribute to the project at a higher level. Other undergraduates in the same group are also great resources for sharing ideas.
At Stanford, we use the term "Senior Synthesis Project" to refer to a senior capstone project that does not readily fall within the category of a research or creative arts project. A senior synthesis project draws on your first three years of undergraduate experience, focusing on your academic work but perhaps also integrating your other interests. This is a capstone project that you envision will complement, build upon, or react to those recent experiences
Where Research Happens
You can explore what faculty and students are working on all over campus: in departments, research centers, and interdisciplinary institutes. You can also meet undergraduates who are presenting the results of their research endeavors at the twice-yearly Symposium of Undergraduate Research and Public Service.