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IUCARECompetitive Awards and Research
Undergraduate Research FAQ

1. Where do I start? 

Your first step is to explore what interests you. Keep in mind that it's possible to pursure research topics that interest you even if they do not fit neatly into your major  and you can take an interdisciplinary approach. Based on your interests, a good next step would be viewing the abstracts of fellow undergraduate researchers to get an idea of what is feasible. The Council on Undergraduate Research provides an extensive searchable abstract archive

2. I have an idea of what I want to research. How do I get involved in a research project in my department or school?

Some departments, such as Psychological and Brain Sciences or Chemistry have procedures in place for undergraduates to get involved in research and it's a matter of you taking the initiative so you first want to check to see if your department has similar procedures.

3. What if my department or school doesn't have an undergradudate research program?

It's going to require a little legwork and resourcefulness on your part and this is a great way to get valuable experience creating and designing something yourself. Here are some suggestions for to get you started:  

  • Talk to graduate and undergraduate students who are in research positions and ask them about how they became interested in doing research and what they do.
  • Make an appointment with your academic advisor to discuss the topic you want to research. 

Some options for pursuing individual research projects based on the scope and duration:

  • If you know the topic you want to research and the professor you want as a mentor, you can propose a one-on-one classes created by special arrangement between you and a faculty member. The Department of Biology offers an Individual Study Course (L490) for example. Ask your director of undergraduate studies to see if your department offers something similar.    
  • Check with your department about the possibility of writing an undergraduate thesis during your senior year and graduate with that distinction. In addition to being a good way to learn how to think and write like a researcher, writing a thesis under the guidance of a professor is an ideal way of developing a professional relationship with them. 
  • Indiana University has an Individualized Major Program that gives you the freedom to create a multidisciplinary major that addresses issues and explores topics of your own choosing. The ability to select major courses from Indiana University's many schools and departments puts you in charge of your education in ways that conventional majors don't allow.

4. Is research only in a lab?

Research takes place in a variety of settings such as laboratories, archives, in the “field”, in a studio or theatre, etc.  Where research occurs depends on the discipline, the research question and the methodology being used.  See the list of Research Centers, Institutes and Museums on the IU Bloomington campus for examples of the many ways research is conducted here. 

5. Do you have to be an honors student to do research?

Honors status is not a requirement for research involvement. Requirements will vary from department to department.  

6. Are there prerequisites to doing research?

Sometimes you need relevant experience or course work.  In many cases, you will develop skills as you get involved in the research.  Some majors offer specific courses designed to introduce the student to research and are helpful to beginning undergraduate research. 

7. Can I get credit for doing research?

Yes. You can arrange to get independent study credit (like the Biology course mentioned above) or receive credit for completing a thesis.

8. Is funding available?

There are scholarships, fellowships, and funding sources on our undergraduate research opportunities page. 

9.  What’s the best way to contact a potential faculty mentor?

When possible, you should try and talk with the faculty member with whom you want to work. Prepare for the meeting by familiarizing yourself with the faculty member’s work and considering how your background, experience and/or interests match. In some cases, emails are the best form of communication with a faculty member.  When emailing a professor, be very specific in the subject line (just think of how many emails you receive and how you screen through them).  Show your familiarity with the professor’s work and exactly why you are contacting him or her.  You might need to follow up with a second email. 

10. Are there any special requirements if I am involving human subjects?

Yes, there are federal regulations governing the use of human subjects in research. IU's Office of Research Administration reviews and approves research involving humans via an Institutional Review Board (IRB). It is in your interest to be familiar with IRB procedures and policies if you expect to conduct research that involves (among other activities): observing people, talking to people or gathering data or samples from them. See their schedule of web-based and classroom training sessions to learn more.