What Should I Research?
The answer here is easy – start with what you enjoy, what interests you, and what you would like to learn more about. Research offers the opportunity for you to explore something in depth in a way that is not easy through our quarter system craziness.
What Is Research Like in My Field?
View our videos of faculty talking about research in different fields.
Is a Topic the Same Thing as a Project?
No. Your topic is the world that you are interested in, but your project is what you specifically will study. Therefore, it is necessarily smaller in scope.
Sources for Project Ideas
Search Northwestern Scholars by concept to find faculty who share your interests. Even if you’ve never taken a class with this professor, you can reach out.
Learn about Working with Faculty.
- Browse, Read, and Find a Research Hole to Fill
Check with research librarians. Do regular internet and scholarly searches to learn what people are talking about and what questions are out there needing answers. Trust your gut about what interests you in those conversations, and follow where those leads take you.
How Do I Find a sponsor?
Before you start looking for a sponsor, you should have a project idea in mind. It won't be complete, but you should know enough to look for faculty with research interests relevant to your project.
Start with faculty members that you know: people you have taken classes with, lab directors, advisors, mentors. Tell them what you are interested in, and ask for their insights into the topic as a whole and ideas for potential research projects. As you are talking to people, make sure you are taking notes and that you ask them for reading recommendations. Hopefully in these conversations, one person will emerge as the right one for this project, and you can ask this person to be your advisor.
We offer weekly workshops across the entire academic year to help you navigate this process.
What is the Right Size Project?
This crucial question depends on the time and resources that you have. You want a project you can realistically complete in the time you have available.
Successful projects are not those with the loftiest goals, but those that can be successfully completed. Think carefully about what is feasible, and build from there. Your sponsor/advisor will help you determine the proper scope for this project.
Remember that your first research project does not have to be your last! You can break the overarching project down into several steps and tackle each step as a smaller, self-contained project - perhaps funded by first a Summer URG and then an Academic Year URG.
What is My Methodology?
Your methodology outlines the steps you’ll take in collecting data and how you’ll analyze it. While research often gets adjusted on the fly, successful projects have a clear plan. Work with your sponsor/advisor to figure out the best way to address the research questions you want to answer. As you develop your project, your methodology will depend on the exact nature of the question you want to ask - and the kind of answer you want to get at the end!
You also want to consider the ethics involved in your approach to your project, so definitely review these Principles of Ethical Research.
We’re Here to Help
Facebook Events for Info Sessions and Workshops
What Are Some Projects that Students Have Done?
Check out some examples of student projects from the Social Sciences, Journalism, Humanities, and Creative Arts.
Or get inspired by hearing undergrad researchers talk about their work on our Instagram page, reading through some Sample Proposals, or looking through photos and the program from our Undergrad Research Conference (The Expo)!