How to Pursue an Independent Academic Project in College?

How to Pursue an Independent Academic Project in College

How to Pursue an Independent Academic Project in College?

Pursuing an Independent Research Project in College

Has one of the courses you have taken left you wondering about an issue that wasn’t satisfactorily explained by your professor? Do you have a particular interest in a specific writer, artist, historic event, or scientific concept? Perhaps you have been helping with your professor’s project, and your work in the lab led you to a novel idea? All these are good reasons to pursue an independent research project. In this article, we will tell you how to best go about it.

Consider both Topics and Disciplines

Most students decide to write an independent paper after they stumble upon an interesting topic to research. However, it is just as important to identify the discipline you are going to use. The thing is, you can investigate most topics through the lenses of multiple different disciplines, with each of them offering you a unique perspective. For example, you may be considering writing about the tourism industry. The most obvious choice of discipline would probably be management or business administration; however, it is not the only choice – not by a long shot. You can study most tourism research paper topics through multiple other prisms. For example:

  • History (the history of the tourism industry or its state during a particular historical period);
  • Ecology (the influence of tourism on ecological conditions around the world, biodiversity, etc.);
  • Social Studies (the influence of tourism on socioeconomic conditions in particular regions and around the world).

Look for a Mentor As Early as Possible

Depending on the policy of your particular university, you may or may not need the guidance of a faculty member to pursue an independent project. For example, in most cases, you are going to need it if you want to apply for funding or are working on an honors thesis. However, even if your project formally does not need a mentor, it can still benefit from one.

Students often believe that they can only start looking for a mentor after they have a complete, fully-formulated idea for a paper. Not only is it a wrong assumption, but also an extremely harmful one for the success of your project. Most faculty members have completed multiple projects of their own and helped students with their work before. If you talk to them at a formative stage of your project, they can help you shape it in a way that will allow you to best use your skills and explore the potential of the topic. They can warn you about potential mistakes, saving you a lot of wasted time and effort.

Consider talking to a number of different faculty members and asking for their advice before you decide which one of them to ask for specific assistance.

Take Relevant Courses

If you ever intend to work on your own research project, it is always a good idea to start planning ahead for it. One of the things you should consider doing is taking a few courses that are relevant to your future project and preparing you to work on it. It is even more important if you are going to apply for funding – having a couple of courses related to your chosen topic and methodology will dramatically improve your chances of succeeding. Finally, it can help you find and establish relationships with potential mentors. How to choose which courses to take? Start by talking to your Academic Advisor and some faculty members and follow what they say to you.

Start Giving Your Ideas Specific Shape Early On

The sooner you start putting your ideas into writing, the better. It will help you formulate the topic of your project and give it direction early on, without wasting a lot of time. You may find out that the topic you have chosen originally is much harder to develop than you initially thought, prompting you to modify it to better suit your situation. What exactly should you do? Start with creating a one-page project plan or a project proposal. It will help you better understand what you intend to do while preparing something specific you will be able to show to potential mentors among the faculty members.

Think about Applying for Funding

Depending on the college you attend, you may have smaller or greater chances of successfully getting funding for your project. However, you should be ready to deal with some stiff competition – people who seriously think about applying for undergraduate research grants usually start preparing many months ahead of time, and you should do the same if you hope to succeed. As a first step, consider talking to your Academic Advisor to find out more about the available grants and their respective requirements.

While pursuing your own independent research project may seem like a tough call, especially if you already feel overwhelmed by the college curriculum, it is totally doable and can become a source of extremely valuable experience. 

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How to Pursue an Independent Academic Project in College?

How to Pursue an Independent Academic Project in College?

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