How to do Research as an Under Grad
This How to was originally published as The Ultimate UG Research Manual by Scholars'_Avenue
The manual aims to arm the readers with just enough knowledge, so that they can venture out, on their own. Here is what we at The Scholars' Avenue have gathered from a few interviews and online blogs of some already successful UG researchers.
Readers are requested to expand upon the foundation through various external detailed resources
- 1 Exploration:
- 2 Practical Experience:
- 3 Documents Required:
- 4 Crucial skills:
- 5 Effective Communication
- 6 Important Pointers:
- 7 Few Other Online Resources:
Exploration:[edit | edit source]
First comes exploration. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of research and flexibility of branches like Business studies, Software, Machine Learning, Economics, et cetera, you don't need to limit the search to your department. Making a right and informed choice is quite crucial.
Ways to explore:
A simple google: <Branch you interested in> + <Research field>
- Websites of institutes --- IISc, MIT, UCB, Stanford, et cetera.
- Websites of the R&D division of organizations --- Amazon, Intel, Volkswagen, Roche, et cetera.
- Relevant magazines, Newsletters of journals, podcasts, et cetera.
- Communicating with relevant seniors and professors, asking about their field and for resources to explore further.
Start by making a list of fields you find interesting. Keep it as short as possible. You can start by striking off the ones you definitely don't want to work in and further shortening the list by posing questions like "Can I stick with it in the long run?", "Is there any demand today for this?".
It may sometimes occur that a particular field in the list captivates you too much, even discouraging you from exploring further. Before deciding to settle down with it, do give serious thought to the long-term commitments.
Practical Experience:[edit | edit source]
After making your list, it is time to get the feel of various fields. The best way is to dirty your hands through hands-on projects.
This stage answers critical questions like:
- Whether you want to build a career in research?
- If yes, then in which field?
- Whether you prefer working in academia or industry?
- And many more.
This stage is a cocktail of emotions like excitement, confusion, et cetera, and provides you with skills and lessons that are later useful, down the path of your career.
Before we dive right into how to secure a project, let us go through the prerequisites.
Documents Required:[edit | edit source]
This section briefly explains the documents that are usually necessary to complete your application. Since this is not a complete guide, I request readers to refer external material before drafting any document:
Curriculum Vitae (CV)[edit | edit source]
- Curriculum vitae is an in-depth account of your academic and professional journey. Prevalent in academic circles.
- It has detailed information about your education, work experience, research, publications, et cetera.
- CVs are lengthy, 2--8 pages depending upon your academic background and experience.
Resume[edit | edit source]
- A resume is a summary of your professional background, and the emphasis is on your work experience. Prevalent in the job industry.
- It provides an overview of your professional qualifications, including relevant work experience, skills, education, and notable accomplishments.
- Resumes are short, 1--2 pages. They need to be tailored appropriately for different positions.
Academic-Transcript[edit | edit source]
- An academic transcript is a formal-detailed record of all the subjects you studied in University with your scores in the form of grades.
- An official transcript is required unless mentioned otherwise.
- Refer Kgp-Fundae on Facebook for steps to obtain one.
Documents such as LOR, SOP, Cover letter are required when applying for certain research programs or if the professor asks for after establishing initial contact.
Letter of Recommendation (LOR)[edit | edit source]
- A letter of recommendation is a letter written by someone who can recommend and vouch for your work or academic performance.
- Appropriate personnel, such as professors, previous employers are usual recommenders and should draft LORs.
Cover Letter[edit | edit source]
- A cover letter is like a sales pitch on selling yourself, as to, why you are a good match for the position.
- It should provide new insight, convey your personality, and not repeat information already on your CV/Resume.
- It is one page long and should be unique. It also has to be tailored appropriately for every position you apply to.
Statement of Purpose (SOP)[edit | edit source]
- Statement of Purpose/Personal Statement/Admission Essay/Application Essay is an essay that conveys to the hiring committee your personality, character, dreams/goals, the reason to select you, et cetera.
- It provides you with a chance to prove why you are unique, what makes you stand out from the crowd and not be assessed solely based on academics.
- While drafting and making a point incorporate real examples to make your case stronger.
- Unless specified otherwise, the word limit is around 1000 words.
Crucial skills:[edit | edit source]
There are few skills apart from CV/resume/academic-achievements, that play a vital role and are an absolute necessity when it comes to research:
Email etiquettes[edit | edit source]
- As astonishing as it may sound, quite often the content of your email decides whether the receiver clicks 'Reply' or 'Delete'.
- Always prefer using your academic mail instead of the personal one.
- Certain etiquettes and guidelines exist that are necessary while writing emails. Since this is not an Email-101 course, further elaboration has been avoided.
- In short, your email should follow a particular format, be grammatically correct, polite, easy to understand and portray your dedication.
- Develop a habit of proof-reading at least twice before clicking send.
Googling Stuff[edit | edit source]
- Yeah, you read it right, Googling is a very critical skill. It may not sound too cool to be included on a CV/Resume, but a good Googling skill makes your life a lot easier.
- More resources, content and tools become available within your reach.
- Though practice is the primary way to get better at this skill, there are a few tips to accelerate your proficiency. Use keywords, Omit unnecessary details and Keep things as short as possible.
Effective Communication[edit | edit source]
- Good communication is an essential social skill that allows you to put forward your ideas, passion and thoughts across, in a very effective manner.
- It helps in building connections, extracting information and leaves a good impression when you talk like you know what you are talking about.
I am an undergrad. Where on earth do I search for a Project?
1. A project under a Professor[edit | edit source]
What does it mean?
- Bagging a project which is supervised by a professor.
- Professors, in general, have research groups/labs, where their PhD students work under them.
- The professor need not be in your department and even the same institute. They can belong to a foreign one too.
- Browse through the faculty/lab directory of an institute and zero in on the results matching your field list.
- Go through their websites and confirm that your interests are similar to that of the professor/lab.
- Continue your investigation by reading their research papers.
- Reading a research paper provides you with a better idea about the work of the professor.
- You are not alone; research papers do look very daunting for a beginner.
- More often than not, you won't be able to comprehend it completely. The professor knows that. Don't worry.
- Nonetheless, read whatever you can. It shows your commitment and enthusiasm when you later mention it to the professor.
- Finally, draft a nice email expressing your desire to work with him/her.
2. A project through a research program[edit | edit source]
What does it mean?
- Undertaking a project through an official research program of a university, corporation and even governments.
- Few Examples: SRFP, MITACS, DAAD-WISE (Non-Exhaustive)
- Foreign Training Program by IR Cell, IIT Kharagpur is a portal which provides an opportunity for undergraduates to apply for a foreign internship.
- Go to the website, and browse through the directory of field/projects/labs.
- Check the eligibility details, schedule and the documents required: Usually CV, Transcript, 1--3 LORs, Cover Letter/SOP.
- Shortlist your field/project/lab based upon the list you made.
- Gather relevant details and use it to draft the document that explains and justifies your choices.
- Apply through the portal, fill up the details necessary, and upload the documents.
3. A project through SRIC: (for KGP students)[edit | edit source]
What does it mean?
- The Sponsored Research & Industrial Consultancy (SRIC) Cell of IIT Kharagpur is a hub for the sponsored research activities at the institute and plays a crucial role in the initiation of new research activities.
- In association with SRIC, the UG Research Portal is an initiative to foster research culture and tap the highly talented pool of the undergraduates.
- Professors float projects with necessary details through the portal.
- Students are required to submit their CV and other documents.
- Official Link (Directly from SRIC website): [http://www.ttg-sric.iitkgp.ac.in www.ttg-sric.iitkgp.ac.in]
- The link was not working at the time of writing this article. I advise readers to visit the official website and check it out themselves. *
4. Self-Project[edit | edit source]
What does it mean?
- Projects are undertaken by you, not under the supervision of any professor.
- They help in understanding and exploring the field further.
- It allows you to implement what you learn and improve your skill set.
- Innovative projects add value to CV/Resume and portray your desire to learn.
How to approach?
- Search online for blogs, forums and communities relevant to the field.
- Interact with seniors and professors associated with that field.
- Let your creativity run wild. Ask all the questions you can imagine and come up with a suitable problem statement.
Important Pointers:[edit | edit source]
- Devote a considerable amount of time in drafting emails, cover letters, CV, et cetera.
- Your documents shouldn't be generic and copy-pasted from other sources, instead modify them according to the position you are applying.
- Refer samples and actual examples on the internet to get an idea of the difference between great and horrible content.
- Professors have a busy schedule and communicate primarily through emails.
- In case you don't hear back from him/her, gauge the situation before sending a follow-up email.
- Obtaining LOR
- The first source should be professors/other-academic-personnel with whom you have worked earlier and are familiar with your work.
- Then professors in whose course you have got an EX.
- If you are on good terms with a certain professor, you can approach him/her also.
- As demotivating as it may sound, talent is not enough. Its validity applies not just to research but also to any other aspect of life.
- Right connections can provide you with the right resources, guidance, opportunities and platforms to showcase your talent.
- Making good connections is in itself a talent, and sometimes that is all that makes the difference.
- Generally, national labs (Like CSIR, DRDO, ISRO) don't have research programs as such, but with the right connections, you can even approach them for projects.
- Keep a close eye on social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook as professors, institutes and organizations often use these platforms to
- Showcase their research work --- publications, discoveries.
- Announce conferences webinars, symposiums, et cetera.
- Put out a notice for research opportunities.
- Never shy away from approaching and talking to different people. Especially, seniors and alumnus
- Their experiences are insightful and very valuable.
- They can provide a rich pool of resources.
- They can solve your queries, doubts, help with the process, et cetera.
- Moreover, they can tell you more about their respective fields and sometimes even provide an opportunity to work with them.
- Attend conferences, webinars, symposiums, et cetera of different research personnel.
- It may give you an idea of their field in general, their work and the person himself.
- During breaks, you even get an opportunity to interact personally, which can sometimes make a lifetime of difference.
Few Other Online Resources:[edit | edit source]
- A student's guide to undergraduate research (nature.com)
- How to write an email/application for a short-term or summer research internship/project? | Theoretical Ecology and Evolution Laboratory (wordpress.com)
- Off-Campus Corporate Internpedia.pdf --- Google Drive
- International Relations | IIT Kharagpur (iitkgp.ac.in)
- FT Guide.pdf --- Google Drive
- College Application Advice | Grad School Personal Statement Help | EssayEdge
- How to write an email to your Instructor or TA? | phdcomics.com