Skip to content

CAFLS Advantage

Getting Started with Research

Do I need to know exactly what I want to research?

You don’t!

Most students work directly on an existing faculty project or develop an idea tied to an existing faculty project. This means there is no pressure for you to come up with your own idea. Undergraduate students conduct research with a faculty research mentor.

It is helpful to have an idea of areas of research that might interest you. You can use the following prompts to help you brainstorm.

  • What courses have I taken that I really enjoyed? What did I enjoy about them?
  • What topics draw my curiosity?
  • What is a problem, issue, or concern that I often think about?
  • What are my plans and goals for the future? How do I see research complementing these goals?

What is a faculty research mentor?

A faculty research mentor assists in the development of a project idea and plan. They help you understand how to conduct research and scholarship in your field as well as guide and train you in the skills and techniques needed to complete a project.

How do I find a faculty research mentor?

There are several ways to find a faculty mentor! Here are some ideas to help you get started.

  • Your favorite classes can make a great starting point for identifying professors that are doing research that interests you, so make sure to inquire about their work during the course!
  • Talk to your current or past professors after class or during office hours. Do they have any opportunities or know other faculty who might?
  • Look at the webpage for departments that you may have an interest in and the individual faculty member pages. They will often have descriptions of their research, or links to webpages with information about their research.
  • Ask peers about their professors or research mentors.
  • Search existing Creative Inquiry projects. Creative Inquiry is not the only way to conduct undergraduate research, but it can be a great place to start.
  • Use library resources to look up recent articles written by faculty to determine if the research they are doing is of interest to you.

How do I contact the Professor?

Once you have found a professor you would like to work with, you will need to set up a meeting to discuss the possibility of doing research with them. Send an initial email from your Clemson email address to request a meeting. See the Contacting a Faculty Research Mentor guide for more information about how to write this email. Be sure to attach a copy of your Curriculum Vitae (CV) or resume.

The goal of the email is to set up a meeting to discuss. Keep it brief. Don’t try to cover all the information or questions via email. Give them some time to read and respond to the email but be sure to follow up with them if it has been a week or two.

How do I prepare for the meeting?

Once you have set up an appointment with the professor, do your homework! Prepare questions and possible conversation topics in advance. For example:

  • 2-3 questions to learn more about their research.
  • Your goals (i.e., learning more about the topic, research methods, instrumentation, going to graduate school, etc.) and how you hope the research will help you achieve them.
  • Questions about time commitments for possible research, expectations of the research mentor, and the professor’s mentoring style and methods.

Make sure to be on time and take a copy of your CV or resume to share.

Is there research for credit opportunities in CAFLS?

Yes! All of the departments in CAFLS offer undergraduate research opportunities through directed research or creative inquiry courses. Speak to your adviser to learn more about these options and where they might fit into your degree plan.

Is there funding for research in CAFLS?

CAFLS students have the opportunity to apply for funding for undergraduate research through the Undergraduate Research Initiative.  Students will then participate in our research symposium with a presentation of their research.  This is excellent practice in public speaking and great preparation for graduate school or any career where problem-solving and communication skills are important.

Are there opportunities to publish or present undergraduate research?

The CAFLS Undergraduate Research Initiative is a great opportunity to present your undergraduate research. Your faculty research mentor can also provide information about opportunities for field-specific publications and presentations.

Additionally, the Office of Creative Inquiry and Undergraduate Research hosts the Clemson Student Research Forum each April. The forum is open to all students. The Student Opportunity Center is a free database platform available to all Clemson students to provide access to more than 10,000 presentation, publishing, internships, and funding opportunities.