How Do I Start?
To begin your independent scholarly activity, you should first think about what you
would like to pursue and then find a faculty mentor who can help you and guide your
research or creative activity along the way. It is common for students in some majors
(e.g. STEM, Social Sciences) to participate in a small aspect of a faculty mentor’s
larger research program.
How Do I Find a Suitable Project?
Identify your area of interest by asking yourself:
- What are my scholarly or creative passions?
- What do I enjoy reading or doing?
- Which issues and topics really matter to me?
- About which area would I like to know more?
- What topics particularly interest me in my major?
Find more information about your area(s) of interest by:
Develop some questions you may want to pursue by following these steps (modified from
the Right Question Institute):
- Set a timer to 5 minutes and write down all questions you can think of about a topic
of interest; don’t judge the quality of a question or change any of them!
- Change closed questions (yes/no answers) into open questions (how, why, what, etc.).
- Prioritize the open questions according to a criterion of your choice (e.g. most interesting
to me, most pressing or important to pursue).
- Explore relevant literature related to the top three questions to determine how much
prior research has been done in those areas.
- Think about aspects about which you cannot find much information and which might,
therefore, leave room for your own research to help advance the field.
How Do I Find a Faculty Mentor for my Project?
Depending on your area(s) of interest:
- Talk to your academic advisor about possible project mentors in your discipline.
- Talk to faculty members whose course you enjoyed or whom you already know about their
areas of scholarly activities.
- Check out the Southern Miss faculty pages for a faculty member in your major or with
expertise related to your area of interest.
- Talk to fellow students who have found a mentor about their experiences.
- Contact a member of the DCUR Steering Committee in your College for help.
- Contact DCUR staff for help.
Discuss your project ideas with potential faculty mentors:
- Find out how to connect with a faculty member and prepare for a meeting!
- Meet with a few faculty whom you have identified as potential mentors; not all of
them may be able to mentor you and/or be a good fit for you.
- Describe your project ideas and ask the faculty for feedback, ideas, and recommendations
for reading material.
- Be open to suggestions from faculty for modifications to your project or alternative
projects; you may not be able to pursue exactly the project you have in mind.
Make “the Ask”:
- Make an appointment with your preferred mentor and politely inquire whether s/he would
consider serving in that capacity.
- Be specific about the time frame you envision for your project and be as flexible
as possible to accommodate the mentor’s schedule.
- If a faculty member agrees to serve as your project mentor, discuss expectations for
time commitment, effort, frequency of meetings to assess progress, etc.
- Make sure to thank her/him!
How Can I Develop My Project?
Things to consider:
- How much time can you can devote to the project?
- number of semesters and/or summers
- hours per week
- Can I complete the project within the time frame I have?
- Are all resources I need readily available or accessible?
Make a project completion plan by discussing with your mentor:
- Training in the responsible conduct of research
- Hypotheses you will test
- Questions your research will attempt to answer
- Methods and approaches you will use
- Results you might expect
How Can I Fund My Project?
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