How To: Gain Research Experience at the Undergraduate Level

Are you an undergraduate student interested in getting some research experience but are not sure where to start? The purpose of this blog post is to highlight some of the programs and initiatives that are available to you at the University of Ottawa and help get your feet wet in the realm of research.

Tip # 1: Identify what theme or topic interests you.

Try searching through the following tools to get an idea of what our professors and students are working on at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

  • The University library offers An Introduction to Library Research guide that helps you chose your topic, prepare your search and find sources.
  • Uniweb is an internal tool used at the University of Ottawa where professors can update their profiles with their research interests, current projects and publication lists. You can search by theme, field of study or professor.
  • Similarly Google Scholar and ResearchGate are both popular tools amongst researchers that allow them to list their publications, track citations and identify their areas of interest.
  • Websites such as Collabzium (subscribe now 😉), The Conversation and the University of Ottawa Research and Innovation page offer blog style post about research at the Faculty, University and National level.

Tip # 2: Get to know researchers, network and get involved.

Your first instinct might be to start cold calling professors and although this can work if you are interested in a specific area of research, it can also lead to disappointment if you don’t hear back right away. Attending events is an excellent way to connect with professors and get exposure to their research. The Faculty of Social Sciences runs over 300 events a year, they vary from small intimate symposiums to large conferences and most of them are FREE. Going to these events can allow you to network with professors, other students and external experts in the field. Professors are often organizing these events in addition to their regular workload and would likely be happy to have volunteers to help them.

Tip # 3: Understand what programs and opportunities are available to you.

  • Look for undergraduate research assistant positions posted in your unit (CUPE postings). This is also where you will be able to find any coop research assistantship opportunities. Important note: for coop you need to apply on the CUPE posting as well as the coop portal.
  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) is a great option if you have a defined research project and have identified a professor to help supervise you. The selected students receive a 1000$ scholarship to carry out their research project over the course of 5 months.
  • Look for programs that offer a research stream, such as The research stream in Criminology.
  • Fourth year students can register for FSS 4150 Directed Research in Social Sciences, this 3 credit elective course allow students to participate in activities of an ongoing research project individually or in small groups. A list of current directed research courses as well the enrolment process are available here.
  • The School of Psychology offers an annual workshop for 2nd and 3rd year psychology students to help them incorporate research experience at the undergraduate level in preparation for graduate school applications.

Tip # 4: Get to know your social sciences librarians.

Did you know that the Faculty of Social Sciences has three librarians that are experts in the various social sciences topics?

“We have expertise in various areas notably in database searching (and with other search tools), in citation management, in scholarly communication, in open access, in research methods and more” – Patrick Labelle Research Librarian (Education, Psychology, Social Work)

Find you subject matter expert by consulting the Faculty of Social Sciences Library page and satellite library located in room FSS 2010.

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