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Research Experience: A Ticket to Graduate School

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Applicants to graduate school encounter fierce competition for admission and funding in today's competitive market. How can you increase your odds of acceptance, and better yet, funding? Get research experience by assisting a faculty member conduct his or her research. As a research assistant you'll have an exciting opportunity to do the research rather than just read about it -- and get important experience that will make you stand out in the graduate admissions pile.

Why Become a Research Assistant?
Aside from the thrill of generating new knowledge, assisting a professor with research provides many other valuable opportunities including:

  • gaining skills and knowledge that aren't easily learned in the classroom
  • working one-on-one with a faculty member
  • exposure to methodological techniques that will help you complete your
  • senior thesis and later graduate work
  • get writing and public speaking practice by submitting papers to professional conferences and journals
  • develop a mentoring relationship with a faculty member
  • get outstanding letters of recommendation
Engaging in research is a worthwhile experience, regardless of whether you choose to attend graduate school, because it provides you with the opportunity to think, organize information, and problem solve, and demonstrate your commitment, reliability, and capacity for research.

What Does a Research Assistant Do?
What will be expected of you as a research assistant? Your will vary by faculty member, project, and discipline. Some assistants might administer surveys, maintain and operat lab equipment, or care for animals. Others might code and enter data, make photocopies, or write literature reviews. What general tasks can you expect?

  • Collect data by administering surveys, interviews, or running research protocols
  • Score, code, and enter data into a spreadsheet or statistical analysis program
  • Conduct general library research including literature searches, making copies of articles, and ordering unavailable articles and books through interlibrary loan
  • Develop new research ideas
  • Use computer skills such as word processing, spreadsheet, scheduling and statistical analysis programs
  • Assist in preparing submissions for local or regional conferences and, if accepted, work on poster or oral presentations for professional conferences
  • Assist faculty in preparing a manuscript to submit the results of your collaborative research to a scientific journal

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