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PriceisRightx26's avatar

Who do I talk to about an abstract research proposal?

Asked by PriceisRightx26 (1258points) May 26th, 2014

I more or less am interested in structuring a psychological (and ultimately physical) research project. I’m an undergraduate science student, about halfway done with my studies. The research project I’m considering is unrelated to anything I’m currently required to work on for school. Just a personal curiosity, though it would be spectacular if I could also get some kind of academic credit for the project. With that, is this something that would be acceptable to base a grant application on? If things go according to my image, funding /will/ be needed (and I don’t imagine that my school will cover the costs).

Ultimately though, I have no idea where to start (aside from the idea). I’m not sure if it’s something that I should bring up to my advisor or professors since it isn’t part of the curriculum per se. I also realize that my image is kind of big (I’m thinking 6 month to 2 year long study) and I may or may not have the worlds worst self-esteem and be kind of reluctant to even speak seriously to someone about it :x

Working on a proposal tonight. It’s still fresh, so I expect lots of tweaks along the way. Constructive criticism is a good thing.

*Just so you know that I’m not entirely coming out of left field here: I’m majoring in biology, chemistry, and neuroscience, and minoring in psychology, geography and geology. The focal point of my study will be body dysmorphic disorder (which I’m willing to change to broaden or consider additional aspects), which is something that I struggle with (along with a slew of other psychological troubles).

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Questions are welcome.
Thanks in advance!

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5 Answers

janbb's avatar

I would think your best bet would be to get one of your profs or advisers working with you on it. It is unlikely that as a undergraduate working outside of the academic structure you would be able to get any funding, but a prof might be able to work as co-author and help with grant applications. Does you school offer credit for an independent study?

PriceisRightx26's avatar

I believe they do, but I’m not 100%. I know that research and internships are highly advised. But that sounds like a good thing to investigate, thank you!

elbanditoroso's avatar

@janbb has it right. You have nothing to lose by raising the idea with the professor (or another professor in the department – you never know). The worst that happens is that they say “narrow it down” or “tweak it this way” in which case you have a different set of issues, but good ones.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it will be to have a 2–3 page precise description of the project and what it will entail. Verbal on something like this isn’t really useful. Spend a week writing a hypothesis, a measurement plan, expected outcomes, and even a timeline and a budget, although those last two are subject to change.

Putting it on paper shows two things:
-that you’re serious
-that you have thought about the project seriously enough to plan for it.

Both of those will help you be taken seriously.

As side effect of putting it on paper is that it can be shared easily with other potentially interested parties.

But you have nothing to lose by asking.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I would just go to the professor best suited to help you with your project and talk to him about doing an independent study with them. If you show you know what you’re talking about and are passionate about it, they’ll probably accept you.

I’m a marine bio major but I recently got really interested in learning how color works so I talked to one of the chem professors at my school. I’m now doing an independent research project with him making quantum dots

Here’s some I made

dappled_leaves's avatar

I am a graduate student in biology.

Do you have an honours/undergraduate thesis advisor? Your first step should be to talk to that person – not an academic advisor. If you don’t have one, then think about the professors in your department – who would (a) have the most experience with your topic and (b) be good to work with (offer you constructive advice, be helpful and not standoffish). Approach that person about doing this project as an undergrad thesis. If your university does not offer an undergrad thesis, you can probably get the department to set up a course number so that you can do one. This is easier than most people think, and it will look great on your transcript.

If it is a worthy and feasible project, this person will be able to tell you, and ultimately give you feedback on the proposal (vital). What you are aiming for (if you are not already doing a research project) is to have a thesis advisor who will fund the project and help you learn how to write a thesis. It is possible that the project will be too expensive for them to risk this – ask then if it would make a good graduate project for later. Then ask them if they have a project that you could do during your undergrad instead. But the ideal is to have your advisor fund it. He or she will be on the publication – funding your project is an investment for them.

Be aware that there are specific funding bodies that will be appropriate for your study, and that each will probably be offering funding on different schedules. That is, you can write a proposal tonight, but you may have missed your opportunity for a scholarship next year if the deadline has passed.

Do be encouraged, though – if your idea is good, it could very easily become the basis of an honours or master’s project. This kind of thing happens all the time.

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