Your research experience essentially consists of any type of research work you have done, whether it was for a bachelor’s or master’s thesis project as part of your undergraduate studies or for another reason (e.g., the short-term research projects you did during your internships or mentorship program). Regardless of the type of research project you worked on, you can list it in your CV as part of your research experience. Nevertheless, obtaining a publication is advantageous, and if you do, your application will become more credible.
What are the types of research experience?
There are many different types of research experience and the following lists out some of the most popular form of research experience.
- Scientific study in the STEM disciplines
- Fieldwork in the humanities, social sciences, and scientific sciences
- Business analysis of data
- Humanities research that is text-based
- Humanities and fine arts creative initiatives
Benefits of having research experience
With the improvement of the overall quality of students, it is getting increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself from the rest of the students. Research experience has increasingly become a standard for studying abroad to prove the applicant’s academic ability.
There are basically two aspects to the advantages of having research experience. The first is gaining relevant skillset for completing a research paper. This includes formulating research questions, searching for relevant literature, analyzing data, employing statistical techniques, creating conference presentations, and developing writing abilities. Enhancing “interpersonal goals” is the second advantage of having research experience.
These include increasing your chance of getting accepted for jobs or graduate programs, fostering teamwork, building connections for letters of recommendations, and honing leadership. When seeking out a research experience as a student, you tend to gain both aspects of the advantages.
If you are a high-school or college student applying for an international program, especially in US or UK, students without scientific research experience have very little chance. In addition, if you do not have a scientific research background, it is difficult to find a professor who will write you a valid recommendation letter. Having quality research experience will enhance a student’s university application process and improves the admissions officers’ impression scores. During the interview process, admissions officers may ask questions about the topics that the candidates have studied and researched on.
This is always a good starting point to talk about because the candidate will have good knowledge in this area after engaging in the research topic. For students without research experience, admissions officers may ask some questions to examine candidates’ academic interests and personal opinions about the candidates’ majors.
If you are applying for a PhD program, some schools will require you to submit a Research Proposal. A good research experience and proposal can not only help schools determine whether the applicant has expertise in the corresponding field, but also help future mentors understand applicant’s research goals and key ideas.
How do you gain research experience?
The paths for enriching research experience mainly include the following: joining a supervisor’s research group, mentorship program, semester exchange programs, research mentorship program, and part-time assistant professors in other schools.
1. Join the tutor’s research group
This is the most mainstream way to gain scientific research experience. Professional tutors and teams will gradually lead students to participate in scientific research activities from shallow to deep. However, it is better for students to join the research group earlier, as this is a long-term process that is time-consuming. Students themselves need to show their willingness to go further in the group, such as reading a lot of literature, completing experiments in advance, taking the initiative to report to the teacher and discussing topic selection.
2. Semester exchange/summer exchange program
This kind of program is more helpful for students who want to study abroad, because through these programs, you can go to top foreign universities. As long as you perform well in the program, you are likely to get a recommendation letter from a well-known professor.
3. Research mentorship program
This kind of program is available to most students who are willing to work online. Students can search for a research mentorship program online, come up with their own topic interest and work on a research paper together with the selected professor. If students have no idea what they want to work on, they can even discuss the topic with the mentor and come up with a suitable research topic together. Students will be able to gain research experience via mentors who may write a recommendation letter at the end of the program.
4. Part-time jobs of assistant professors in other schools
Some college professors will recruit student assistants to the society to collect data and organize information. This is also a good opportunity to study in a research group. Such a job may be paid or unpaid, depending on the professor and job requirements. Some professors may just need students to help with data collection, whereas some may require students to have more in-depth skill such as building machine learning models.