Ronald Shanderson, 2015 Goldwater Scholar

Undergraduate Research

The Georgia State University Honors College Undergraduate Research Program provides undergraduates the opportunity to engage in research across campus, nationally, and internationally. Students from all majors and at any level can embark on their individual journeys towards producing knowledge and leveraging opportunities and resources in the Honors College Undergraduate Research Program.


Broadly defined, research is the process of collecting information on a particular subject. From art to neuroscience, research can take on many shapes and forms. For instance, Honors College students are engaged in research that involves working in labs, composing music, and building business plans.

Engaging in research provides in-depth involvement in scholarship and professional activity that cannot be paralleled by any classroom experience. Research exposes students to graduate school expectations and potential careers, and students engaged in research have the opportunity to develop a relationship with their professors, who can enrich their intellectual development. Participating in research improves student marketability and admissions to graduate and professional school by providing students with professional experience and detailed meaningful reference letters from their mentor.

Now. It’s important to get started as soon as possible. Freshman year is not too early; sophomore is ideal, and it is starting to get late when you are a junior or senior. There are many reasons for starting early. A research experience should ideally last several semesters or years in order for you to have sufficient exposure to the activity and to allow the time needed for you to develop research skills and foster professional relationships with other researchers. Also, starting early increases the chances you will develop enough knowledge and skills to be able to present at conferences, serve as an author on a manuscript and/or write an honors thesis. Starting early can also let you know soon whether a type of research is not suited for you.

You can begin to get involved in research in various ways. You can ask an instructor about their research. You can read faculty biographies in your department or in similar disciplines to review their research interests. For student projects, you can search the Honors Thesis Project archive in Scholar Works.

Also, you can get advice by contacting:

  • Marise Parent to schedule a research advisement appointment
  • Peer Research Ambassador (more information coming soon)
  • The director of undergraduate studies in your department

Identify possible mentors:  Look at the department website for your major/discipline. There is usually a list of faculty members with a description of their academic interests. Be flexible regarding the types of areas you might be interested in and create a list of your top 5 or 10 favorite researchers. Be prepared to contact many faculty before finding a placement. Perseverance pays off.

Contact possible mentors: Send a brief (~7 succinct sentences) professional email that contains the following information:

The reason you are contacting them

  • Indicate the position you are inquiring about e.g., research volunteer, practicum, etc.
  • Show that you are interested in their research and know what it entails. A common error is for students to use a generic sentence from the researcher’s website. Instead, read the researcher’s papers/books and use 1-2 sentences to describe why their research interests you in such a way that conveys that you took the time to learn about their research. Also, make sure to explain how this research connects with your career plans (1 sentence max).

Describe yourself

  • List any relevant professional/academic experience and coursework, GPA, and make sure to indicate if you are an honors student.

Indicate your availability

  • How many hours per week (at least 10 hr weekly; weekends and evenings are not usually an option), when you would be ready to start, how many semesters you would be available (researchers are more likely to want to work with a student who will be available for more than 1-2 semesters).

Your complete contact information

How to handle responses:

If there is no position available

  • Thank them for their response.
  • You can also ask if you can contact them again in the future.

If you do not hear from the person in 1 week

  • You can resend the email one more time with a polite reminder. For instance, you can say something like, “I am resending this inquiry from x date in the event that it may have gotten lost in your email traffic.”
  • If you still don’t hear from them, move on to person #2 on your list.

If they have an opening

  • Thank them
  • Ask to meet in person to discuss the work, expectations, etc.
  • If the faculty member has not suggested potential meeting times, then you should list several days and times that you would be available to meet (be flexible and provide a wide range).

What to do in the interview

  • Don’t arrive early or late
  • Dress professionally, but not formally
  • Take notes
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your career goals and reasons for wanting to participate in research
  • Be prepared to discuss the research and have questions ready about the research. These questions should demonstrate that you have familiarized yourself with the research.
  • Ask about expectations (e.g. when you should be there, whom you should report to and work with, whether any specific deliverables will be expected, whether you will be expected to provide updates/meet regularly with your mentor, etc.)

The Faculty Associate for Research and Thesis and Research Program Coordinator are available to assist you if you have any questions about how to get involved in research.

The Honors College will offer nine interactive research skills workshops intended to introduce students to the research enterprise as an initial step toward building competent undergraduate researchers at Georgia State University. These workshops are for all majors. Students will receive the Honors College Research Skills Certificate after attending any six workshops during an academic year and completing an evaluation for those workshops. The Honors College will offer the same series of workshops during the fall and spring. Students do not have to be in the process of pursuing the certification to attend the workshops. You can find a complete list and descriptions of the Research Skills Workshops on the honors research calendar.

Workshop Topics

  • CITI Training
  • Becoming a Researcher
  • Research Ethics
  • Writing Research Proposals and Abstracts
  • Introduction to Research Methods
  • Finding, Managing, and Citing Scholarly Literature
  • Creating Artist Statements
  • Building Posters
  • Crafting Oral Presentations

You can find a complete list of the Research Skills Workshops on the honors research calendar.

Granted to students who satisfy the requirements for Advanced Honors and also complete an undergraduate honors thesis project. A student CAN complete a thesis project without completing the Advanced Honors requirements, but the Research Honors Distinction will not be awarded. However, the thesis will still be acknowledged on the transcript and count towards graduation hours. Please schedule an appointment with your advisor for further clarification.

If you are completing the ADVANCED HONORS DISTINCTION:

  • You need 18 Credit Hours: 12 Hours of upper-level honors coursework numbered 3000 - 4999 and 6 Hours of Honors Colloquia (HON3260)
  • The twelve hours of upper-level honors coursework is specific to your major. Review your major area(s) to select an honors course that will count in your program of study.
  • Lower level Honors courses cannot be used for this distinction

If you are completing the RESEARCH HONORS DISTINCTION:

  • You need all 18 hours of Advanced Honors, PLUS the Honors Thesis Project
  • You cannot receive the Research Honors Distinction without completing the Advanced Honors distinction