My Summer of Research in Santiago, Chile: Week 5: Research How To’s

Author: Maddie Hahn

For this week’s blog post, I want to take a time-out from my specific research project to talk about research in general. Research in itself is a great learning opportunity – it allows you to investigate an interesting topic and uncover new information that contributes to the discussion surrounding the issue. On top of that, it demonstrates initiative and discipline, which are life skills that will serve you for your university years and beyond. However, if you are anything like I was fresh out of high school, I didn’t really know much about research or the process of conducting independent projects. I saw a lot of research going on around me and knew I wanted to get involved, but I was unsure of how to get started.


Overlooking Santiago from a lookout at Parque Metropolitano

Luckily, Notre Dame provided me with a nurturing and positive environment, which allowed me to grow, to develop my interests, and to design my own independent research project, which has given me the exciting opportunity to be in Santiago, right now! If you too know that you are interested in research, but find yourself not sure about how to get your feet wet, here are some helpful hints based on what I have learned in my own experience, going from knowing nothing about research to conducting my own independent project:

  • Research is going on all around Notre Dame – in all colleges, in all departments, in all offices. It may not always be easy to find, but it’s everywhere. One of the best ways to find these opportunities is to speak with your professors. Specifically, take the time to meet with your professor individually to have a casual and open conversation about the professor’s work and interests. Even if there isn’t an opportunity to work with the professor directly, he or she may know a researcher who is looking for assistance on a project. In all instances, the best action you can take is to simply talk to people. Working as a research assistant on an already established project is an excellent way to receive initial exposure to the research process. You will learn about methodologies, data collecting and more all through experience, equipping and preparing you to delve deeper into the research world.
  • Beyond a research assistantship, there is also the option of developing your own project. In this case, it is important to find a topic that interests you. Research is all about asking questions and contributing to the development of an answer to these questions. For this, do your pre-research; read all of the available information surrounding a topic, and search for the gaps in knowledge. Given everything that you find, what questions remain? That is your research question. Bring your research question to a professor and ask for their opinions. Seek out a research advisor – a Notre Dame professor or faculty member who can guide you along in the design and execution of a project based on your research question. Professors and faculty are your best resources in research projects, so make sure you take advantage. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and always communicate. Not only will your research advisor offer advice and insight, they can also assist you in further developing your research into a potential thesis or independent project.
  • The world of research can seem daunting at first, but once you take the initial steps, you will find that the process is exciting and challenging. The best piece of advice that I can give is to speak with your professors – meet with them, get to know them and don’t be afraid to ask for their guidance. Not only are they full of knowledge and experience, but they are also always happy to help.

I hope that this blog post encourages you to become involved in research, or at the very least, enlightens you to the possibilities that lay before you. As for me, I have to run – I have a weekly check-in with my Notre Dame research advisor, who likes to stay updated on my progress during my time in Santiago. Until next time, un abrazo grande!