During high school, you may find yourself deciding on options within your academic interest like research interest and extracurricular activities. You may participate in a junior varsity rowing team in the afternoon while juggling between different academic clubs at school. However, if you want to delve deeper into the academic aspects of your favorite subject, many schools do not offer you the resources and opportunities to do so.
Whether you are a freshman or junior in high school, we highly encourage you to expose yourself to research. Doing research makes you stand out from others in the applicant pool for college; more importantly, research gives you early career exposure to help you decide the direction you want to go after graduation.
In this article, we will discuss the where – where to find your research mentor, how – how to find necessary resources or topics for research, and the what – what are the steps to conduct research.
1. Where to find your research mentor
Writing your first research paper can be intimidating, especially when you are not sure where to start and how to start. Therefore, having a research mentor who can give you general guidance and mentorship at the beginning will help you develop a research structure, find resources and eventually write a more convincing research paper.
However, we understand that in addition to research interest, high school students have other commitments and responsibilities to fulfill in school. Therefore, we recommend you combine your research interests with academic offerings. The most straightforward offerings are available to high school students through AP Seminar and AP Research. Upon the completion of the AP Seminar and AP Research classes and earning a 3 or above on each AP Exam, you will receive the AP Seminar and Research Certificate.
If your school doesn’t offer AP Seminar and AP Research, you can look into “Independent Study” as another option. For example, Phillips Academy Andover has Independent Projects, which allow students to work directly with a faculty member to work on their project of interest for school credit. Depending on the research topics, there will be opportunities for you to find teachers in school to help you structure and guide your future research. Remember to clearly communicate your research interests with your teachers and advisors as well as about different topics you want to further explore.
2. How to find topics for research
The topic you chose will determine your project and the time commitment. Potentially, a good topic will lead to further research in college, and determine your career route after graduation. However, you shouldn’t put too much stress into finding the right research topic. Since you are only at the beginning of the journey, you will have time to adjust the topic or narrow the research on the way.
In finding topics for research, you should ask yourself these questions:
- What have you always wondered throughout the day?
- Have there been previous research papers that answered your questions?
- How does answering the research question help you in the future?
By asking yourself these questions, you will be able to find a research topic that will motivate you to do in-depth research and create strong evidence/arguments that go into your research. Your research should use previously completed research as background information, then you can use your own research methodologies to further develop your questions. If your interest is Historical Research, check out these 40 potential topics for inspiration.
Overall, don’t rush to find research topics right away. You should first read other available articles about the topic you’re interested in researching and see how your research can introduce or reinforce a point.
3. What are the steps to conduct research?
We have written an article specifying 8 steps in the research process for high school students. To give you an overview of the beginning to end, from the moment you come up with an idea about a research topic to when finishing your first paper, you should:
Step 1. Find a Mentor or Adviser
As mentioned above, you should find a mentor who has the expertise in your subject of interest, or who shares similar interests with you. If none of the teachers at your school have the expertise or the passion in the area you are interested in researching, you can reach out to our team at Aralia. We are launching multiple summer courses focused on Research to help students jumpstart their research careers and boost their resumes for their college applications. Our teachers are high school teachers and college professors from top-ranking schools across the United States and have extensive knowledge and expertise in research across varied topics and disciplines. Details about the courses can be found below:
Step 2: Set a goal, objectives, and timeline for the research project
Researching is a long and complex process, which can be as fast as 1 month and as long as a lifetime. Therefore, to keep yourself accountable and move forward one step at a time, we recommend that you have a clear goal and timeline before starting your research project.
There are essential steps when it comes to research: background research, writing your research paper, editing your paper, and publishing. If you have a completion date in mind, you should work backward and estimate how much time it would take for each step.
Step 3: Identify your question and develop your topic
There are millions of results on the Internet, and sometimes you may be lost finding the right articles or the right book for research context. Articles on the Internet are often unreliable, especially when it comes to magazine or newspaper articles. The reason is that those writers are not credible researchers or scholars in their chosen field and frequently intersperse their own opinions with the facts. Cornell University released a video showing students How to identity Scholarly Journal Articles and How to identify Substantive News Articles. Take a look at the videos for general instruction, and if you need further guidance, feel free to Aralia, and our tutors will help you with this topic! We have high school and college tutors that are experts in the research field, especially in economics research and historical research.
Step 4: Evaluate What You Find
After you gather all the required sources for your paper, remember to choose them carefully and evaluate their authenticity before putting the information into your research paper. When you find sources, don’t forget to organize them in terms of subtopics so that you can go back and pick up where you left off.
Step 5: Write your research paper
This is one of the most rewarding and challenging processes in the research paper: curate your statement of research and write about the actual research. Depending on the requirements of the class or your own preferences, a research paper can range anywhere from 10-50 pages, sometimes even more.
Step 6: Cite What You Find Using the Requested Format
Citation is often forgotten when high school students write a research paper. However, citations are so important because you are providing credit to the authors of the materials used and allowing people reading your work to locate the source of your references.
Last & most important step in the research process: Proofread
The final step in your research process is to proofread your paper. There are three things you should take into consideration while proofreading:
- Errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Make sure that your research paper is free of those errors.
- Citation. Double-check your instructor’s requirements to see which citation format you should follow and make sure the sources you used are cited properly
- Your writing style. The last and the most important thing you should check is your writing: Is your paper easy to comprehend? Is your message clear to the reader? Is the data you present correct?
The typical process is you self-edit first and then your mentor will take a look at it. After two rounds of editing, you will make changes and do the last edits/proofreading.
Now, you are finally ready to publish your research paper! There are many platforms for you to publish your work on, such as an actual journal or publication, or a competition you want to participate in. Research is an exciting journey where you discover your true potential, your inner passion, and your professional interest. If you decide to take a research class with Aralia, you are definitely in good hands! For students who are interested in pursuing research and would like to advance their research skills, read more about Aralia’s summer program: