Peer Scholarship Advice

The official blog of the Charles Center Peer Scholarship Advisors

Category: Summer Research

Guide to the Student IRB

Are you receiving funding through the Charles Center to do research involving human subjects? If so, you will likely need to go through the process of submitting your research proposal to the Student Institutional Review Board (IRB). The Student IRB is a committee that will review your proposed research methods to ensure that they do not violate any ethical standards. Applying for and receiving IRB approval can can take several weeks, so you should start as soon as you have your project idea fully fleshed out. This process may seem complicated, but if you follow these steps you should have no problems getting approval for your project:

1. Figure out if your Project Requires IRB Approval
Most research with human subjects  (e.g. taking surveys, conducting interviews or focus groups, etc.) will require Student IRB approval. However, if your research mostly involves helping your advisor in research that he/she is already doing, you may be covered under your advisor’s IRB certification, and you may not need to submit to the Student IRB. Talk with your advisor to see if this is the case for your project. Moreover, your project must fall under “exempt research” to qualify for IRB approval. “Exempt research” must not cause harm to participants, and it must be anonymous.

2. Complete CITI Training
CITI training is a set of online modules that teach you the guidelines of performing ethical research with human subjects. All students applying for Student IRB approval will need to complete the Charles Center Student IRB Module. Moreover, your advisor will need to complete modules relating to their area of expertise. Make sure to save copies of both your and your advisor’s completion reports.

3. Upload Necessary Documents to the Campus Protocol & Compliance System portal
To apply for Student IRB approval, you’ll need to upload the following documents to the online application:

  • CITI training completion reports (from both student and advisor)
  • Consent form you’ll be using in your project (use sample consent form as a template)
  • Summary of your project (this can be copied from your Project Proposal in your research funding application)
  • Data collection documents (e.g. Interview/survey questions, etc.)

Once you’ve filled out the application and uploaded these documents, you’ll be ready to submit!

4. Check for Revision Requests
The Student IRB may ask you to make revisions to your original application. If they do, be sure to revise and resubmit in a timely manner.

5. Check for your Approval Notification
When your project is approved, you will receive a protocol number. Enter this number on your research grant electronic award letter and return it to the Charles Center to receive your grant payment.

You can find more specific details about the Student IRB process here. As always, if you have any questions about receiving Student IRB approval or any other aspect of applying for Charles Center Research Funding, don’t hesitate to come into the PSA office any time from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday! Thanks for reading!

Making a Research Presentation

Presenting on your research is an invaluable way to make connections with other scholars in your field of study and communicate to others why your research is important. However, it can often seem like a daunting challenge. It can be quite difficult to figure out how exactly to organize the discussion of your topic and to determine how much information to include so that your audience understands your research. Luckily, the following steps provide a guideline to help you turn a research project in any area of study into a compelling presentation.

Step 1:  Know Your Audience
The sort of presentation that you would give to a group of experts in your field is quite different from one that you would give in front of a general audience. If your audience is likely to be very knowledgeable about your topic, you can spend less time explaining the background and instead quickly jump into the technical details, but if you’re presenting for a general audience, you’ll want to spend more time making sure the audience understands the background. Think about the setting of your presentation. Is it an academic conference for other researchers in your field? Or is it something more general and open to everyone? Most of you reading this will probably be presenting at William & Mary’s Summer Research Showcase, and this falls into the latter category.

Step 2:  Motivate Your Research
One of the first things you do in your presentation should be answering the question of “so what?” Here you will lay out the goals of your research and explain how it is relevant to the real world. In particular, make sure you can explain why people who aren’t scholars in your field should care about the question you’re trying to answer. This is especially important if you are presenting in front of an audience who are not experts in your field. Try to give some specific examples of why your research is important.

Step 3:  Give Some Background Information
After you introduce your topic and its “so what” you’ll want to give background information about your area of study. You also may want to include a literature review of research in your field by other scholars. Without the context of this information, it will be difficult for your audience to understand why you are doing the specific investigation that you are presenting about. This overview of your topic should strike a balance between being broad enough that your audience understands the context of your research, but narrow enough that the background information doesn’t feel redundant. How you strike this balance will also depend on your audience’s level of expertise, so make sure you continue to keep that in mind!

Step 4:  Craft an Effective Research Question
Most likely if you’ve already done your research, you’ll already have written out a research question somewhere, such as in a grant proposal. However, as you’re making a presentation it’s good to remind yourself about what makes an effective research question. First of all, make sure that it is focused, not too broad or too narrow. It should also be concise; you want your research question to summarize the purpose of your research in only a sentence or two. Overall, your research question should give your audience a quick snapshot of the information that is to come later on in your presentation.

Step 5:  Explain Your Research Methods
Now that you’ve given the audience the background context and your research question, you can begin to go into more detail about the specifics of your research. If your research was an experiment, describe the experimental design. Explain the methods that you used to collect your data as well as the model that you used to analyze the data. You may also want to include challenges that you faced during the research, and any changes that you had to make to your original research plan in order to overcome those challenges.

Step 6:  Display Your Findings
This should naturally follow from your discussion of your research methods. If you do any sort of statistical analysis, this is where you’ll want to include it. This section is also where visual displays can be most helpful, so you’ll want to include graphs and charts if they’re applicable to your research. Make sure that all of your visuals show your data clearly and concisely, labeling everything so that your audience knows what they’re looking at. If your visuals are effective, you’ll hardly need to include words on this section of the presentation at all, although you will want to explain verbally the data in your visuals.

Step 7:  Discuss your Results and Draw Conclusions
Here you will use the findings that you showed your audience from the previous step to answer your research question. Or, if you aren’t quite able to answer your research question yet, discuss what you have found so far and what future research could be done to fully answer the question. In this section, you’ll also want to make reference to your “so what” and the research goals that you outlined at the beginning of your presentation.

Step 8:  References and Acknowledgements
Although you’re done with the content of your presentation, you can’t forget to cite your sources. Use the format (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) preferred in your field of study and be consistent, using the same format throughout. And finally, make sure that you thank your advisor, the source of your funding, and anybody else who helped you out during your research.

As always, thanks for reading! If you have any questions about presenting on your research, applying for research grants, or anything scholarship related, please stop by the PSA office from 9am to 5pm Mondays through Fridays.

Finding a Freshman Monroe Project Topic and Advisor

If you’re a freshman Monroe Scholar at W&M, you have the chance to apply for a $1000 grant to spend two weeks of your summer doing a research project on a topic of your choosing. For those of you who have had no formal research experience, and even those who have, it can seem daunting to think of a topic to dig so deeply into, and even more challenging to actually spend the time doing the research. Luckily, the Peer Scholarship Advisors are here with tips on how to go about finding a topic and an advisor for your freshman Monroe Project. Here are a few steps that may help guide you in finding a project idea:

1. Reflect on your Coursework
Freshman Monroe Projects are designed to build upon your freshman year experience at William & Mary, and as a result it’s required that you choose a topic related to a course that you’ve taken here so far. You may want to look deeper into a topic that you brushed on in class, or your idea may be to research a topic that you didn’t cover explicitly in class but is related to other materials that you did cover. Think about what classes you’ve taken, which ones you liked the most, and why you liked them the most, and this can help you narrow down your topic. If you already know what classes you’ll want to take in the future or what you want to major in, this can give you ideas for a project as well!

2. Think about your Future
What kind of research or coursework do you see yourself doing in the future at WM or after graduation? How could your freshman Monroe Project prepare you for future research or for your career? Many students continue to study the topic of their freshman Monroe Projects as an independent study, or even use it as a springboard to a future Honor’s Thesis. This is not the case for everyone, but it can be helpful to keep in mind these possibilities, and they can give you ideas for topics to consider.

3. Not too Narrow, not too Broad
This project must take up at least the equivalent of two full-time weeks of work (i.e. 80 hours), so make sure that your topic isn’t so specific or so simple that it could be answered in a much shorter time than that. Moreover, although many freshman Monroe Projects do take more than the required 80 hours to complete, keep in mind that you’re not being expected to write a 100-page dissertation! This project is only intended to get your feet wet with research, so be mindful of that and pick a project that you could realistically do with the knowledge that you have in a time not too much longer than 80 hours. You can read through the guidelines for your project proposal here get a better idea of the scope of your project.

4. Meet with a Swem Research Librarian
The research desk at Swem is a great resource for you for any research that you might do during your four years at W&M, be it for a class or for individual research. The librarians are very knowledgeable and can give you guidance in narrowing your research topic. You can make appointments with them here.

It’s also important to remember that you must have a faculty advisor for your freshman Monroe Project! Your advisor must be a William & Mary professor who has expertise in the area of your proposed topic. They can be the professor who taught the class which inspired your project, but this is not required. Here are a places you can look to help find your faculty advisor:

5. Talk to your Professors
If the professor of the class that inspired your topic is the person you want to be your advisor, then this is the only step! Talk to them before or after class or go to their office hours and request politely that they advise you in your project. But even if you’re not sure if you want this professor to be your advisor, they can still give you helpful guidance. If your topic isn’t specifically in their area of expertise, they can direct you to other faculty members who will be more knowledgeable. Moreover, your professor can help you narrow down project ideas if you’re not completely sure what you want to do.

6. Check the Department’s Faculty Directory
William & Mary department websites have directories which list all of the faculty members, their research interests, and their contact information. This can be a helpful place to look to find out which faculty’s expertise aligns best with your topic. Once you’ve found someone you want to work with, send them an email to ask to meet and discuss your topic. Although it can be nerve-wracking to email a professor you don’t know out of the blue, W&M professors are usually very happy to help students interested in getting involved in research!

If you have questions about any part of the Freshman Monroe Project application process, feel free to come into the Peer Scholarship Advisor office in the Charles Center Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. As always, good luck with your application!

Opportunities to fund Summer Study, Research, and Internships

Many William & Mary students use the summer as an opportunity to continue their studies, get involved in research, or partake in an internship, but often research projects need funding and internships are unpaid. Luckily, W&M offers funding from a number of different sources for students doing research or participating in low-paying or unpaid internships. Here are a few places you can look to find funding for summer study, research or internships:

1. Fulbright UK Summer Institutes
Each summer the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission offers several themed institutes across the U.K. for American freshman and sophomores to explore U.K. culture, history, and heritage, as well as take part in an engaging academic experience. Past institutes have included Shakespeare, climate change, and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Each institute is 3-6 weeks long and all expenses, including airfare, tuition and fees, and room and board are covered by the scholarship. To learn more about this opportunity, check out their website.

2. Critical Language Scholarships
Critical Language Scholarships are a U.S. State Department sponsored program providing two months of fully funded language study abroad during the summer. CLS is specifically focused on languages that are important to national security interest, so it has programs in countries such as China, Morocco, Turkey, Russia, and others where critical languages are spoken. You can find more info about CLS on their website.

3. Charles Center Summer Research Scholarships
The Charles Center is the biggest source of funding for summer research at William & Mary. We offer funding for research in any discipline, from the humanities to the natural sciences, and most awards are for $3,000 and support seven weeks of full-time research. In addition to the general umbrella of Charles Center Summer Scholarships which anyone in any discipline can apply to, there are a number of smaller scholarships which are specific to certain disciplines; for example: the Christopher Wren Association Scholarship for research in the humanities, the Jacobs Scholarship for research taking place in Israel, and the Lemon Project Summer Research Grant for research on African Americans and the College of William & Mary, just to name a few. The deadline for Charles Center Summer Scholarships is typically in mid or late February of the year that you will conduct your project. You can find more information about the Charles Center Summer Scholarships here.

4. Departmental Funding Resources
Many departments have their own specific pages with lists of research funding opportunities, some sponsored by the department itself, others sponsored by external organizations. Check out your department’s website under the “research” tab to see if your department has a list of resources! Also, ask your major advisor or another professor who you are close to if they know of some grants that can be used to fund research in your area of study. Professors are often delighted to help their students get involved in the research process. Some departments also offer funding for internships in fields relevant to the department, which you should be able to find information about on their website.

5. Cohen Career Center Internship Funding
The Cohen Career Center offers a number of scholarships to help fund low- or non-paying internships. These include the Steve Banker Fund for Real Estate Internships, the Olympia & Adam Trumbower Fund for International Development/Philanthropy Internships, and the Cohen Career Center Internship Fund. These scholarships provide up to $4,000 (or $5,000 for the Steve Banker Fund) to students with unpaid internships in a variety of different fields. You can find more about these opportunities here.

6. Charles Center Internship Scholarships
In addition to offering funding for summer research, the Charles Center also administers a limited number of scholarships to fund unpaid internships. These include the Freeman Intern Fellowship and the Woody Internship in Museum Studies. The Freeman Fellowship provides placement and funding at internships in Asia, and the Woody Internship in Museum Studies allows opportunity to intern and conduct research at a respected museum that exhibits art, historical materials, etc. to the public. You can find more information about them here.

7. Reves Summer International Internship Scholarships
The Reves Center provides funding for unpaid or low-paying internships overseas or domestic internships that are international in focus. These include internationally-directed government agencies (such as the State Department), overseas non-governmental organizations, overseas private sector corporations, etc. Internships must entail at least five full-time weeks of work over the summer. You can learn more about this opportunity here.

8. Scholarship Search
The Scholarship Search website is a PSA-run scholarship database that allows you to search for different scholarships, research grants, and internships offered by both William & Mary and external sources. As of right now we have over 250 opportunities that William & Mary students are eligible for, but the list is constantly growing as we add more. You can filter your search based on your area of study, the academic years eligible, whether financial need is required, and many other criteria. Click here to begin your scholarship search!

As always, if you have any questions about these or other opportunities, or you want someone to look over your application materials, don’t hesitate to come into the PSA office any time from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday!