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Finding Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Speech Language Pathology

20 March 2014

Disclaimer: You might not want to do in-depth research if you aren't interested in the entire research process, a certain topic or possibly entering academia in the future. Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do a research or independent study project to learn more about a topic, as that may help you decide where you may want to specialize as time goes on. I encourage that! Doing smaller projects, a paper or assisting a professor can also let you get to know that faculty member more personally. I'm only saying that you may not want to do more in-depth research, like an undergraduate thesis, if you don't see yourself doing research or academia down the road, as this involves much more time and effort... but is a great learning experience!

With that said, there are several ways that you can gain any amount of research experience as an undergraduate. You just have to show interest in the topic and person and show your dedication. First,  consider subjects that interest you, they don't have to be directly related to SLP. For example, you can look into fields like education, supervision, neuroscience, genetics, psychology, or interdisciplinary collaboration. Then, find a local person that researches this, whether it be a faculty member, local hospital researcher, non-profit researcher, or a program. If you are going to do work under/with a specific person, look up their publications.  Make sure that their subfield of research is what you are interested in, or close to it. You also want to read some of their work so you can see their methods and show that you've done you're homework on them and can discuss some of what they've done. Don't just call or e-mail and say "hi!" they want to know why you're interested and that you are willing to do the work, which involves knowing their studies. After that, contact them!

As mentioned, there are various opportunities. My program is sometimes difficult for finding research opportunities in the department, so some look at related disciplines within the school. I know several that have done projects in linguistics, psychology and neuroscience. That doesn't mean you can't loo within the department if there is a professor you really look up to, just talk to that person! There are also other programs your school may have like summer research grants/programs, independent study, or even just attending lab meetings. These can all help get your foot in the door.

There are community opportunities as well. Try hospitals or local residential schools. They sometimes have research labs affiliated with them or summer research opportunities for students. (If not maybe a volunteer spot in the speech department!) You may also want to look at some organizations. Some non-profits or other nationally recognized agencies have researchers that you might be able to contact.

Lastly, there are national programs. Try looking up some national undergraduate research opportunities (doesn't have to be in SLP!). One that comes to mind is Fulbright who has ties with international research facitilies that undergraduates can take part in.