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Research Preparation

Anne Egger and Simon Klemperer
Stanford University


This is a 1-unit, spring quarter course for undergraduate students who will be embarking on their first research experience over the summer with a faculty member and/or graduate student. The topics the students will be researching are diverse, so the course focuses on the process of research rather than the content. One of the main emphases is on becoming part of the research community.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Small-group seminar

Course Context:

This course is part of the School of Earth Sciences Undergraduate Research Program, which we co-direct. In early March, students submit proposals for summer research projects, which they have written in conjunction with a faculty member and/or graduate student. Funding decisions are made prior to the start of spring quarter, and one of the requirements for students who receive funding from the School is to enroll in this research preparation course. We strongly encourage submissions from freshmen and sophomores as a means of recruiting students into our majors, but we fund students at all levels. The School includes four departments: Energy Resources Engineering, Environmental Earth System Science, Geological and Environmental Sciences, and Geophysics, so the topics that the students are diverse and range from economic analysis to engineering to geological field work to computer modeling. Thus, the students enrolled in the course range from freshmen to seniors, and they have a wide variety of backgrounds.

Course Goals:

There are two main goals for this course:
  • To prepare students for a successful summer research experience
  • To build an active community of researchers in the school
More specifically, by the end of the quarter, students will be able to:
  • Communicate effectively (hopefully) with their research adviser
  • Describe their research to others, including overall scientific goals and the details of their project
  • Describe their own goals for and conceptions about the research process
  • Participate in the research community on multiple levels (research group, department, discipline)

Course Features:

Teaching the Process of Science

The entire focus of this course is introducing students to the research process. All of the assignments, therefore, are focused on aspects of the process of science: meeting with your advisor, attending a relevant research seminar, selecting key reading material, joining a professional society, writing a work plan and research proposal, and presenting your proposed work to a cohort.


Grading for this course is on a credit/no credit basis. The assignments help give the students the tools they need for a successful research experience, however, and we read responses and address problems that come up one-on-one or in the seminar itself.


Research Preparation syllabus (Microsoft Word 41kB Jul1 09)

Teaching Materials:

Assignments for Research Preparation Course (Microsoft Word 44kB Jul1 09)

References and Notes: