How can I start my own independent research project/study? Specifically for Psychology...Answered
I want to be able to add this to my extracurriculars but I am not sure where to start. I am interested in going into Psychology specifically Neuropsych or Forensic Psych.
If you know where to start, please let me know!
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Independent research as a high school student is a highly ambitious goal and extracurricular—it is unlike any other as it simply “adds to human knowledge altogether”. Though it requires much experience comparable to that of an actual professional, it is completely doable.
With research as a high schooler, the task is often not accessible to everyone—whether that be research assistant or independent study. However, if you have knowledge, assets, and passion for curiosity, it is doable (wealth certainly helps). Firstly, before you even begin, do you have access to the latest research technologies?? These technologies (EEG, PET, MRI, etc.) will be extremely vital in the derivation of conclusions and analyses that support your findings—that is the objective. Furthermore, since your field is PSYCHOLOGY, your study subject will most likely be human beings (or, for HS purposes, a mammalian subject such as a rodent [keep it ethical!!]). Before any research can be conducted and even approved with live organisms, I believe you will need some form of consent (I couldn’t inform of all criteria needed bc I was never able to conduct research myself). Lastly, after you receive all fundamental requirements, you’ll need to establish a question, a hypothesis, a study subject, and procedures that lead you to an end goal. To ensure that your work is relevant, study reviewed works and published papers of findings from professionals of your field so that you can follow-up or add on their results. This is critical!!
Perhaps most importantly, absolutely be sure that you are capable of converting scientific evidence and results into a reliable, comprehensible paper that is usable to the scientific community. Learning how to write in this manner is critical for your results, your success, and your self portrayal in a highly respected community of scientific professionals.
I will recommend two books and a resource that will inspire and guide your work:
B1) “Critical Thinking in Clinical Research - Applied Theory and Practice Using Case Studies” edited by Felipe Fregni & Ben M.W. Illigens (Oxford press). This book fundamentally covers the entire research process of clinical procedures from medicine to psychology to bio-laboratory research. It doesn’t aim at any one specific field but uses examples from different clinical subjects in order to portray a complete analysis on what and what not to do in research. It is a guide to success!
B2) “Writing Science” by Joshua Schimel (Oxford press). This book will certainly be helpful in that it will guide you to write a well-finished paper that may get published in journals and is usable to many other scientists in your respective field (of course the content is up to you). Furthermore, the book takes you through several reliable writing processes that are effective for your particular method of study and end-goal. Also, the author is an environmental scientists himself who has published many successful (and even unsuccessful papers) that he uses as examples for teaching tools.
Re) [ https://www.societyforscience.org/regeneron-sts/ ] This is both a resource and an OPPORTUNITY for you in your senior year to compete in a research competition and get national recognition!! This site may be more helpful than I am now! It exemplifies the research process specifically for high school students aspiring the field of research. Though the competition is really competitive. But even if not for you, it is an excellent tool for guidance.
All-in-all, if you are passionate about your field and have great insight to offer, then this goal is certainly doable. For psychology, I believe the fundamental principle for research is to either (1) connect neuro-scientific results from computerized devices to analyzed human behavior in order to draw conclusions; (2) apply a model/setting for your subjects and conduct a survey (if human) or analyze behavior (if mammalian subject) in order to determine results; (3) study interactions of emotions and brain activity when induce by substances such as drugs, liquids, etc. (this is highly advanced and requires ethical consent); etc. This could just be the tip of the iceberg for study methods!!
Hope this all helps!! And good luck on your findings!!
So here's the thing with independent research as a high school student, it's not very reputable. Tons of students nowadays are conducting "research" through random google forms and publishing in sketchy journals, if publishing at all. In order for research to actually hold weight on your application, you need to have measurable, reputable achievements that set you apart from students conducting "research" one month before college applications are due just for resume padding.
I would say that your best bet is to become a research intern at a university. Many universities such as UCI have summer research programs for high school students that provide a better educational opportunity than independent research. I applied to the UCI summer internship and was accepted, and now my name is listed second (among names of grad students and full professors) on a paper being published in a top 20 journal that is recognizable to universities. Plus, the application process wasn't bad at all!
My advice would be to look for programs like these at your local universities and if you don't see anything, find professors in psychology departments who specialize in neuropsych or forensic psych and reach out to them. It sounds like this is something you are passionate about, so I wish you the best of luck! Let me know if you have any follow up questions :)
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