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Courses & Student Research Projects
Directed Research Courses

The directed research course in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences provides a hands-on research experience for students where students work in small groups with a faculty mentor to conduct original research on the faculty member’s research project. In this course, students relate theory to practice by actively participating in all aspects of research in the behavioral science. By participating in undergraduate research opportunities, students will enhance their readiness for graduate programs and/or careers after the completion of their graduate degree.

This course is offered in four programs within the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences:

  • Behavioral Science
    • BHSC 349 Directed Research in Behavioral Science
  • Criminal Justice
    • CRJU 349 Directed Research in Criminal Justice
  • Psychology
    • PSYN 349 Directed Research in Psychology
  • Sociology
    • SOCL 349 Directed Research in Sociology

*Please see the Mercy College Undergraduate Catalog for a complete course description and a listing of course requirements.

 

Independent Study Projects

Independent study projects are planned by the student, in conjunction with a faculty member for the purpose of researching and studying an area that is not covered in a traditional course. These projects vary in scope and design. Students working on an independent study project will work one-on-one with a faculty mentor. Students interested in conducting an independent study project are encouraged to seek out a faculty member with similar or related interests to mentor the project.

This course is offered in three programs within the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences:

  • Criminal Justice
    • CRJU 397 Independent Study in Criminal Justice
  • Psychology
    • PSYN 497 Independent Study in Psychology
  • Sociology
    • SOCL 397 Independent Study in Sociology

* Please see the Mercy College Undergraduate Catalog for a complete course description and a listing of course requirements.

 

 

FAQ

Getting involved in research has many benefits for you. Research experience will improve your ability to understand published work that you read for your classes, help develop critical thinking, help you learn how to work collaboratively as well as individually, improve your time management skills, help you identify an area of interest, and gain other valuable skills that will benefit you no matter what career path you choose down the road. You may even discover that you have a true passion for research and continue on to graduate school and an academic career.

Being a student at Mercy College and specifically at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences gives you a variety of opportunities to engage in research both within your specific major’s discipline and in other related Social Science disciplines.

  • Start with browsing through the research interests of the faculty in the School. Note those faculty who have current ongoing projects and Research Assistant positions open. See if any of those appeal to you.
  • Once you find someone whose interests appeal to you, contact the professor (e-mailing usually works best), let him or her know of your interest, and find out if the Research Assistant (RA) positions in the lab are still open.
  • Most professors, if they have an opening, will ask you to send them some information about you (e.g. your Resume) and/or will set up a meeting. It is highly recommended that you read at least one of their recent publications before you go to the meeting. This will allow you to better understand if this is really what you are interested in and to get better insight into the field. It will also allow you to have a more knowledgeable conversation with the professor. Remember: choose a topic that inspires you.
  • It is OK to be interested in more than one area. You can contact more than one professor, and you can even work in more than one lab (depending, of course, on how much time you have). However, we recommend that you do not participate in more than 2 labs. It is more important to develop your skill set and responsibilities within one or two labs that you are very interested in, than to be superficially involved in many. For example, becoming a Study Coordinator in one lab will benefit you more than doing data entry for three different labs.

 

A research assistant is someone who is involved in somebody else’s research project. The responsibilities may range from finding appropriate articles for the literature review, compiling bibliographies and reference lists, to collecting and coding or entering data, running the statistical analyses and writing parts of the manuscript. The difference between an RA and a researcher is that the RA is helping with the development of the researcher’s idea and the researcher orchestrates the idea and research design.

Please remember that being an RA is a job (though not a paid one, usually) and all interaction (via email, in person and in lab/lab meetings) is essentially an ongoing job interview. These are the faculty members who may one day be deciding on your graduate school application or, at least, they are someone you may ask to write a letter of recommendation and if you have not been professional, responsible and reliable, they will not have positive things to say on your behalf. Keep all interactions professional!

Research is very time consuming and requires commitment and good time management skills. Each lab has different requirements. Depending on the project and the organization of the lab, you may be required to spend a specific number of hours per week (usually between 6 to 10 hours) and attend regular lab meetings. If you are working on your own thesis or independent research project, you should expect to spend at least 15 hours a week. So if you have a full-time job and are taking 5 classes, unless you are superhuman and need no sleep doing research may prove extremely difficult. Most professors expect a minimum of one semester commitment for RA positions.

Most professors are very encouraging of students wanting to present at various national and sometimes even international conferences, especially if you are working on an independent study.  You can let your supervisor know that you would like to submit your project to an appropriate conference and they will usually be happy to assist you with it. Being a Mercy student, you always have the great opportunity to present your work at the Westchester Undergraduate Research Conference which takes place at Mercy or Manhattanville (alternate years) college in April. To learn more about other regional, national, and international conferences in your field – please be sure to ask your faculty mentor!

Conferences are great for getting your work recognized. They are also great for meeting prominent researchers in the field and likeminded students, exchanging ideas, and networking. If you are planning to apply to Graduate programs, having a conference presentation or poster on your CV will give you a lot of extra points.

There are two main ways to present your work at a conference – poster and panel presentation. The criteria for a poster to be accepted are usually somewhat less stringent (not in terms of level of work expected, but rather the stage of your project at the time of submission) and the deadline is usually later than that for presentations. Presentations are usually done in Power Point and occur in a panel with 3 or 4 others (your professor may want to submit a full panel which you will be part of, or you can submit an individual paper that the conference organizers will then combine with others on a similar topic). Presentations are usually 15-20 minutes each, with time for questions afterward. They are more formal than posters. Posters are presented during the poster session where you will display your work along with many others, and have a chance to discuss it with people who come to see it in a more relaxed atmosphere. Both ways are great for being able to showcase your work.

YES! Even if you are not presenting your own work, you can benefit greatly from attending a conference in the field of your interest. You will be able to find out about all the current developments in the field, newest projects that may not even have been published yet. You will be able to network with researchers and students that may inspire you and give you ideas for your own project. You will meet people from other colleges and universities where you may eventually apply for graduate studies and gain insight about the kind of research going on there. Again, networking is key in the world of academia.

Most professors will help you bring your work to a publishable level if that is your goal or agree to include your name on their publication if you substantially contributed to the project. The order of authors on such publications should be discussed ahead of time to avoid confusion and disappointment. It is important to keep in mind that each faculty member has their own rules regarding this process and it is important to be aware of this when agreeing to work on a new project. It is extremely rare to publish as the sole author at the UG or MA level. However, it is actually of great benefit to publish with professors because they will help you in the process, as they are published themselves and know the process. Many are likely to be known in their field and therefore it will be an added bonus for you to have your name associated with nationally and internationally recognized figures in the field. Bottom line, discuss your interest in publishing with the supervisor and he/she will let you know how they usually go about it, and what you need to do.

Being a researcher is not easy: it requires time, commitment, motivation, and devotion. You will spend long hours doing seemingly boring tasks like data entering, you will get frustrated at times for not being able to obtain all the data you wanted, get discouraged because your results did not come out the way you expected and because you can’t make sense of the analyses. However, it will also give you endless opportunities and incredible satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. Nothing compares to seeing your ideas recognized, your hypotheses confirmed and the “aha” moment of when it all finally makes sense. It can be as much fun as you make it. It will help you develop intellectually and professionally, regardless of whether you decide to make it your career or just an experience. It will give you skills that will help you in any path you choose.