Undergraduate Students

Info for potential undergraduate Research Assistants

What does an RA do?

SML RAs typically collect and manage data, run experiments or interview participants, evaluate literature in communication and related fields, produce literature reviews and annotated bibliographies, and analyze or code collected data.  RAs who have demonstrated ability with these tasks will have the opportunity to help design experiments and even write papers for publication.

What are the requirements for being an RA?

We suggest that RAs take COMM/INFO 2450, as this course offers an overview of the theories that underlie a lot of our work.  Being an RA also requires hard work and commitment; in fact, working as an RA for credit requires the same (or more) time commitment as taking a class. Therefore, our most stringent requirements for RAs are time management and communication skills.  That is, you need to be responsible about making sure you have the time you need to complete research tasks and attend Lab meetings.  General lab meetings will be at a fixed (mandatory!) time each week, but you should also expect to make time to meet with task groups for any specific projects that you take on.  You will also need to be dependable and communicate well with your research group – not just about your ideas, but about your needs and your availability.  Some projects have more specific requirements for skills or qualifications; these will be mentioned in the position descriptions.  In general, we will teach you the technical or manual skills you need to succeed as an RA.

What is the time commitment?

One research credit (in COMM 2990/COMM 4990/INFO 4900) is the equivalent of three hours per week of work.  We prefer that students sign up for 3 credits, which generally amounts to 8-10 hours of work per week.  In most circumstances, you won’t have to be physically present in the Lab for that many hours – much of the work that we will ask you to do is self-directed.  We suggest blocking off two hours per day on weekdays in your planner or calendar and then evaluating whether you’ll have the time to commit both to research and to the rest of your classes and activities. The only mandatory in-lab time commitment will be the weekly RA meeting (SP ’19 it is Fridays at 1:30PM) and completing two of your registered research hours in the SML every week.

How are RAs graded?

You will be graded mainly on your level of participation in your team or project, including on how well you communicate with your group.  Flaking out on your group or making commitments and breaking them without explanation will hurt your grade, holding yourself accountable for the tasks you’re assigned will help your grade.  You will also be asked to write a short reflection paper at the end of the semester that summarizes what you’ve learned.  The level of thought and completeness given to this paper will also factor into your grade.

How can I apply to be an RA?

Please fill out the Undergraduate RA Online Application form.  If you have already filled it out, there’s no need to do it again.

I applied for a position, but I didn’t get it. 🙁

That’s okay! There are always more applicants than there are open positions. Preference is usually given to students who have demonstrated a commitment to research in the past. If you don’t get matched with a project this semester, please don’t get discouraged – we’re always starting up new projects, so be sure to check back in future semesters.

Can I do an Honors thesis?

If you are a student in the Department of Communication and interested in an honors thesis, we encourage you to join the lab as early as possible, as good honors thesis work usually requires advance planning. If this is something that you’re interested in, we highly recommend a few semesters of research experience before you begin your thesis. It is generally in the second or third year when students begin conceptualizing their study, during the third when it is conducted, and during the fourth when the writing is done. Unfortunately, for those that join the lab after junior year, it is often too late to produce a thesis.

Can I get a letter of recommendation?

If you have worked in the lab for several semesters or taken a class with Professor Bazarova, we would be more than happy to write a letter of recommendation for you with at least 3 weeks notices prior to the deadline.

I still have questions.

Please email the Lab Director, Dr. Natalie Bazarova, at nnb8@cornell.edu with questions.