To see upcoming worshops in support of Independent Work, please consult the Office of the Dean of the College's online calendar.
Joining a Community of Writers
While writing a JP or senior thesis may seem like the most solitary of all the writing you do at Princeton, it needn't be. In fact, because you'll be making important arguments that contribute to scholarly conversation in your department and discipline, you'll have the most rewarding experience if you do what professional scholars and scientists do: join or create a community of other writers and scholars who can exchange drafts with you, consult about the process, encourage you, help you decipher the expectations of your discipline, and offer feedback on your research, your ideas and your argument. Seeking feedback on your writing — and writing near others — is an advanced writing practice.
The Writing Program, home of your freshman writing seminar, offers support and guidance to complement your working relationship with your adviser and help you find collaborators while you conduct your independent work. Housed in Whitman College, the Writing Center offers free one-on-one conferences with experienced fellow writers trained to consult on assignments in any discipline. Special 80-minute conferences are available for JP and senior thesis writers, who may sign up to work with a graduate student fellow from the department of their choice. JP writers might find helpful the program's Guide to Writing the JP. As a senior, you may also join one of the Senior Thesis Writing Groups offered in participating departments. Many of these writing groups schedule occasional boot camps, where you and your fellow students set writing goals and commit yourselves to blocks of distraction-free writing time. If your department doesn't have its own writing group, feel free to contact the Writing Program about joining a group in a neighboring discipline.
Finding Assistance with Survey Research
If your independent work involves survey research, the Survey Research Center (SRC) can assist you in designing and implementing your own survey research project. The center provides consultation and guidance to juniors and seniors on study design, sampling, instrument development, data collection and data processing. The SRC also advises students on the best ways to follow the University’s guidelines for conducting survey research with human subjects. The center has a 12-station computer-assisted telephone interviewing facility, a library collection on survey research methods, and a network of external resources that you may access for your independent work. Students may also create a free online account on the center’s Qualtrics system, which enables them to develop and manage their own web-based surveys and experiments. For help or advice on starting your survey project, please request for an appointment or call 609-258-5660.
Choosing, Applying and Interpreting Quantitative Methods
Data and Statistical Services (DSS), located in Firestone Library, has librarians available to help you locate data as well as consultants to assist juniors and seniors engaged in statistical or other quantitative data analysis as part of their independent work. To find data, contact the appropriate subject librarian. The DSS lab supports students in choosing, applying and interpreting quantitative methods, and with the use of statistical software needed to implement these methods (Stata, SPSS, SAS and R) in a variety of academic disciplines such as economics, finance, politics, public policy, population research and sociology. For assistance with statistical methodology or preparing your data for your independent work, feel free to use the lab's walk-in service or send an email. As the services are in high demand between the months of February and April, we encourage you to plan your visits early. Please note that the lab does not provide assistance with homework assignments related to statistical methodology or take-home exams.
Tapping into Library Resources
With over ten individual libraries spread across campus, more than seven million printed volumes including rare and special collections, access to nearly 300,000 electronic books, thousands of research journals, hundreds of online databases and terabytes of geospatial data, the Princeton University library system offers vast resources to support student research projects. To learn how to effectively navigate the library system, you may want to consult one of the 53 professional subject specialists, visit a reference desk, use chat or email reference, or browse through the library’s collection of guides to subject research and information about citing sources.
If you are a senior in the humanities or social sciences, you may apply for a carrel (private study space) in Firestone Library by filling out an online application. Several other libraries also offer carrels; you should consult library staff for more information.
Getting Approval for Projects Involving Human and Animal Research
The conduct of research on human or animal subjects is highly regulated and raises a number of ethical questions. Princeton University is committed to upholding the highest legal standards and considering the care and welfare of all living subjects in the planning, review and implementation of ethical research. The Office of Research Integrity and Assurance (RIA) was developed to provide regulatory oversight and subject matter expertise in the development of research applications involving human, animal and recombinant DNA/biohazardous materials. The office oversees the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the Institutional Review Board for research involving human subject matter, the Institutional Biosafety Committee, and financial conflict of interest. The office's website provides practical information involving: your legal obligations; policies and guidelines; whether or not a research application, protocol or registration is required, including which form; timelines for important committee meeting dates and deadlines for submission materials; and training materials.
Navigating the approval process may seem daunting at first. Thankfully, your faculty adviser and the knowledgeable office staff can help you along the way. To avoid delays in starting your research, you should discuss your plans with your adviser early and reach out to the RIA office for important deadlines as well as advice on how to prepare for the review and approval process.
Seeking Effective Strategies for Independent Work
With the JP and senior thesis there come new expectations for Princeton students. The size and scope of the projects are larger, of course, and this poses planning, scheduling and time management challenges. You get to follow your interests and choose what and how you want to study your topic, but this means you must make many more decisions. The McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning can help you clarify expectations, identify useful resources and make a plan. The center offers workshops and panels which complement what you can learn from your adviser, your coursework, the Writing Program and librarians, among others. Topics include: mapping out your semester; conducting efficient lab work; effective reading and note-making; and overcoming procrastination. It also offers one-on-one consultations that provide a space for you not only to think through your project, but also to gain new strategies and create a structured plan for completing it. In short, the dedicated staff at the McGraw Center can help you make the most of your independent work while enjoying the process more along the way.
Conducting Independent Work Abroad
Many undergraduate students are called to conduct a portion of their independent work outside the Princeton campus. Whether you hope to travel abroad to collect field samples, conduct interviews, consult archives, visit research facilities to run specialized experiments or pursue a research project during a semester abroad at an affiliated institution, Princeton has many resources and programs in place to support your research ambitions. In every case, though, you will want to start planning early and discuss possible options with your departmental representative and faculty adviser, as well as coordinate with the Office of International Programs. Funding support may be available through your home department or other offices and programs on campus.