15 Steps to Good Research

  • Define and articulate a research question (formulate a research hypothesis). How to Write a Thesis Statement (Indiana University)
  • Identify possible sources of information in many types and formats. Georgetown University Library's Research & Course Guides
  • Judge the scope of the project.
  • Reevaluate the research question based on the nature and extent of information available and the parameters of the research project.
  • Select the most appropriate investigative methods (surveys, interviews, experiments) and research tools (periodical indexes, databases, websites).
  • Plan the research project. Writing Anxiety (UNC-Chapel Hill) Strategies for Academic Writing (SUNY Empire State College)
  • Retrieve information using a variety of methods (draw on a repertoire of skills).
  • Refine the search strategy as necessary.
  • Write and organize useful notes and keep track of sources. Taking Notes from Research Reading (University of Toronto) Use a citation manager: Zotero or Refworks
  • Evaluate sources using appropriate criteria. Evaluating Internet Sources
  • Synthesize, analyze and integrate information sources and prior knowledge. Georgetown University Writing Center
  • Revise hypothesis as necessary.
  • Use information effectively for a specific purpose.
  • Understand such issues as plagiarism, ownership of information (implications of copyright to some extent), and costs of information. Georgetown University Honor Council Copyright Basics (Purdue University) How to Recognize Plagiarism: Tutorials and Tests from Indiana University
  • Cite properly and give credit for sources of ideas. MLA Bibliographic Form (7th edition, 2009) MLA Bibliographic Form (8th edition, 2016) Turabian Bibliographic Form: Footnote/Endnote Turabian Bibliographic Form: Parenthetical Reference Use a citation manager: Zotero or Refworks

Adapted from the Association of Colleges and Research Libraries "Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction" , which are more complete and include outcomes. See also the broader "Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education."

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What are Research Skills? How to Improve Your Skills in Research

Learn strategies and techniques to improve your research skills. Avoid common mistakes and implement proven methods for efficient research. This article offers practical tips to enhance your ability to find and evaluate high-quality information.

What are Research Skills? How to Improve Your Skills in Research

Are you struggling to find relevant and reliable information for your research? Do you want to avoid getting lost in a sea of sources and needing help knowing where to start? Improving your research skills is essential for academic success and professional growth.

In today's information age, effectively conducting research has become more important than ever. Whether you are a student, a professional, or simply someone who wants to stay informed, knowing how to find and evaluate information is crucial.

Fortunately, some strategies and techniques can help you improve your research skills and become a more efficient and effective researcher. By avoiding common mistakes and implementing proven methods, you can enhance your ability to find high-quality information and make the most of your research endeavors. This article will explore some practical tips and tricks to help you improve your research skills and achieve better results.

fieldengineer.com | What are Research Skills? How to Improve Your Skills in Research

What is Research?

Research is a critical part of learning, problem-solving, and decision-making. It is an essential process used in every field for both the individual and collective’s mutual benefit and success. Research involves systematically gathering data from primary or secondary sources, analyzing it, interpreting it, and communicating its findings to researchers and other interested parties.

Research can be divided into two main categories: quantitative research, which uses numerical data to describe phenomena, and qualitative research, which seeks to understand people's beliefs, opinions, values, or behaviors. Quantitative research often involves applying model-based approaches that can predict outcomes based on observations. It is one of the most powerful methods of discovering information about the world, as it allows for testing hypotheses in a systematic manner. Qualitative research is more exploratory in nature by focusing on understanding the motivations behind what people do or think rather than developing models or producing statistics in order to conclude behavior and relationships between variables. This type of research usually relies more on observation and engagement with people instead of using statistical models.

What are Research Skills?

Research skills are the abilities and talents required to focus on an objective, gather the relevant data linked to it, analyze it using appropriate methods, and accurately communicate the results. Taking part in research indicates that you have acquired knowledge of your subject matter, have digested that knowledge, and processed, evaluated, and analyzed it until you can resolve a problem or answer a query. It is highly beneficial for employers to hire people with strong research skills since they can provide valuable insights and add value to the company’s performance. Therefore, researching effectively has become crucial to securing a job in most industries.

Why Do Research Skills Matter?

Research skills are essential if one intends to succeed in today's competitive world. With technology ever-evolving and a need to stay ahead of the competition, employees who possess research skills can prove invaluable to their employers. These skills include researching, analyzing, and interpreting data and making informed decisions based on that information.

Employers value workers who can quickly develop a thorough understanding of any changes or trends in their field of work through accurate research. Knowing how to assess customer needs, recognize competition, write reports, improve productivity, and advise on investments can also benefit any business. With the help of research skills, companies can uncover ways to adapt their services or products that better serve their customers’ needs while helping them save money at the same time. This makes overall operations more efficient as well as helps a company remain ahead of its competitors.

how to get better at research

Essential Research Skills :

Here is a list of essential research skills:

Data Collection

Data collection is an important part of comprehending a certain topic and ensuring reliable information is collected while striving to answer complex questions. Every situation differs, but data collection typically includes surveys, interviews, observations, and existing document reviews. The data collected can be quantitative or qualitative, depending on the nature of the problem at hand. As students advance through university and other educational institutions, they will need to read extensively into a particular field and may even need to undertake comprehensive literature reviews to answer fundamental questions.

The skills acquired through data collection during university are invaluable for future roles and jobs. Gaining experience in understanding complex topics, reading widely on a given subject matter, collecting relevant data, and analyzing findings - all these activities are integral when dealing with any type of project within the corporate sector. Therefore, embarking on various research projects enhances a person's education level and brings about significant professional experience.


Setting goals is an important skill for any successful research project. It allows you to stay focused and motivated throughout the process. Goals are also essential in helping with direction: they provide a path to organize our thoughts, narrow our focus, and prioritize the tasks we need to undertake to achieve our desired result. The concept of goal-setting is inherent in most research processes, as everything needs to have something to strive for — whether that’s gaining knowledge about a particular topic or testing a theory.

When it comes to creating and setting goals during the research process, you must have clear and specific objectives in mind from the outset. Writing down your thoughts helps define these objectives, which can inform the data collection process; moreover, thinking about short-term and long-term goals can help you create manageable steps toward achieving them. Learning how to break up larger projects into smaller “mini-goals effectively” can make all the difference when tackling complex investigations — allowing researchers to monitor their progress more easily and culminate results further down the line.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is an integral part of the modern workplace. To succeed, one must be able to look at a situation objectively and make decisions based on evidence. The information examined needs to come from various sources, such as data collection, personal observation, or analysis. The goal should then be to take all this information and form a logical judgment that informs an action plan or idea.

Someone who displays strong critical thinking skills will not just accept proposed ideas at face value but instead can understand how these ideas can be applied and challenged. Accepting something without consideration means making the wrong decision due to a lack of thought. Critical thinkers understand how brainstorming works, assessing all elements before forming any decision. From negotiating with colleagues or customers in adversarial scenarios to analyzing complex documents such as legal contracts in order to review business agreements - critical dedicated apply their knowledge effectively and are able to back up their evaluation with evidence collected from multiple sources.

Observation Skills

Observation skills are necessary for conducting any form of research, whether it be in the workplace or as part of an investigative process. It is important to be able to pick up on the details that might otherwise pass unnoticed, such as inconsistencies in data or irregularities in how something is presented, and to pay careful attention to regulations and procedures that govern the company or environment. This can help researchers to ensure their processes are accurate and reliable.

As well as analyzing what we see around us directly, many research methodologies often involve calculated statistical analyses and calculations. For this reason, it’s important to develop strong observation skills so that the legitimacy of information can be confirmed and checked before conclusions are formed. Improving this skill requires dedication and practice, which could include keeping a journal reflecting on experiences, posing yourself questions about what you have observed, and seeking out opportunities in unfamiliar settings to test your observations.

Detail Orientation

Detail orientation is an important research skill for any scientific endeavor. It allows one to assess a situation or problem in minute detail and make appropriate judgments based on the information gathered. A detail-oriented thinker can easily spot errors, inconsistencies, and vital pieces of evidence, which can help lead to accurate conclusions from the research. Additionally, this skill allows someone to evaluate the quality and accuracy of data recorded during an experiment or project more efficiently to ensure validity.

Spotting small mistakes that may otherwise have been overlooked is a crucial part of conducting detailed research that must be perfected. Individuals aiming for superior outcomes should strive to develop their skill at detecting details by practicing critical analysis techniques, such as breaking down large bodies of information into smaller tasks to identify finer points quickly. Moreover, encouragement should also be made for elaborate comparison and analysis between different pieces of information when solving a complex problem, as it can help provide better insights into problems accurately.

Investigative Skills

Investigative skills are an essential component when it comes to gathering and analyzing data. In a professional setting, it is important to determine the accuracy and validity of different sources of information before making any decisions or articulating ideas. Generally, effective investigation requires collecting different sets of reliable data, such as surveys and interviews with stakeholders, employees, customers, etc. For example, if a company internally assesses possible challenges within its business operations environment, it would need to conduct more profound research involving talking to relevant stakeholders who could provide critical perspectives about the situation.

Data-gathering techniques such as comparison shopping and regulatory reviews have become more commonplace in the industry as people strive for greater transparency and more accurate results. Knowing how to identify reliable sources of information can give individuals a competitive advantage and allow them to make sound decisions based on accurate data. Investing time in learning different investigative skills can help recruiters spot applicants dedicated to acquiring knowledge in this field. Developing these investigative skills is also valuable for those looking for executive positions or starting their own business. By familiarizing themselves with their application process, people can become adept at collecting high-quality data they may use in their research endeavors.

Time Management

Time management is a key skill for any researcher. It's essential to be able to allocate time between different activities so you can effectively plan and structure your research projects. Without good time management, you may find yourself hastily completing tasks or feeling stressed out as you rush to complete an analysis. Ultimately, managing your time allows you to stay productive and ensure that each project is completed with the highest results.

Good time management requires various skills such as planning ahead, prioritizing tasks, breaking down large projects into smaller steps, and even delegating some activities when possible. It also means setting realistic goals for yourself in terms of the amount of research that can be achieved in certain timestamps and learning how to adjust these goals when needed. Becoming mindful of how you spend the same hours each day will propel your productivity and see positive results from your efforts. Time management becomes especially relevant regarding data collection and analysis – it is crucial to understand precisely what kind of resources are needed for each task before diving into the research itself. Knowing how much time should be dedicated to each step is essential for meeting deadlines while still retaining accuracy in the final outcomes of one’s study.

Tips on How to Improve Your Research Skills

Below are some tips that can help in improving your skills in research:

Initiate your project with a structured outline

When embarking on any research project, creating an outline and scope document must first ensure that you remain on the right track. An outline sets expectations for your project by forming a detailed strategy for researching the topic and gathering the necessary data to conclude. It will help you stay organized and break down large projects into more manageable parts. This can help prevent procrastination as each part of the project has its own timeline, making it easier to prioritize tasks accordingly.

Using an outline and scope document also allows for better structure when conducting research or interviews, as it guides which sources are most relevant, what questions need to be answered, and how information should be collected or presented. This ensures that all information received through research or interviews stays within the confines of the chosen topic of investigation. Additionally, it ensures that no important details are overlooked while minimizing the chance that extraneous information gets included in your results. Taking this time upfront prevents potential problems during analysis or reporting of findings later.

Acquire expertise in advanced data collection methods

When it comes to collecting data for research purposes, a range of advanced data collection techniques can be used to maximize your efficiency and accuracy. One such technique is customizing your online search results with advanced search settings. By adding quotation marks and wildcard characters to the terms you are searching for, you are more likely to find the information you need from reliable sources. This can be especially useful if, for instance, you are looking for exact quotes or phrases. Different search engines require different advanced techniques and tactics, so learning these can help you get more specific results from your research endeavors.

Aside from using online searches, another standard methodology when conducting research is accessing primary information through libraries or other public sources. A specific classification system will likely be in place that can help researchers locate the materials needed quickly and easily. Knowing and understanding this system allows one to access information much more efficiently while also giving them ample opportunity to increase their knowledge of various topics by browsing related content in the same category groups. Thus, by learning about advanced data collection techniques for both online and offline sources, researchers can make substantial progress in their studies more efficiently.

Validate and examine the reliability of your data sources

Collecting reliable information for research can be a challenge, especially when relying on online sources. It is essential to remember that not all sources are created equal, and some sites may contain false or inaccurate data. It is, therefore important to verify and analyze the data before using it as part of your research.

One way to start verifying and analyzing your sources is to cross-reference material from one source with another. This may help you determine if particular facts or claims are accurate and, therefore, more valid than others. Additionally, trace where the data is coming from by looking at the author or organization behind it so that you can assess their expertise in a particular field and authority on the topic at hand. Once these steps have been completed, you can confidently use this trusted information for your project.

Structure your research materials

Organizing your research materials is an integral part of any research process. When you’re conducting a project or study and trying to find the most relevant information, you can become overwhelmed with all the data available. It’s important to separate valid from invalid materials and to categorize research materials by subject for easy access later on. Bookmarking websites on a computer or using a digital asset management tool are two effective methods for organizing research information.

When researching, it’s critical to remember that some sources have limited value and may be outside the scope of your topic. Recognizing reliable material versus trustworthy resources can be complex in this sea of information. However, sorting data into appropriate categories can help narrow down what is necessary for producing valid conclusions. This method of classifying information helps ensure that vital documents aren't overlooked during the organization process as they are placed in folders shortcutted for quick access within one centralized source whenever needed. Separating valuable sources also makes it easier to reference later on when writing reports or giving presentations - material won't get lost among irrelevant data, and conclusions will be backed by sound evidence.

Enhance your research and communication capabilities

Developing research and communication skills is essential for succeeding academically and professionally in the modern world. The key to improving these skills lies in rigorous practice, which can begin with small projects such as resolving common issues or completing a research task that can be made into a personal project. One way to do this is to volunteer for research projects at work and gain experience under the guidance of experienced researchers. This will improve your research skills and help you develop communication skills when working with others on the project. Another option is to turn a personal project into a research task. For example, if you plan on taking a holiday soon, you could create an objective method to select the best destination by conducting online research on destinations and making informed decisions based on thorough analysis. Practicing in this way enables you to complete any research task confidently and communicate efficiently with ease.

How to Articulate Research Skills on Your Resume

Research projects require commitment and perseverance, making it an important skill to include on a resume. Even if you have had limited research experience throughout your education or previous job, including this in your resume assesses these qualities to potential employers. It's important to consider the extent of your research experience when deciding how to add this part of your background to your resume. If you have been involved with multiple in-depth research projects, it might be best to highlight this by including it as its own section. On the other hand, if the amount of research you have completed is more limited, then try including it in the skills section instead.

When adding research experience and accomplishments into either section of your resume, be sure to emphasize any specific roles or contributions you made during the process instead of just describing the project itself. Furthermore, remember to quantify any successes where possible - this showcases both communication and technical proficiency strengths, which can help make your resume stand out even more. By properly articulating research skills within a resume, employers will likely be more interested in what job seekers have accomplished in their careers.

how to get better at research

How to Apply Research Skills Effectively in Your Workplace

Research skills are an invaluable set of abilities to bring to your workplace. To make sure you use them properly, a good place to start is by taking time to plan the project you have been assigned. Whether it’s writing a report or analyzing data, mapping out what tasks you need to do and how long they should take helps to understand the project timeline better. This also makes setting aside dedicated time for research easier too.

To ensure that the decisions made are sound and informed, reading up on the subject area related to the project remains one of the premier ways of doing this. This will help to ensure that any problems arising can be solved quickly and effectively, as well as provide answers before any decisions are actually put into practice. By arming yourself with knowledge gathered through reading about a particular topic, it can give you more confidence when formulating plans or strategies in which direction to take your work in.

Final Thoughts

Research skills are increasingly important in the modern world, and gaining proficiency in this area can significantly benefit a person's career. Research skills are essential for success in many different roles and fields, including those within business and industry, education, science, and medicine. Developing a deep understanding of research allows us to identify problems better and critically evaluate potential solutions. It also bolsters our problem-solving abilities as we work to find creative solutions that meet our efforts' objectives.

By improving your research capabilities, you can impress employers during an application process or when joining a team at work. Research skills are considered soft skills by potential employers since they signal that you have attention to detail while simultaneously demonstrating your ability to learn new things quickly. Employers regard these skills highly, making them one of the key graduate career skills recruiters seek. Furthermore, being able to add ‘research skills’ to your CV will be looked upon favorably by employers and help drive up your employability significantly. Demonstrating that you possess these sought-after traits makes it easier for recruiters to give you the opportunity you've been looking for, so it's worth investing the time into developing these life-long learning tools today.

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10 Research Skills and How To Develop Them

research skills

  • Updated December 25, 2023
  • Published August 8, 2023

Are you looking to learn more about Research skills? In this article, we discuss Research skills in more detail and give you tips about how you can develop and improve them.

What are Research skills?

Research skills refer to the ability to effectively and efficiently gather, analyze, and synthesize information to answer questions, solve problems, or contribute to a body of knowledge. These skills are essential for various fields and disciplines, ranging from academic and scientific research to business, journalism, and beyond. Effective research skills involve several key components:

Information Retrieval

Source evaluation.

  • Critical Thinking

Data Analysis

Problem formulation, organization and note-taking, synthesis and writing, ethical considerations, time management.

  • Adaptability

Top 10 Research Skills

Below we discuss the top 10 Research skills. Each skill is discussed in more detail, and we will also give you tips on improving them.

Information Retrieval is all about mastering the art of finding relevant and credible sources of information to support your research goals. This skill involves using various online and offline tools to locate the data, articles, studies, and materials that are most pertinent to your research topic. It’s like being a detective for knowledge – you’re trying to uncover valuable insights that will contribute to your research project.

To excel in Information Retrieval, you must become adept at effectively using search engines, databases, libraries, and other resources. It’s not just about typing keywords into a search bar; it’s about understanding how to refine your searches, use advanced search operators, and explore different databases and sources.

You’ll need to evaluate the quality and reliability of sources to ensure that the information you gather is trustworthy and accurate. This skill also requires critical thinking, as you’ll need to assess the relevance of sources to your research objectives.

How to Improve Information Retrieval

Improving your Information Retrieval skills involves a combination of practice, strategy, and awareness. Start by familiarizing yourself with different research databases and libraries relevant to your field. Experiment with various search terms and use advanced search operators to narrow down results. Take the time to evaluate the credibility of sources – look for peer-reviewed articles, authoritative authors, and reliable institutions. Keep track of your searches and results to refine your strategies over time.

Stay updated with the latest developments in search technology and research databases to optimize your information retrieval process. Remember, the more you practice and fine-tune your approach, the better you’ll become at uncovering valuable gems of information for your research endeavors.

Source Evaluation is about becoming a discerning judge of the information you encounter during your research journey. It involves assessing the credibility, reliability, and relevance of the sources you come across, ensuring that you’re building your work on a foundation of trustworthy and accurate information. Think of yourself as a gatekeeper, using only the most reliable and relevant sources to support your research.

You need to develop a critical eye to enhance your Source Evaluation skills. Begin by examining the authorship – who wrote the source, and what are their credentials? Peer-reviewed articles from established researchers are more reliable than anonymous blog posts. Consider the publication source – is it a reputable journal or website in your field?

Next, look for citations and references within the source – a well-researched work will often cite other credible sources. Additionally, evaluate the publication date – while older sources can provide historical context, ensure you’re using recent information for up-to-date insights.

How to Improve Source Evaluation

Improving your Source Evaluation skills requires a combination of awareness and practice. As you encounter new sources, ask questions about their credibility and relevance. Do evidence and references support the information? Does the author have any potential biases? Take advantage of critical thinking to analyze the source’s overall quality.

To further refine your skills, seek guidance from mentors, professors, or librarians who can provide valuable insights into evaluating sources. The more you engage with this skill, the better you’ll become at building a solid foundation for your research with credible and reliable materials.

Critical Thinking is the intellectual toolset that empowers you to analyze information objectively, discern patterns, and draw well-informed conclusions based on evidence. It’s like being a detective for ideas – you sift through data, identify biases, and unravel complexities to make informed judgments that drive your research forward with clarity and precision.

To hone your Critical Thinking skills, you need to cultivate a curious and analytical mindset. Start by questioning assumptions and biases in both your own thinking and the information you encounter.

When evaluating sources, consider multiple viewpoints and sources of evidence before forming conclusions. Develop the ability to identify logical fallacies or weak arguments that may distort the validity of your findings. Embrace open-mindedness and be willing to adapt your ideas when faced with compelling evidence that challenges your initial perspective.

How to Improve Critical Thinking

Improving your Critical Thinking skills requires practice and deliberate effort. Engage in discussions and debates within your field and beyond to expose yourself to diverse perspectives and sharpen your ability to analyze complex issues. Regularly challenge yourself to critically evaluate information, whether it’s a news article, a research paper, or a colleague’s argument.

Seek feedback from mentors or peers to refine your critical thinking process and identify areas for improvement. Remember, Critical Thinking is an ongoing journey that can be developed over time – the more you engage with it, the more adept you’ll become at navigating the intricate landscape of ideas in your research endeavors.

Related :  Critical Thinking Interview Questions & Answers

Data Analysis is the art of processing, interpreting, and extracting meaningful insights from the raw information you’ve collected during your research journey. Think of it as deciphering a puzzle – you’re transforming numbers, observations, or qualitative data into a coherent narrative that answers your research questions and adds value to your work.

To excel in Data Analysis, you need to develop both quantitative and qualitative skills. For quantitative data, embrace statistical tools and techniques that help you identify trends, correlations, and patterns in your data sets. Practice using software like Excel, SPSS, or specialized tools for your field to perform statistical tests and visualize results effectively. For qualitative data, immerse yourself in the details, coding and categorizing themes to distill rich insights from textual or visual sources.

How to Improve Data Analysis

Improving your Data Analysis skills involves a combination of practice, learning, and refining your techniques. Start by immersing yourself in the basics of statistics and data analysis methodologies relevant to your research field. Engage in tutorials and online courses to familiarize yourself with various tools and software. As you analyze data, maintain clear documentation of your process and decisions, which will be crucial when presenting your findings.

Collaborate with peers or mentors who are experienced in data analysis to gain insights and feedback on your techniques. Remember, Data Analysis is about transforming data into knowledge – the more you engage with this skill, the better you’ll become at uncovering valuable insights that contribute to the depth and impact of your research.

Related :  Research Interview Questions & Answers

Problem Formulation is like setting the compass for your research journey – it involves defining clear and focused research questions or hypotheses that guide your entire investigation. Consider it the foundation of your work, as it shapes your approach, methods, and the ultimate impact of your research.

To master Problem Formulation, you need to become skilled in asking the right questions. Begin by thoroughly understanding the topic you’re exploring. What gaps or uncertainties do you notice in the existing knowledge? What specific aspect of the topic piques your interest? Craft research questions that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

If you’re developing hypotheses, ensure they are testable and grounded in existing theories or observations. Your skills in Problem Formulation also extend to identifying the scope and boundaries of your research – understanding what you’re including and excluding from your study.

How to Improve Problem Formulation

Improving your Problem Formulation skills requires practice and iterative refinement. Start by conducting a comprehensive literature review to understand the existing research landscape in your area. This will help you identify potential gaps and formulate questions that build upon existing knowledge.

Discuss with peers, mentors, or experts in your field to gain different perspectives and insights into potential research problems. As you develop your skills, be open to revising and refining your research questions based on new information or insights. Remember, Problem Formulation is the compass that guides your research journey – the more you invest in crafting clear and well-defined questions, the more impactful and focused your research will be.

Related :  10 Fact Finding Skills and How to Develop Them

Imagine these skills as your research toolkit for maintaining order amidst the vast sea of information you encounter. Organization involves structuring and managing your research materials, while Note-Taking ensures you capture valuable insights and details for future reference. Together, they help you stay on track and prevent valuable information from slipping through the cracks.

To excel in Organization and Note-Taking, you need to develop strategies that work best for you. Start by creating a systematic folder structure on your computer to store digital documents, articles, and data sets. For physical materials, consider using labeled folders or binders. As you gather information, employ tools like reference management software to keep track of your sources and generate citations efficiently.

Simultaneously, practice effective Note-Taking during your readings and research. Jot down key points, ideas, and relevant quotes in a structured format, whether you’re using a physical notebook or a digital note-taking app.

How to Improve Organization and Note-Taking

Improving your Organization and Note-Taking skills requires a mix of discipline and adaptability. Establish consistent routines for organizing research materials, updating folders, and managing citations. Regularly review and reorganize your notes to keep them relevant and accessible. Experiment with different note-taking techniques, such as outlining, summarizing, or mind mapping, to find the approach that aligns with your learning style.

Remember, Organization and Note-Taking are your allies in navigating the sea of information – the more you refine these skills, the smoother your research journey will become and the more confident you’ll be in tackling complex topics.

Synthesis and Writing are your means of weaving together the threads of information and insights you’ve collected into a coherent and impactful narrative. Think of it as crafting a masterpiece from the puzzle pieces of your research – you’re presenting your findings, analysis, and conclusions in a way that informs and engages your audience.

To excel in Synthesis and Writing, you must become a data and idea storyteller. Begin by outlining your research paper or report. Organize your findings logically, building a structured framework that guides your reader through your research journey. Ensure each section flows smoothly, connecting the dots between concepts and evidence. While writing, focus on clarity and conciseness – avoid jargon and convoluted language that may confuse your readers. Use effective transitions to guide them from one point to the next.

How to Improve Synthesis and Writing

Improving your Synthesis and Writing skills requires both practice and revision. Start by breaking down the writing process into manageable steps – drafting, revising, and editing. Give yourself time between drafting and revising to approach your work with fresh eyes. Critically evaluate your writing for clarity, coherence, and accuracy during revision.

Consider seeking feedback from peers, mentors, or writing centers to gain insights into improving your writing style. Study well-written papers in your field to observe how experienced researchers present their ideas effectively. Remember, Synthesis and Writing are your tools for communicating your research’s impact – the more you refine these skills, the more effectively you’ll share your discoveries and contribute to the body of knowledge in your field.

Ethical Considerations encompass the principles and guidelines that ensure your research is conducted with integrity, respect for participants’ rights, and a commitment to transparency. Think of it as the moral compass that guides your research journey, ensuring that your work upholds ethical standards and contributes positively to society.

To excel in Ethical Considerations, you need to become a guardian of ethical integrity in your research. Begin by understanding the ethical guidelines and regulations specific to your field and your research type. This involves respecting participants’ autonomy by obtaining informed consent, protecting their privacy and confidentiality, and ensuring they’re treated with dignity. Additionally, uphold intellectual honesty by properly attributing sources, avoiding plagiarism, and disclosing any potential conflicts of interest.

How to Improve Ethical Considerations

Improving your Ethical Considerations skills involves a combination of awareness and vigilance. Regularly educate yourself on the ethical codes and regulations relevant to your field and research methods. When designing your research, carefully plan how you will address ethical concerns and potential risks.

As you conduct your research, stay attuned to any ethical dilemmas that may arise and be prepared to address them appropriately. Remember, Ethical Considerations are at the heart of responsible research – the more you cultivate these skills, the more your work will contribute positively to both your field and society as a whole.

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Time Management involves the art of effectively allocating your time to different research tasks, ensuring that you meet deadlines, stay on track, and maintain a balanced workflow. Think of it as your compass for navigating the often-intricate landscape of research – it helps you stay organized, productive, and in control of your research journey.

To excel in Time Management, you need to become a master of planning and prioritization. Start by breaking down your research project into manageable tasks and setting realistic goals for each stage. Create a schedule that allocates research, data collection, analysis, writing, and revision time. Be mindful of your energy levels – tackle complex tasks during your most productive hours. Embrace tools like to-do lists, calendars, and time-tracking apps to keep yourself accountable and stay aware of your progress.

How to Improve Time Management

Improving your Time Management skills requires consistent practice and self-awareness. Continuously assess your progress against your planned schedule, adjusting as needed to accommodate unexpected challenges or new insights. Develop the skill of saying no to distractions and non-essential tasks that can derail your focus.

Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks to prevent feeling overwhelmed. Regularly reflect on your time allocation and efficiency – what strategies are working well, and where can you improve? Remember, Time Management is a skill that can significantly impact your research journey – the more you refine it, the more you’ll find yourself navigating your work with greater ease and achieving your research goals with greater success.

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Adaptability is the ability to flex and evolve in response to changing circumstances, unexpected findings, and new information that arise during your research journey. Think of it as your compass for navigating the dynamic and ever-changing landscape of research – it empowers you to embrace uncertainty and adjust your course to ensure the best outcomes for your work.

To excel in Adaptability, you need to cultivate a mindset that embraces change and seeks opportunities within challenges. Start by acknowledging that research is often full of surprises and plans might need to shift. Develop a sense of resilience by staying open to revising your research questions, altering methodologies, or exploring unanticipated angles.

Being adaptable also means being resourceful – finding alternative approaches when things don’t go as planned. Embrace feedback from peers, mentors, or unexpected results, and be ready to integrate this feedback to improve the quality of your research.

How to Improve Adaptability

Improving your Adaptability skills involves practicing flexibility and embracing a growth mindset. Regularly reassess your research plan and objectives in light of new information or developments. Embrace failures and setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth rather than roadblocks. Seek out interdisciplinary perspectives and engage with new ideas that challenge your assumptions.

As you navigate through unexpected turns, continuously reflect on what you’ve learned and how you’ve adapted, so you can refine your approach in the future. Remember, Adaptability is the key to thriving in the dynamic landscape of research – the more you foster this skill, the better equipped you’ll be to tackle unforeseen challenges and emerge stronger from your research journey.

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Research Skills Conclusion

In the pursuit of knowledge and discovery, honing research skills is the linchpin that sets the stage for success. Throughout this exploration of various research skills and how to nurture them, one thing becomes evident: deliberate practice and continuous improvement are the bedrock of growth. Developing research skills is not merely a checkbox to mark; it’s a journey that empowers you to excel in your field, make meaningful contributions, and amplify the impact of your work.

Improving these skills isn’t just an option – it’s a necessity in today’s job market. The ability to gather information effectively, critically evaluate sources, analyze data, formulate problems, synthesize findings, and more, transforms the research process from a mere task into a dynamic and transformative experience. These skills serve as the pillars that uphold the credibility and validity of your work, ensuring that your contributions stand the test of scrutiny and time.

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  • Research Guides

Improving Student Research

10 ways to improve student research.

  • Evaluating Research
  • PIL Studies

The following tips for faculty to help students successfully complete research assignments are based on the results of studies conducted by Project Information Literacy (PIL), an ongoing national research project that examines undergraduate student research practices. PIL’s methodologies have included a survey of over 8,000 students from 25 U.S. college campuses, including Temple; a content analysis of 191 course-related research assignment handouts from 28 campuses; and student discussion groups at 7 campuses.

Click on the link in each tip to see the research findings that support the recommendation.

1. Encourage students to consult with a librarian.

2. direct students towards a variety of library resources including print, electronic, and multimedia., 3. suggest specific databases or other library resources by name to students., 4. discuss what constitutes plagiarism as well as the consequences., 5. review criteria for evaluating sources..

6. Define research .

7. Embed a research guide in Canvas or request one from your librarian.

8. break the research assignment into manageable parts., 9. explain how research will be evaluated., 10. collaborate with a librarian to design a research assignment that employs critical thinking..

PIL’s content analysis of research assignment handouts found that only 13% recommended consulting with a librarian. In another PIL survey , 80% of students reported rarely, if ever, seeking help from a librarian with course-related research. Yet 63% of students report frustration due to their inability to find resources ( Context , 3).  Librarians are experts in planning a research strategy, searching for and locating information, and easing frustration with research.  Be sure to recommend that students consult a librarian for assistance with their research.  Even better, provide them with contact information for reference services and/or a subject specialist .

60% of handouts recommended students access materials on the library shelves ( Inquiry , 11).  However, today’s college students are more Web-focused and an increasing percentage of library materials are available digitally.  Direct students towards library resources in a variety of formats and suggest using Library Search to discover them. 

Of the handouts that recommended using online library resources, only a minimal number (14%) mentioned specific databases by vendor or name ( Inquiry , 3).  Temple Libraries have over 700  research databases for all disciplines that can help direct student research, so suggest a few by name to your students.

Only 18% of handouts mentioned plagiarism, focusing primarily on disciplinary actions ( Inquiry , 21). Based on faculty interviews, undergraduate students have trouble understanding what plagiarism is. Take time to define plagiarism for your students, show them how to correctly paraphrase and attribute words and ideas, and refer them to Temple Libraries’ research guide on Citing Sources and Temple University Writing Center’s handouts on plagiarism and using sources effectively.

Only 25% of handouts discussed how to evaluate the authority of sources ( Inquiry , 19) and 49% of students sought their instructor’s help in evaluating sources for research assignments ( Truth , 13).  Review criteria for evaluating sources (e.g. reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias) in the context of your discipline or assignment, so that students learn how and why to select quality sources.

6. Define research.

While a majority of the handouts discussed the mechanics of the assignment (e.g. page length, margins etc.), only “16% of the handouts discussed, clarified, defined, or framed what research meant as it applied to the assignments” ( Inquiry , 26). Interviewed faculty members stated that undergraduates have little knowledge about the research process.  Defining research as it applies to the assignment or discipline gives students the situational context that they lack and that they need ( Context , 9) . Additionally, 63% of students found in-class discussions about how to conduct research helpful ( Lessons , 30).

Interviewed faculty stated that online guides “have the potential to engage students in the research process and allow students to browse as they would in the library” ( Inquiry , 12).  Check out our research guides , get more information on embedding one in Canvas or request a custom guide from your librarian. 

College students find many steps of the research process difficult.  Getting started is problematic for 84%, defining a topic is troublesome for 66%, and narrowing down a topic is challenging for 62% of students surveyed ( Truth , 3.)  So break your research assignment into manageable parts for students (also known as “scaffolding”.)  Require that students turn in a topic proposal, an annotated bibliography, or a draft along the way to the final product.  Students reported that separate deadlines for parts of a paper are helpful (61%), as are instructors’ review of paper drafts (71%) ( Lessons , 30.)

In an earlier PIL study, 12 of 13 students reported frustration determining their professors’ expectations for a research assignment ( Beyond Google ). Be specific and open about how your research assignments will be evaluated.  Provide students with grading rubrics and weight the assignment(s) according to importance of the desired outcome.

About 50% of faculty interviewed discussed their reliance on librarians. "Faculty turned to librarians for teaching students about finding information and planning a research strategy, especially choosing and using appropriate databases, and for creating custom resources, such as pathfinders [online guides], for their course" ( Inquiry , 13). Librarians can also help you design an assignment that will develop your students’ critical thinking and research skills.

  • Next: Evaluating Research >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 12, 2021 1:21 PM
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  • 14 November 2018

How to make undergraduate research worthwhile

  • Shaun Khoo 0

Shaun Khoo is a postdoc at the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, where he studies the neural mechanisms underlying appetitive motivation in rats.

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

One of the things that excited me about taking up a Canadian postdoctoral position was that, for the first time, I would get a chance to work with and mentor enthusiastic undergraduate researchers. I looked forward to the chance to gain mentorship skills while helping out future scientists, and maybe, eventually, freeing up some of my own time.

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doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07427-5

This is an article from the Nature Careers Community, a place for Nature readers to share their professional experiences and advice. Guest posts are encouraged. You can get in touch with the editor at [email protected].

Klowak, J., Elsharawi, R., Whyte, R., Costa, A. & Riva, J. Can. Med. Educ. J. 9 , e4–e13 (2018).

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What are research skills?

Last updated

26 April 2023

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Broadly, it includes a range of talents required to:

Find useful information

Perform critical analysis

Form hypotheses

Solve problems

It also includes processes such as time management, communication, and reporting skills to achieve those ends.

Research requires a blend of conceptual and detail-oriented modes of thinking. It tests one's ability to transition between subjective motivations and objective assessments to ensure only correct data fits into a meaningfully useful framework.

As countless fields increasingly rely on data management and analysis, polishing your research skills is an important, near-universal way to improve your potential of getting hired and advancing in your career.

Make research less tedious

Dovetail streamlines research to help you uncover and share actionable insights

What are basic research skills?

Almost any research involves some proportion of the following fundamental skills:



Investigation and analysis

Creative thinking

What are primary research skills?

The following are some of the most universally important research skills that will help you in a wide range of positions:

Time management — From planning and organization to task prioritization and deadline management, time-management skills are highly in-demand workplace skills.

Problem-solving — Identifying issues, their causes, and key solutions are another essential suite of research skills.

Critical thinking — The ability to make connections between data points with clear reasoning is essential to navigate data and extract what's useful towards the original objective.

Communication — In any collaborative environment, team-building and active listening will help researchers convey findings more effectively through data summarizations and report writing.

What are the most important skills in research?

Detail-oriented procedures are essential to research, which allow researchers and their audience to probe deeper into a subject and make connections they otherwise may have missed with generic overviews.

Maintaining priorities is also essential so that details fit within an overarching strategy. Lastly, decision-making is crucial because that's the only way research is translated into meaningful action.

  • Why are research skills important?

Good research skills are crucial to learning more about a subject, then using that knowledge to improve an organization's capabilities. Synthesizing that research and conveying it clearly is also important, as employees seek to share useful insights and inspire effective actions.

Effective research skills are essential for those seeking to:

Analyze their target market

Investigate industry trends

Identify customer needs

Detect obstacles

Find solutions to those obstacles

Develop new products or services

Develop new, adaptive ways to meet demands

Discover more efficient ways of acquiring or using resources

Why do we need research skills?

Businesses and individuals alike need research skills to clarify their role in the marketplace, which of course, requires clarity on the market in which they function in. High-quality research helps people stay better prepared for challenges by identifying key factors involved in their day-to-day operations, along with those that might play a significant role in future goals.

  • Benefits of having research skills

Research skills increase the effectiveness of any role that's dependent on information. Both individually and organization-wide, good research simplifies what can otherwise be unwieldy amounts of data. It can help maintain order by organizing information and improving efficiency, both of which set the stage for improved revenue growth.

Those with highly effective research skills can help reveal both:

Opportunities for improvement

Brand-new or previously unseen opportunities

Research skills can then help identify how to best take advantage of available opportunities. With today's increasingly data-driven economy, it will also increase your potential of getting hired and help position organizations as thought leaders in their marketplace.

  • Research skills examples

Being necessarily broad, research skills encompass many sub-categories of skillsets required to extrapolate meaning and direction from dense informational resources. Identifying, interpreting, and applying research are several such subcategories—but to be specific, workplaces of almost any type have some need of:

Searching for information

Attention to detail

Taking notes


Communicating results

Time management

  • How to improve your research skills

Whether your research goals are to learn more about a subject or enhance workflows, you can improve research skills with this failsafe, four-step strategy:

Make an outline, and set your intention(s)

Know your sources

Learn to use advanced search techniques

Practice, practice, practice (and don't be afraid to adjust your approach)

These steps could manifest themselves in many ways, but what's most important is that it results in measurable progress toward the original goals that compelled you to research a subject.

  • Using research skills at work

Different research skills will be emphasized over others, depending on the nature of your trade. To use research most effectively, concentrate on improving research skills most relevant to your position—or, if working solo, the skills most likely have the strongest impact on your goals.

You might divide the necessary research skills into categories for short, medium, and long-term goals or according to each activity your position requires. That way, when a challenge arises in your workflow, it's clearer which specific research skill requires dedicated attention.

How can I learn research skills?

Learning research skills can be done with a simple three-point framework:

Clarify the objective — Before delving into potentially overwhelming amounts of data, take a moment to define the purpose of your research. If at any point you lose sight of the original objective, take another moment to ask how you could adjust your approach to better fit the original objective.

Scrutinize sources — Cross-reference data with other sources, paying close attention to each author's credentials and motivations.

Organize research — Establish and continually refine a data-organization system that works for you. This could be an index of resources or compiling data under different categories designed for easy access.

Which careers require research skills?

Especially in today's world, most careers require some, if not extensive, research. Developers, marketers, and others dealing in primarily digital properties especially require extensive research skills—but it's just as important in building and manufacturing industries, where research is crucial to construct products correctly and safely.

Engineering, legal, medical, and literally any other specialized field will require excellent research skills. Truly, almost any career path will involve some level of research skills; and even those requiring only minimal research skills will at least require research to find and compare open positions in the first place.

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  • January 11, 2022
  • Productivity

How to Improve Your Research Skills 2022

how to get better at research

Great research makes great writing – no matter how perfect your writing skills may be, without the necessary research skills, the paper you write is nothing other than your imagination. That’s understandable. Research itself can be overwhelming. Whether it’s online or offline, millions of resources in which we can obtain information exist, and yet it’s difficult to depict where and how we can extract it. No worries – improving your research skills helps you build a solid foundation for your project, and further provide quality information throughout your writing. If you’re looking to improve your research, read along.

1. Begin with Broad Topics.

Most of the time, we confront papers where we have little to no prior knowledge regarding the topic. Clueless and hesitant, we find ourselves looping circles – struggling to decide where to begin. The easiest approach in beginning your research is by tackling broad topics regarding your paper. With your question or thesis in hand, write down all the related subjects that first come in mind. 

Start building that relationship with your subject, so that you become familiar and comfortable with the context when conducting your research in the later stages.

2. Get to Know the Topic.

As you’re surfing through your broad research, you should be reading and consuming information. Remember, you’re at the stage of trying to get to know about the topic. Don’t be careful with selection yet. Read and Consume – Get used to the information, stay updated and start building the foundational knowledge required to structure your writing. Having to understand the basic information before you begin your detailed research also helps with recognizing what elements are important, and valuable for your research.

Sometimes we get busy. Build a habit of saving and managing research so that you won’t feel lost and waste precious time in the future. That way you’ll know which sources you found interesting, and can access them whenever you need.

3. Conduct Detailed Research.

Now that you’ve built the structural bones of the knowledge, transitioning to specific topics that align appropriately with your paper shouldn’t be too difficult. Start searching for resources that provide valuable information that answer your questions. Detailed research can range from anything between detailed insight regarding your topic, as well as numeric data or visual evidence that can prove to be useful for your project. Remember, the sources you choose to use are also important – which leads us to the next step.

4. Use Quality, Reliable Sources.

It’s crucial to keep this in mind – research is used to provide persuasiveness in your writing. You need factual information that provides evidence for your statements, so that you can backup your assertions with reliable sources, to make your paper credible and convincing. In that sense, it’s absolutely essential that you utilize quality and reliable sources so that whoever is reading your paper is fully convinced about whatever statement you’re making. 

Finding the appropriate sources is a valuable skill in becoming a great researcher. There are great tools out there, including Google Scholar, or the library (both online and offline) provided by your school. But it’s also important to recognize what makes the specific source ‘appropriate’ for the context of information. If it’s definition, you may refer to the dictionary. If it’s for an argument proving that there is a need for something out there, you could provide a first-hand or second-hand survey, with charts and numeric evidence.

You can conduct a “Source Evaluation” in order to check if your sources are suitable. The Harvard Library has a great article regarding this, which can be read here.  

5. Don’t Rely on One Source.

Diversifying your research is an important element in making sure that the information you utilize is truly reliable. In fact, it’s an absolute necessity if you’re creating a paper that requires first-hand action or replication – whether it be a science experiment, business campaign for your company, or anything that needs confirmation and assertion of information so that nothing goes terribly wrong. 

Many sources, especially the internet (which is the most used channel for extracting information), consist of biased, inaccurate and falsified information. Readers who assess your paper truly need valuable and credible information from multiple sources in order to reassure that whatever evidence you’re providing for your thesis is in fact, true.

6. Keep Your Research Organized.

If you’re following all the steps above, you may feel overwhelmed by both the quantity and diversity of your research sources. Regardless, it’s still a great sign that you’re fully utilizing your research.  At times, the overflow of sources and information limits your ability to stay on track and structure your writing.

There are great tools out there that help you with this process, so that organizing your research is something that you shouldn’t weigh your concern over – Typed , Google’s Bookmark System , Zotero are the most popular among them all. You can read more about why it’s so important, as well as how you can achieve efficient organization of your research in our other articles.

Great Research Makes Great Writing.

Now that you’ve had a read about how you can enhance your research ability, writing your paper should be a breeze. Most of your papers or whatever you’re creating involve heavily around the information that you’ve gathered and learned. It’s a matter of how well you put it together – and that’s where your writing skills come in. 

Nonetheless, if you’re following the steps mentioned within this blog post, you’ll have an easier time in overcoming the initial barriers of writing a paper. Research integration will be a lot more effective in your creations – which is the key quality that makes a great, persuasive piece of writing.

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Empowering students to develop research skills

February 8, 2021

This post is republished from   Into Practice ,  a biweekly communication of Harvard’s  Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

Terence Capellini standing next to a human skeleton

Terence D. Capellini, Richard B Wolf Associate Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, empowers students to grow as researchers in his Building the Human Body course through a comprehensive, course-long collaborative project that works to understand the changes in the genome that make the human skeleton unique. For instance, of the many types of projects, some focus on the genetic basis of why human beings walk on two legs. This integrative “Evo-Devo” project demands high levels of understanding of biology and genetics that students gain in the first half of class, which is then applied hands-on in the second half of class. Students work in teams of 2-3 to collect their own morphology data by measuring skeletons at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and leverage statistics to understand patterns in their data. They then collect and analyze DNA sequences from humans and other animals to identify the DNA changes that may encode morphology. Throughout this course, students go from sometimes having “limited experience in genetics and/or morphology” to conducting their own independent research. This project culminates in a team presentation and a final research paper.

The benefits: Students develop the methodological skills required to collect and analyze morphological data. Using the UCSC Genome browser  and other tools, students sharpen their analytical skills to visualize genomics data and pinpoint meaningful genetic changes. Conducting this work in teams means students develop collaborative skills that model academic biology labs outside class, and some student projects have contributed to published papers in the field. “Every year, I have one student, if not two, join my lab to work on projects developed from class to try to get them published.”

“The beauty of this class is that the students are asking a question that’s never been asked before and they’re actually collecting data to get at an answer.”

The challenges:  Capellini observes that the most common challenge faced by students in the course is when “they have a really terrific question they want to explore, but the necessary background information is simply lacking. It is simply amazing how little we do know about human development, despite its hundreds of years of study.” Sometimes, for instance, students want to learn about the evolution, development, and genetics of a certain body part, but it is still somewhat a mystery to the field. In these cases, the teaching team (including co-instructor Dr. Neil Roach) tries to find datasets that are maximally relevant to the questions the students want to explore. Capellini also notes that the work in his class is demanding and hard, just by the nature of the work, but students “always step up and perform” and the teaching team does their best to “make it fun” and ensure they nurture students’ curiosities and questions.

Takeaways and best practices

  • Incorporate previous students’ work into the course. Capellini intentionally discusses findings from previous student groups in lectures. “They’re developing real findings and we share that when we explain the project for the next groups.” Capellini also invites students to share their own progress and findings as part of class discussion, which helps them participate as independent researchers and receive feedback from their peers.
  • Assign groups intentionally.  Maintaining flexibility allows the teaching team to be more responsive to students’ various needs and interests. Capellini will often place graduate students by themselves to enhance their workload and give them training directly relevant to their future thesis work. Undergraduates are able to self-select into groups or can be assigned based on shared interests. “If two people are enthusiastic about examining the knee, for instance, we’ll match them together.”
  • Consider using multiple types of assessments.  Capellini notes that exams and quizzes are administered in the first half of the course and scaffolded so that students can practice the skills they need to successfully apply course material in the final project. “Lots of the initial examples are hypothetical,” he explains, even grounded in fiction and pop culture references, “but [students] have to eventually apply the skills they learned in addressing the hypothetical example to their own real example and the data they generate” for the Evo-Devo project. This is coupled with a paper and a presentation treated like a conference talk.

Bottom line:  Capellini’s top advice for professors looking to help their own students grow as researchers is to ensure research projects are designed with intentionality and fully integrated into the syllabus. “You can’t simply tack it on at the end,” he underscores. “If you want this research project to be a substantive learning opportunity, it has to happen from Day 1.” That includes carving out time in class for students to work on it and make the connections they need to conduct research. “Listen to your students and learn about them personally” so you can tap into what they’re excited about. Have some fun in the course, and they’ll be motivated to do the work.

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The Best Research Skills For Success

Updated: December 8, 2023

Published: January 5, 2020


Every student is required to conduct research in their academic careers at one point or another. A good research paper not only requires a great deal of time, but it also requires complex skills. Research skills include the ability to organize, evaluate, locate, and extract relevant information.

Let’s learn how to develop great research skills for academic success.

What is Research?

We’ve all surely heard the term “research” endlessly. But do you really know what it means?

Research is a type of study that focuses on a specific problem and aims to solve it using scientific methods. Research is a highly systematic process that involves both describing, explaining, and predicting something.

A college student exploring research topics for his science class.

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What are research skills.

Research skills are what helps us answer our most burning questions, and they are what assist us in our solving process from A to Z, including searching, finding, collecting, breaking down, and evaluating the relevant information to the phenomenon at hand.

Research is the basis of everything we know — and without it, we’re not sure where we would be today! For starters, without the internet and without cars, that’s for sure.

Why are Research Skills Important?

Research skills come in handy in pretty much everything we do, and especially so when it comes to the workforce. Employers will want to hire you and compensate you better if you demonstrate a knowledge of research skills that can benefit their company.

From knowing how to write reports, how to notice competition, develop new products, identify customer needs, constantly learn new technologies, and improve the company’s productivity, there’s no doubt that research skills are of utter importance. Research also can save a company a great deal of money by first assessing whether making an investment is really worthwhile for them.

How to Get Research Skills

Now that you’re fully convinced about the importance of research skills, you’re surely going to want to know how to get them. And you’ll be delighted to hear that it’s really not so complicated! There are plenty of simple methods out there to gain research skills such as the internet as the most obvious tool.

Gaining new research skills however is not limited to just the internet. There are tons of books, such as Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, journals, articles, studies, interviews and much, much more out there that can teach you how to best conduct your research.

Utilizing Research Skills

Now that you’ve got all the tools you need to get started, let’s utilize these research skills to the fullest. These skills can be used in more ways than you know. Your research skills can be shown off either in interviews that you’re conducting or even in front of the company you’re hoping to get hired at .

It’s also useful to add your list of research skills to your resume, especially if it’s a research-based job that requires skills such as collecting data or writing research-based reports. Many jobs require critical thinking as well as planning ahead.

Career Paths that Require Research Skills

If you’re wondering which jobs actually require these research skills, they are actually needed in a variety of industries. Some examples of the types of work that require a great deal of research skills include any position related to marketing, science , history, report writing, and even the food industry.

A high school student at her local library looking for reliable sources through books.

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How students can improve research skills.

Perhaps you know what you have to do, but sometimes, knowing how to do it can be more of a challenge. So how can you as a student improve your research skills ?

1. Define your research according to the assignment

By defining your research and understanding how it relates to the specific field of study, it can give more context to the situation.

2. Break down the assignment

The most difficult part of the research process is actually just getting started. By breaking down your research into realistic and achievable parts, it can help you achieve your goals and stay systematic.

3. Evaluate your sources

While there are endless sources out there, it’s important to always evaluate your sources and make sure that they are reliable, based on a variety of factors such as their accuracy and if they are biased, especially if used for research purposes.

4. Avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism is a major issue when it comes to research, and is often misunderstood by students. IAs a student, it’s important that you understand what plagiarism really means, and if you are unclear, be sure to ask your teachers.

5. Consult and collaborate with a librarian

A librarian is always a good person to have around, especially when it comes to research. Most students don’t seek help from their school librarian, however, this person tends to be someone with a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to research skills and where to look for reliable sources.

6. Use library databases

There are tons of online library resources that don’t require approaching anyone. These databases are generally loaded with useful information that has something for every student’s specific needs.

7. Practice effective reading

It’s highly beneficial to practice effective reading, and there are no shortage of ways to do it. One effective way to improve your research skills it to ask yourself questions using a variety of perspectives, putting yourself in the mind of someone else and trying to see things from their point of view.

There are many critical reading strategies that can be useful, such as making summaries from annotations, and highlighting important passages.

Thesis definition

A thesis is a specific theory or statement that is to be either proved or maintained. Generally, the intentions of a thesis are stated, and then throughout, the conclusions are proven to the reader through research. A thesis is crucial for research because it is the basis of what we are trying to prove, and what guides us through our writing.

What Skills Do You Need To Be A Researcher?

One of the most important skills needed for research is independence, meaning that you are capable of managing your own work and time without someone looking over you.

Critical thinking, problem solving, taking initiative, and overall knowing how to work professionally in front of your peers are all crucial for effectively conducting research .

1. Fact check your sources

Knowing how to evaluate information in your sources and determine whether or not it’s accurate, valid or appropriate for the specific purpose is a first on the list of research skills.

2. Ask the right questions

Having the ability to ask the right questions will get you better search results and more specific answers to narrow down your research and make it more concise.

3. Dig deeper: Analyzing

Don’t just go for the first source you find that seems reliable. Always dig further to broaden your knowledge and make sure your research is as thorough as possible.

4. Give credit

Respect the rights of others and avoid plagiarizing by always properly citing your research sources.

5. Utilize tools

There are endless tools out there, such as useful websites, books, online videos, and even on-campus professionals such as librarians that can help. Use all the many social media networks out there to both gain and share more information for your research.

6. Summarizing

Summarizing plays a huge role in research, and once the data is collected, relevant information needs to be arranged accordingly. Otherwise it can be incredibly overwhelming.

7. Categorizing

Not only does information need to be summarized, but also arranged into categories that can help us organize our thoughts and break down our materials and sources of information.

This person is using a magnifying glass to look at objects in order to collect data for her research.

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What are different types of research, 1. qualitative.

This type of research is exploratory research and its aim is to obtain a better understanding of reasons for things. Qualitative research helps form an idea without any specific fixed pattern. Some examples include face-to-face interviews or group discussions.

2. Quantitative

Quantitative research is based on numbers and statistics. This type of research uses data to prove facts, and is generally taken from a large group of people.

3. Analytical

Analytical research has to always be done from a neutral point of view, and the researcher is intended to break down all perspectives. This type of research involves collecting information from a wide variety of sources.

4. Persuasive

Persuasive research describes an issue from two different perspectives, going through both the pros and cons of both, and then aims to prove their preference towards one side by exploring a variety of logical facts.

5. Cause & Effect

In this type of research, the cause and effects are first presented, and then a conclusion is made. Cause and effect research is for those who are new in the field of research and is mostly conducted by high school or college students.

6. Experimental Research

Experimental research involves very specific steps that must be followed, starting by conducting an experiment. It is then followed by sharing an experience and providing data about it. This research is concluded with data in a highly detailed manner.

7. Survey Research

Survey research includes conducting a survey by asking participants specific questions, and then analyzing those findings. From that, researchers can then draw a conclusion.

8. Problem-Solution Research

Both students and scholars alike carry out this type of research, and it involves solving problems by analyzing the situation and finding the perfect solution to it.

What it Takes to Become a Researcher

  • Critical thinking

Research is most valuable when something new is put on the table. Critical thinking is needed to bring something unique to our knowledge and conduct research successfully.

  • Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking is one of the most important research skills and requires a great deal of practice. Such a skill can assist researchers in taking apart and understanding a large amount of important information in a short amount of time.

  • Explanation skills

When it comes to research skills, it’s not just about finding information, but also about how you explain it. It’s more than just writing it out, but rather, knowing how to clearly and concisely explain your new ideas.

  • Patience is key

Just like with anything in life, patience will always take you far. It might be difficult to come by, but by not rushing things and investing the time needed to conduct research properly, your work is bound for success.

  • Time management

Time is the most important asset that we have, and it can never be returned back to us. By learning time management skills , we can utilize our time in the best way possible and make sure to always be productive in our research.

What You Need to Sharpen Your Research Skills

Research is one of the most important tasks that students are given in college, and in many cases, it’s almost half of the academic grade that one is given.

As we’ve seen, there are plenty of things that you’ll need to sharpen your research skills — which mainly include knowing how to choose reliable and relevant sources, and knowing how to take them and make it your own. It’s important to always ask the right questions and dig deeper to make sure that you understood the full picture.

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Science News Explores

Top 10 tips on how to study smarter, not longer.

Good study skills matter now more than ever, and science points to ones that really work

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Many students study by reading their notes and textbooks over and over again. Research studies show there are more effective ways to use your valuable study time.

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By Kathiann Kowalski

September 9, 2020 at 6:30 am

As a teen, Faria Sana often highlighted books with markers. “The colors were supposed to tell me different things.” Later, she recalls, “I had no idea what those highlighted texts were supposed to mean.”

She also took lots of notes as she read. But often she was “just copying words or changing the words around.” That work didn’t help much either, she says now. In effect, “it was just to practice my handwriting skills.”

“No one ever taught me how to study,” Sana says. College got harder, so she worked to find better study skills. She’s now a psychologist at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada. There she studies how students can learn better.

Having good study skills is always helpful. But it’s even more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students worry about family or friends who may get sick, Sana notes. Others feel more general stress . Beyond that, students in many countries are facing different formats for learning. Some schools are holding in-person classes again, with rules for spacing and masks . Others schools have staggered classes, with students at school part-time. Still others have all online classes , at least for a while.

These conditions can distract from your lessons. Plus, students are likely to have to do more without a teacher or parent looking over their shoulders. They will have to manage their time and study more on their own. Yet many students never learned those skills. To them, Sana says, it may be like telling students to learn to swim by “just swimming.”

The good news: Science can help.

For more than 100 years, psychologists have done research on which study habits work best. Some tips help for almost every subject. For example, don’t just cram! And test yourself, instead of just rereading the material. Other tactics work best for certain types of classes. This includes things like using graphs or mixing up what you study. Here are 10 tips to tweak your study habits.

1. Space out your studying

Nate Kornell “definitely did cram” before big tests when he was a student. He’s a psychologist at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. He still thinks it’s a good idea to study the day before a big test. But research shows it’s a bad idea to cram all your studying into that day. Instead, space out those study sessions.

a kid sitting at a table studying and looking really stressed out

In one 2009 experiment, college students studied vocabulary words with flash cards. Some students studied all the words in spaced-apart sessions throughout four days. Others studied smaller batches of the words in crammed, or massed, sessions, each over a single day. Both groups spent the same amount of time overall. But testing showed that the first group learned the words better .

Kornell compares our memory to water in a bucket that has a small leak. Try to refill the bucket while it’s still full, and you can’t add much more water. Allow time between study sessions, and some of the material may drip out of your memory. But then you’ll be able to relearn it and learn more in your next study session. And you’ll remember it better, next time, he notes.

2. Practice, practice, practice!

Musicians practice their instruments. Athletes practice sports skills. The same should go for learning.

“If you want to be able to remember information, the best thing you can do is practice,” says Katherine Rawson. She’s a psychologist at Kent State University in Ohio. In one 2013 study, students took practice tests over several weeks. On the final test, they scored more than a full letter grade better , on average, than did students who studied the way they normally had.

In a study done a few years earlier, college students read material and then took recall tests. Some took just one test. Others took several tests with short breaks of several minutes in between. The second group recalled the material better a week later .

3. Don’t just reread books and notes

As a teen, Cynthia Nebel studied by reading her textbooks, worksheets and notebooks. “Over and over and over again,” recalls this psychologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Now, she adds, “we know that’s one of the most common bad study skills that students have.”

In one 2009 study, some college students read a text twice. Others read a text just once. Both groups took a test right after the reading. Test results differed little between these groups , Aimee Callender and Mark McDaniel found. She is now at Wheaton College in Illinois. He works at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

Too often, when students reread material, it’s superficial, says McDaniel, who also co-wrote the 2014 book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning . Rereading is like looking at the answer to a puzzle, rather than doing it yourself, he says. It looks like it makes sense. But until you try it yourself, you don’t really know if you understand it.

One of McDaniel’s coauthors of Make it Stick is Henry Roediger. He, too, works at Washington University. In one 2010 study, Roediger and two other colleagues compared test results of students who reread material to two other groups. One group wrote questions about the material. The other group answered questions from someone else. Those who answered the questions did best . Those who just reread the material did worst.

4. Test yourself

That 2010 study backs up one of Nebel’s preferred study habits. Before big tests, her mom quizzed her on the material. “Now I know that was retrieval practice,” she says. “It’s one of the best ways you can study.” As Nebel got older, she quizzed herself. For example, she might cover up the definitions in her notebook. Then she tried to recall what each term meant.

a girl explaining something to her mom

Such retrieval practice can help nearly everyone, Rawson and others showed in an August 2020 study in Learning and Instruction. This research included college students with an attention problem known as ADHD. It stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Overall, retrieval helped students with ADHD and those without the disorder equally well . 

“Create a deck of flash cards every time you learn new information,” Sana suggests. “Put questions on one side and the answers on the other side.” Friends can even quiz each other on the phone, she says.

“Try to quiz yourself the way the teacher asks questions,” Nebel adds.

But really grill yourself and your friends, she says. And here’s why. She was part of a team that asked students to write one quiz question for each class period. Students would then answer a question from another classmate. Preliminary data show that students did worse on tests afterward than when the daily quiz questions came from the teacher. Nebel’s team is still analyzing the data. She suspects the students’ questions may have been too simple.

Teachers often dig deeper, she notes. They don’t just ask for definitions. Often, teachers ask students to compare and contrast ideas. That takes some critical thinking.

5. Mistakes are okay — as long as you learn from them

It’s crucial to test your memory. But it doesn’t really matter how many seconds you spend on each try . That finding comes from a 2016 study by Kornell and others. But it’s important to go the next step, Kornell adds: Check to see if you were right. Then focus on what you got wrong .

“If you don’t find out what the answer is, you’re kind of wasting your time,” he says. On the flip side, checking the answers can make your study time more efficient. You can then focus on where you need the most help.

In fact, making mistakes can be a good thing, argues Stuart Firestein. A Columbia University biologist in New York City, he actually wrote the book on it. It’s called Failure: Why Science is So Successful . Mistakes, he argues, are actually a primary key to learning.

6. Mix it up

In many cases, it helps to mix up your self-testing. Don’t just focus on one thing. Drill yourself on different concepts. Psychologists call this interleaving.

a photo of a young asian man studying his notes while lying in bed

Actually, your tests usually will have questions mixed up, too. More importantly, interleaving can help you learn better. If you practice one concept over and over “your attention decreases because you know what’s coming up next,” Sana explains. Mix up your practice, and you now space the concepts apart. You can also see how concepts differ, form trends or fit together in some other way.

Suppose, for instance, you’re learning about the volume of different shapes in math. You could do lots of problems on the volume of a wedge. Then you could answer more batches of questions, with each set dealing with just one shape. Or, you could figure out the volume of a cone, followed by a wedge. Next you might find the volume for a half-cone or a spheroid. Then you can mix them up some more. You might even mix in some practice on addition or division.

Rawson and others had groups of college students try each of those approaches. Those who interleaved their practice questions did better than the group that did single-batch practice, the researchers reported last year in Memory & Cognition .

A year earlier, Sana and others showed that interleaving can help students with both strong and weak working memory . Working memory lets you remember where you are in an activity, such as following a recipe.

7. Use pictures

Pay attention to diagrams and graphs in your class materials, says Nebel. “Those pictures can really boost your memory of this material. And if there aren’t pictures, creating them can be really, really useful.”

 a diagram of a neuron

“I think these visual representations help you create more complete mental models,” McDaniel says. He and Dung Bui, then also at Washington University, had students listen to a lecture on car brakes and pumps. One group got diagrams and was told to add notes as needed to the diagrams. Another group got an outline for writing notes. The third group just took notes. The outlines helped students if they were otherwise good at building mental models of what they were reading. But in these tests, they found, visual aids helped students across the board .

Even goofy pictures might help. Nikol Rummel is a psychologist at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. In one study back in 2003, she and others gave cartoon drawings to college students along with information about five scientists who studied intelligence. For example, the text about Alfred Binet came with a drawing of a race car driver. The driver wore a bonnet to protect his brain. Students who saw the drawings did better on a test than did those who got only the text information.

8. Find examples

Abstract concepts can be hard to understand. It tends to be far easier to form a mental image if you have a concrete example of something, Nebel says.

For instance, sour foods usually taste that way because they contain an acid . On its own, that concept might be hard to remember. But if you think about a lemon or vinegar, it’s easier to understand and remember that acids and sour go together. And the examples might help you to identify other foods’ taste as being due to acids.

Indeed, it helps to have at least two examples if you want to apply information to new situations. Nebel and others reviewed studies on this in July 2019. Their Journal of Food Science Education report describes how students can improve their study skills .

9. Dig deeper

It’s hard to remember a string of facts and figures if you don’t push further. Ask why things are a certain way. How did they come about? Why do they matter? Psychologists call this elaboration. It’s taking class material and “asking a lot of how and why questions about it,” Nebel says. In other words, don’t just accept facts at face value.

Elaboration helps you combine new information with other things you know. And it creates a bigger network in your brain of things that relate to one another, she says. That larger network makes it easier to learn and remember things.

an illustration of a man driving a blue car

Suppose you’re asked to remember a string of facts about different men, says McDaniel. For example, “The hungry man got into the car. The strong man helped the woman. The brave man ran into the house.” And so on. In one of his studies back in the ‘80s, college students had trouble remembering the bare statements. They did better when researchers gave them explanations for each man’s action. And the students remembered a whole lot better when they had to answer questions about why each man did something .

“Good understanding produces really good memory,” McDaniel says. “And that’s key for a lot of students.” If information just seems sort of random, ask more questions. Make sure you can explain the material. Better yet, he says, see if you can explain it to someone else. Some of his college students do this by calling home to explain what they’re learning to their parents.

10. Make a plan — and stick to it

Many students know they should space out study periods, quiz themselves and practice other good skills. Yet many don’t actually do those things. Often, they fail to plan ahead.

Back when Rawson was a student, she used a paper calendar for her planning. She wrote in the date for each exam. “And then for four or five other days,” she recalls, “I wrote in time to study.”

a photo of a person running away from the viewer on a leafy path, zoomed in on the feet and lower legs

Try to stick to a routine, too. Have a set time and place where you do schoolwork and studying. It may seem odd at first. But, Kornell assures you, “by the time week two rolls around, it becomes a normal thing.” And put your phone somewhere else while you work, adds Nebel. Allow yourself short breaks. Set a timer for 25 minutes or so, suggests Sana. Study during that time, with no distractions . When the timer goes off, take a five or 10 minute break. Exercise. Check your phone. Maybe drink some water — whatever. Afterward, set the timer again.

“If you have a study plan, stick to it!” adds McDaniel. Recently, he and psychologist Gilles Einstein at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., looked at why students don’t use good study skills . Many students know what those skills are, they report. But often they don’t plan when they intend to put them in action. Even when students do make plans, something more enticing may come up. Studying has to become a priority, they say. The team published its report in Perspectives on Psychological Science on July 23.

Bonus: Be kind to yourself

Try to stick to a regular routine. And get enough sleep — not just the night before the test but for weeks or months on end . “Those things are really, really important for learning,” Nebel says. Exercise helps as well, she says.

Don’t stress out if all of this seems like a lot, she adds. If a lot seems new, try adding just one new study skill each week or two. Or at least space out your study sessions and practice retrieval for the first few months. As you get more practice, you can add more skills. And if you need help, ask.

Finally, if you struggle to follow the advice above (such as you can’t keep track of time or find it very hard to just sit and focus on your work), you may have an undiagnosed condition, such as ADHD . To find out, check with your doctor. The good news: It may be treatable.

Doing schoolwork during a pandemic is a tough situation at best. But remember your teachers and classmates also face challenges. Like you, they have fears, concerns and questions. Be willing to cut them some slack. And be kind to yourself as well. After all, Kornell says, “we’re all in this together.”

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critical thinking skils

Student Success

How to improve your critical thinking and research skills.

Critical thinking doesn’t always come naturally to us. It requires analyzing the facts, gathering as much information as possible, thinking open-mindedly, and then forming a judgment.

Rest assured, you can teach yourself to think critically. Here are tips to help you get started.

Be aware of authors’ motivations

You can evaluate an author’s work if you’re aware of what drove that person to undertake the research and writing in the first place. Here are things to be aware of:

  • Avoid personal feelings
  • Be wary of phrases like always , a lot , or never unless you can attach a number to confirm the characterization
  • Steer clear of first-person (using “I”) and second-person (using “you”) pronouns unless you’re asked to reflect or give advice
  • Find credible sources ( more on this below!)
  • Read multiple articles from different perspectives

Find credible evidence

A rule of thumb for most writing is to make a claim, provide evidence to support the claim, and then use reasoning to tie it all together. How do you analyze your sources? Use critical thinking skills. Ask questions such as:

  • Did the researchers only study 10 people?
  • Is the writer representing a particular company or industry?
  • What other articles and studies has the writer published?
  • Is this article published in a scholarly journal, or on a website selling something?

Research well

It’s easier to find credible evidence when you’re looking in the right places. Here are key tips for researching well:

  • Use your school’s online library to find scholarly articles. Peer-reviewed articles have been reviewed by other professionals or scholars in the field and are generally the most accurate.
  • When you read something compelling, check out the reference page at the end of that article, and look up some of those sources.
  • When an author cites another source, try to find that original source, and read it for yourself.
  • Beware of bias, and consider the credibility of the authors you read.
  • Pay close attention to dates. If the research was completed more than five to ten years ago, it’s probably outdated.

Make the most of your findings

The key to using evidence in your paper is not just to sprinkle quotes throughout, but rather to integrate the research into your argument. Explain the significance and implications of that research. It’s one thing to write, “Carrots are good for you,” but it’s much more compelling to explain how and why carrots are good for you based on statistics and research. To demonstrate real critical thinking skills, synthesize what you read (citing it accurately), and incorporate it into your argument, paying special attention to the flow and structure. Read how other authors use information to gain your trust, and utilize their strategies to do the same for your reader.

Critical thinking leads to better research skills, which in turn lead to better writing. When you find credible evidence, it will support your claims more effectively, and you’ll learn to read and listen to information with a critical eye for bias and persuasion. As an added bonus, you’ll also learn to be a better conversationalist outside of school.

To get more insights into sharpening your critical thinking and research skills, watch our webinar:

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7 ways to promote better research culture

A laboratory at the Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

Establishing support systems is essential for promoting research culture. Image:  REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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how to get better at research

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Stay up to date:.

The culture in UK research establishments is one of the reasons the country is an attractive and productive place to undertake research. If you want excellent research, you need a positive research culture that supports all individuals involved. Alongside national policies and programmes, local policies and the attitudes and behaviour of staff at all levels influences this.

An important aspect of research culture is an organization’s approach to research integrity – the formal and informal ethics, standards, protocols and policies researchers follow in their environment. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of the role of research integrity.

Enhancing research culture doesn’t require major effort and resources. Organizations across the UK and globally have made changes linked to integrity that have improved their research culture. These range from simple approaches such as using informal communication channels to nurture a supportive environment, discussing successes and “failures”, to embedding research integrity into the heart of institutional culture, requiring research leaders and senior administrators to lead by example.

Here are seven things that could help you promote good research integrity, and contribute to improving research culture, in your organization:

Facilitating open discussions can help foster a more collaborative environment, by giving researchers the chance to share their experiences of not only their successes, but also their “failures”. This helps to build respect and trust within the research team, by talking openly and giving support when things don’t always go right. The Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, based at the University of Bristol, have a range of different communication channels to support their work, with one focused specifically on “triumph and disaster”, which dispels the assumption that senior academics have had continuous successes to get to their esteemed positions.

Providing and promoting career counselling, coaching and support services available to staff may help to reduce pressures within a research environment, which is imperative to staff well-being. This can help in limiting stress and time pressures, and connect researchers to other resources available at their institution, such as forms for deadline extensions, assistance programmes, career services and mental health and well-being services. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center provides a career-counselling service solely to their scientists, providing the opportunity to discuss their career paths and the steps they need to take to progress.

Research teams could openly discuss, amend and build on existing guidelines, to develop a consensus on their collective and individual behaviours and attitudes. This could be used to develop a group standard or pledge, ensuring all team members are aware of what is expected in the research environment. This helps to enhance a positive culture by refining standards and “norms”. The Barcelona Biomedical Research Park developed a code of good scientific practice , which sets out the expectations of individuals and the collective research team.

Encourage researchers and support staff to find time and space to meet to share ideas and experiences. By involving other departments, institutions and sectors, discussions can focus on improving research integrity and culture, to share best practice on what has worked, what hasn’t and its impact. The Barcelona Biomedical Research Park is one example of where this has been put into practice.

Often seen as “role models” to their early-career peers, organization, department and team leaders who are at the forefront of promoting a positive research culture – such as by taking part in training, encouraging discussions to address difficult questions in an open and honest way and by having an open door policy – set a “norm” and redefine standards. Participants at the Royal Society ’s research culture workshops gave examples of leaders initiating small but impactful ways to set culture and improve morale in the workplace. An example of this is setting regular hours, to tackle the perception that only academics working extensive hours are successful.

Career progression is a key factor in retention and enhances not only the quality of research for the institution, but for the research community as a whole. Researchers can feel more valued if skills needs are reviewed individually and as a group, ensuring they all possess the necessary skills for their role, such as statistics, data-handling, proposal-writing and resource management. And following on from this, identifying gaps and offering courses for development. Software Carpentry developed such an initiative, by running training workshops at the University of Florida, to increase the data literacy of university staff.

Highlight the importance of research culture and engage all staff across the organization by hosting a research culture and integrity day. Presentations, workshops and panel discussions could be given from across the organization. Different departments could showcase the ways they have improved research culture and integrity, as well as addressing areas where there is still room for improvement. The University of Nevada organised an “Ignite Integrity week” where all staff were encourage to participate in activities to discuss good practice.

Research culture is pivotal to research excellence; we are at the beginning of a conversation round promoting this idea. In Integrity in Practice, the Royal Society and the UK Research Integrity Office showcase examples of initiatives led by organizations from across the world to inspire and encourage innovation in research culture. The more research culture is talked about, the more progressive these discussions will become. So why not think about research culture within your institution and start the conversation on what positive improvements you can make, both collectively and as an individual.

• The Royal Society’s Integrity in Practice toolkit launched at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2018. The Code of Ethics , produced by the World Economic Forum Young Scientists Community, is profiled in Integrity in Practice.

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Top 10 Study Tips to Study Like a Harvard Student

Adjusting to a demanding college workload might be a challenge, but these 10 study tips can help you stay prepared and focused.

Lian Parsons

The introduction to a new college curriculum can seem overwhelming, but optimizing your study habits can boost your confidence and success both in and out of the classroom. 

Transitioning from high school to the rigor of college studies can be overwhelming for many students, and finding the best way to study with a new course load can seem like a daunting process. 

Effective study methods work because they engage multiple ways of learning. As Jessie Schwab, psychologist and preceptor at the Harvard College Writing Program, points out, we tend to misjudge our own learning. Being able to recite memorized information is not the same as actually retaining it. 

“One thing we know from decades of cognitive science research is that learners are often bad judges of their own learning,” says Schwab. “Memorization seems like learning, but in reality, we probably haven’t deeply processed that information enough for us to remember it days—or even hours—later.”

Planning ahead and finding support along the way are essential to your success in college. This blog will offer study tips and strategies to help you survive (and thrive!) in your first college class. 

1. Don’t Cram! 

It might be tempting to leave all your studying for that big exam up until the last minute, but research suggests that cramming does not improve longer term learning. 

Students may perform well on a test for which they’ve crammed, but that doesn’t mean they’ve truly learned the material, says an article from the American Psychological Association . Instead of cramming, studies have shown that studying with the goal of long-term retention is best for learning overall.   

2. Plan Ahead—and Stick To It! 

Having a study plan with set goals can help you feel more prepared and can give you a roadmap to follow. Schwab said procrastination is one mistake that students often make when transitioning to a university-level course load. 

“Oftentimes, students are used to less intensive workloads in high school, so one of my biggest pieces of advice is don’t cram,” says Schwab. “Set yourself a study schedule ahead of time and stick to it.”

3. Ask for Help

You don’t have to struggle through difficult material on your own. Many students are not used to seeking help while in high school, but seeking extra support is common in college.

As our guide to pursuing a biology major explains, “Be proactive about identifying areas where you need assistance and seek out that assistance immediately. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to catch up.”

There are multiple resources to help you, including your professors, tutors, and fellow classmates. Harvard’s Academic Resource Center offers academic coaching, workshops, peer tutoring, and accountability hours for students to keep you on track.  

4. Use the Buddy System 

Your fellow students are likely going through the same struggles that you are. Reach out to classmates and form a study group to go over material together, brainstorm, and to support each other through challenges.

Having other people to study with means you can explain the material to one another, quiz each other, and build a network you can rely on throughout the rest of the class—and beyond. 

5. Find Your Learning Style

It might take a bit of time (and trial and error!) to figure out what study methods work best for you. There are a variety of ways to test your knowledge beyond simply reviewing your notes or flashcards. 

Schwab recommends trying different strategies through the process of metacognition. Metacognition involves thinking about your own cognitive processes and can help you figure out what study methods are most effective for you. 

Schwab suggests practicing the following steps:

  • Before you start to read a new chapter or watch a lecture, review what you already know about the topic and what you’re expecting to learn.
  • As you read or listen, take additional notes about new information, such as related topics the material reminds you of or potential connections to other courses. Also note down questions you have.
  • Afterward, try to summarize what you’ve learned and seek out answers to your remaining questions. 

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6. Take Breaks

The brain can only absorb so much information at a time. According to the National Institutes of Health , research has shown that taking breaks in between study sessions boosts retention. 

Studies have shown that wakeful rest plays just as important a role as practice in learning a new skill. Rest allows our brains to compress and consolidate memories of what we just practiced. 

Make sure that you are allowing enough time, relaxation, and sleep between study sessions so your brain will be refreshed and ready to accept new information.

7. Cultivate a Productive Space

Where you study can be just as important as how you study. 

Find a space that is free of distractions and has all the materials and supplies you need on hand. Eat a snack and have a water bottle close by so you’re properly fueled for your study session. 

8. Reward Yourself

Studying can be mentally and emotionally exhausting and keeping your stamina up can be challenging.

Studies have shown that giving yourself a reward during your work can increase the enjoyment and interest in a given task.

According to an article for Science Daily , studies have shown small rewards throughout the process can help keep up motivation, rather than saving it all until the end. 

Next time you finish a particularly challenging study session, treat yourself to an ice cream or  an episode of your favorite show.

9. Review, Review, Review

Practicing the information you’ve learned is the best way to retain information. 

Researchers Elizabeth and Robert Bjork have argued that “desirable difficulties” can enhance learning. For example, testing yourself with flashcards is a more difficult process than simply reading a textbook, but will lead to better long-term learning. 

“One common analogy is weightlifting—you have to actually “exercise those muscles” in order to ultimately strengthen your memories,” adds Schwab.

10. Set Specific Goals

Setting specific goals along the way of your studying journey can show how much progress you’ve made. Psychology Today recommends using the SMART method:

  • Specific: Set specific goals with an actionable plan, such as “I will study every day between 2 and 4 p.m. at the library.”  
  • Measurable: Plan to study a certain number of hours or raise your exam score by a certain percent to give you a measurable benchmark.
  • Realistic: It’s important that your goals be realistic so you don’t get discouraged. For example, if you currently study two hours per week, increase the time you spend to three or four hours rather than 10.
  • Time-specific: Keep your goals consistent with your academic calendar and your other responsibilities.

Using a handful of these study tips can ensure that you’re getting the most out of the material in your classes and help set you up for success for the rest of your academic career and beyond. 

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About the Author

Lian Parsons is a Boston-based writer and journalist. She is currently a digital content producer at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education. Her bylines can be found at the Harvard Gazette, Boston Art Review, Radcliffe Magazine, Experience Magazine, and iPondr.

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COSAM News Articles 2024 05 Virtual lab meetings improve undergraduate research experience and foster diversity in academia

Virtual lab meetings improve undergraduate research experience and foster diversity in academia

Published: 05/29/2024

By: Maria Gebhardt

Moisés A. Bernal , assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University, is collaborating with researchers Kathleen Lotterhos (Northeast University), Megan Phifer-Rixey (Drexel University), and Torrance Hanley , (Sacred Heart University) to evaluate the effectiveness of virtual lab meetings in demystifying the hidden curriculum in academia, incentivize primary research among students without previous experience, and foster participation of underrepresented groups in STEM.

The “Biological Practices” article entitled A virtual lab meeting training program mutually benefits mentees and host labs was recently published in Proceedings B, dives into the specific details that are needed to develop a virtual meetings program from scratch, and reports on the experiences by both mentors and mentees. The first step on the NSF-funded Virtual Lab Meeting Program (LaMP) was to match research mentors (i.e. faculty in research intensive institutions) with students in STEM fields (i.e. at institutions with limited research support), Bernal indicated. 

“The program matched mentors and mentees based on affinity of research topics, and mentees were provided with a $500 stipend if they participated in at least 10 meetings,” Bernal said. “This is important because the students had an incentive to participate at the meetings and actively exchange ideas with a research lab.”

The team collected data that shared insight of the value of the LaMP experience.

“When we analyzed the data, we saw a gap that exists between the current mentors and the mentees,” he said. “The mentees were a much more diverse group then the mentors.”

The data included racial and sexual diversity among mentees participating. However, the faculty did not exhibit as much diversity, which highlights the need for this type of program among undergraduate and graduate students.

"Our results clearly show that this program worked to extend the professional networks of traditionally under-represented groups in the sciences, with little extra time commitment on the part of the participating labs,” said Lotterhos. “We hope these results will stimulate similar efforts across STEM disciplines."

And those efforts can be easily integrated into a lab.

“For faculty, this is a small-time investment, because we are already conducting regular lab meetings and we can simply bring on a new mentee into this experience” Bernal added. The results from the study show that the mentees learned new information on specific techniques and study systems, while developing a broader network of personal connections in academia. Further, the mentees learned how to discuss and present research as well as how to discuss a manuscript and the overall writing process. Meanwhile, mentors indicated it was beneficial to gain novel perspectives on how to discuss peer-reviewed manuscripts, and gain knowledge on other study systems presented by the mentees. Overall, the survey results indicate that the program was useful for staff and students in the mentor’s lab as well as the mentees, and participants strongly recommend this program to future participants.

Bernal spoke about his time with a virtual student in his lab.

“It was a positive experience because I was able to have someone in my lab with a novel perspective on how to discuss manuscripts and to look at research problems from a new angle” he explained. “This program helps to develop and expand professional networks for participants. It also helps them prepare to apply to graduate school and learn how to build their CVs over time.”

Overall, the LaMP initiative represents an effective way of connecting researchers with students in STEM, while fostering the participation of underrepresented groups in academia.

Credit: Christina Chung

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New clinical research wing opens at Minneapolis VA

By Reg Chapman

May 30, 2024 / 6:19 PM CDT / CBS Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS — A new research center just broke ground to help improve the lives of our nation's heroes.

Research Week is an annual opportunity to recognize VA researchers and their contribution to scientific studies and clinical trials. But this year the Minneapolis VA is also celebrating the grand opening of a new clinical research wing.

"The research initiative that we have here is to do everything that we can to try to improve the lives of veterans," said Dr. Joshua Nixon.

Nixon, deputy chief of staff for research, says the space provides a central location to conduct research consultations with veterans who take part in many of the studies conducted at the Minneapolis VA. 

"Veterans start out healthier than the typical person in the population because of all the training and physical activity but as a result of their service they usually end up in worse shape by the end of their lives than the average citizen," said Nixon.

Nixon says the researchers look at things that are important to veterans' health and figure out how to make their lives as healthy as possible. 

"We have both pre-clinical studies that are looking at models of different diseases as well as clinical studies that take those models and put them into practice," Nixon said

The center has 150 investigators conducting more than 500 research projects.

Veterans and the entire community benefit because of the long-standing relationship between the Minneapolis VA and the University of Minnesota — the longest-standing academic partnership between a VA and a university in the nation.

"They are helping diagnose and solve the problem, I think that's great," said Joyce Loch.

Loch was recognized for 50 years of service working in research at the Minneapolis VA.

"I've seen a lot of changes. When I first started in research there wasn't as much clinical research going on as there is now, so having the new clinical research wing is extremely, extremely good. They do good work here, " Loch said.

She is excited groundbreaking work will continue in this new facility to improve the quality of life of all Americans.

Almost all of the staff or researchers have dual appointments. That means VA clinicians are also University of Minnesota professors and researchers.

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Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO from WNBC-TV in New York City where he covered an array of stories for the station including the Coney Island plane crash, the crane collapse on the city's east side, 50 shots fired at motorist Sean Bell by New York Police, and a lacrosse team assault at Fairfield High School in Connecticut.

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NASA has made new data available that can provide air pollution observations at unprecedented resolutions – down to the scale of individual neighborhoods. The near real-time data comes from the agency’s TEMPO (Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution) instrument, which launched last year to improve life on Earth by revolutionizing the way scientists observe air quality from space. This new data is available from the Atmospheric Science Data Center at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

“TEMPO is one of NASA’s Earth observing instruments making giant leaps to improve life on our home planet,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “NASA and the Biden-Harris Administration are committed to addressing the climate crisis and making climate data more open and available to all. The air we breathe affects everyone, and this new data is revolutionizing the way we track air quality for the benefit of humanity.”

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The TEMPO mission gathers hourly daytime scans of the atmosphere over North America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Coast, and from Mexico City to central Canada. The instrument detects pollution by observing how sunlight is absorbed and scattered by gases and particles in the troposphere, the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere.

“All the pollutants that TEMPO is measuring cause health issues,” said Hazem Mahmoud, science lead at NASA Langley’s Atmospheric Science Data Center. “We have more than 500 early adopters using these datasets right away. We expect to see epidemiologists and health experts using this data in the near future. Researchers studying the respiratory system and the impact of these pollutants on people’s health will find TEMPO’s measurements invaluable.”

An early adopter program has allowed policymakers and other air quality stakeholders to understand the capabilities and benefits of TEMPO’s measurements . Since October 2023, the TEMPO calibration and validation team has been working to evaluate and improve TEMPO data products. 

We have more than 500 early adopters that will be using these datasets right away.

hazem mahmoud

hazem mahmoud

NASA Data Scientist

“Data gathered by TEMPO will play an important role in the scientific analysis of pollution,” said Xiong Liu, senior physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and principal investigator for the mission. “For example, we will be able to conduct studies of rush hour pollution, linkages of diseases and health issues to acute exposure of air pollution, how air pollution disproportionately impacts underserved communities, the potential for improved air quality alerts, the effects of lightning on ozone, and the movement of pollution from forest fires and volcanoes.” 

Measurements by TEMPO include air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and ground-level ozone.

“Poor air quality exacerbates pre-existing health issues, which leads to more hospitalizations,” said Jesse Bell, executive director at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Water, Climate, and Health Program. Bell is an early adopter of TEMPO’s data.

Bell noted that there is a lack of air quality data in rural areas since monitoring stations are often hundreds of miles apart. There is also an observable disparity in air quality from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“Low-income communities, on average, have poorer air quality than more affluent communities,” said Bell. “For example, we’ve conducted studies and found that in Douglas County, which surrounds Omaha, the eastern side of the county has higher rates of pediatric asthma hospitalizations. When we identify what populations are going to the hospital at a higher rate than others, it’s communities of color and people with indicators of poverty. Data gathered by TEMPO is going to be incredibly important because you can get better spatial and temporal resolution of air quality across places like Douglas County.”

Determining sources of air pollution can be difficult as smoke from wildfires or pollutants from industry and traffic congestion drift on winds. The TEMPO instrument will make it easier to trace the origin of some pollutants.

“The National Park Service is using TEMPO data to gain new insight into emerging air quality issues at parks in southeast New Mexico,” explained National Park Service chemist, Barkley Sive. “Oil and gas emissions from the Permian Basin have affected air quality at Carlsbad Caverns and other parks and their surrounding communities. While pollution control strategies have successfully decreased ozone levels across most of the United States, the data helps us understand degrading air quality in the region.” 

The TEMPO instrument was built by BAE Systems, Inc., Space & Mission Systems (formerly Ball Aerospace) and flies aboard the Intelsat 40e satellite built by Maxar Technologies. The TEMPO Ground System, including the Instrument Operations Center and the Science Data Processing Center, are operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Organization, part of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.

To learn more about TEMPO visit: https://nasa.gov/tempo

Related Terms

  • Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO)
  • Langley Research Center

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Supporting K–12 Student Mental Health in 2024–25

  • May 31, 2024
  • Topic: Culture, Climate, & Family Engagement , K–12 Education , Program Evaluation , Student Success
  • Resource type: Insights Blog

K – 12 s tudent mental health needs are growing. Here’s how school districts can measurably improve student well-being outcomes to ensure student success .  

Mental Health Awareness month is observed each May. Awareness plays an important role in reducing stigma and normalizing discussions of invisible disabilities . However, when it comes to K–12 student well-being, awareness alone won’t be enough to provide relief. The National Center for Education Statistics still reports a significant decline in K – 12 student mental health since the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Increased support and services in schools has already shown promising results in reducing the number of youth mental-health-related hospitalizations. However, many districts are facing budget shortfalls and the loss of ESSER funding that put them at a crossroads for how to do more to address student well-being — with fewer funds.  

Luckily, district leaders can take steps to measure and strengthen mental health support for students by focusing on improving school climate, implementing multi-tiered systems of support, and rethinking funding strategies, even in resource-scarce environments.  

How to Excel Beyond K–12 Mental Health Awareness    

Mental health awareness remains an important first step to boosting the well-being of a student population. However, districts must also implement actionable methods to repair school climate .   

Consider the following tips when seeking to elevate your student well-being strategy at the district level:

  • Work with school leaders to identify short, medium, and long-term goals for school climate revitalization.   
  • Promote accountability by continually evaluating the progress of these goals and metrics over time.   
  • Prioritize policies, practices, and initiatives that focus on preventing unhealthy conflict and bullying and modeling healthy social connections.   
  • Emphasize shared values and intercultural understanding.   
  • Regularly collect and analyze surveys, interviews, and feedback forms from students, families, and staff to provide accessible avenues for them to voice their ideas and concerns.  

Learn how to how to balance all aspects of a positive school climate with our infographic, The Why and How of a Positive School Climate .

Exploring multi-tiered support systems for sustainable intervention  .

Student mental health persists as a multifaceted issue, influenced by factors such as income , race, and gender. Moreover, not all students require the same level of support. By identifying the risk factors and warning signs of mental health challenges, districts can scale resources for the students who need it the most.   

A multi-tiered support system (MTSS) organizes intervention strategies along a continuum, starting with prevention and graduating to more intense support to match student need. Districts with a strong MTSS in place prioritize data-based decision-making and problem-solving to more efficiently connect students with appropriate tiers of support. Implement or enhance structures and practices to build capacity for a MTSS model in your district, including:    

  • Identify and engage in community and family partnerships to better understand how systemic bias, mental illness, and other disabilities inform the unique support needs of different student groups.   
  • Modify school schedules to include protected time for problem-solving meetings, intervention delivery, universal screening and progress monitoring, and professional development.   
  • Clearly define the gradient of support beyond generalized prevention measures by identifying intervention methods that support students with targeted needs in a group environment and methods that address individuals with the highest needs and risks profiles.   
  • Refine screening tools to identify specific risk factors and warning signs.  

Strengthen your student well-being strategy with data by tuning into our prerecorded webinar, Enhancing Student Outcomes in K – 12 Districts: Strategies for Success .

Diversifying k–12 student mental health funding options    .

Funding remains a major challenge for districts that aim to improve student mental health support systems. With ESSER funding rapidly expiring, it’s a challenging environment for districts to adequately allocate resources for both academic and behavioral programs.   

To counter budget constraints, a benchmarking study by Hanover found that some districts and educational service agencies have found success with a blended or braided model of funding streams to implement comprehensive school-based mental health supports. Leverage the following tips when navigating funding options for your student mental health programs:   

  • Explore options for implementing a braided funding model to support school- based mental health support and services, using a combination of federal grants , state funding, and funding from private donors/foundations to cover the expenses.   
  • Form community partnerships with organizations that could support and/or directly provide mental health services in district schools or offer telehealth services.   
  • For example, consider how local hospitals, universities, non-profits, and existing outpatient behavioral centers could help triangulate support.   
  • Connect with Medicaid and other government agencies to learn about ways to lighten the district financial load through insurance coverage.   

ESSER funding may be expiring but you can read our 2024 Trends in K – 12 Education report to learn how other districts are overco ming funding challenges. 

Everyone needs support when overcoming mental health hurdles — and students are no different. Awareness provides a terrific opportunity to shed light on potentially overlooked issues. However, district leaders should also focus on action and accountability to support growing K–12 student mental health needs. Districts and schools can find success in promoting student well-being by using data to establish actionable goals, providing a multi-tiered system of support, and taking innovative approaches to funding and resourcing.  

K–12 Student Well-Being Program Evaluation Checklist

Make smarter decisions about how to improve student well-being with a proven program evaluation process

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Elizabeth Selvin named director of the Welch Center for Epidemiology and Clinical Research

Selvin has devoted her career to leading translational research projects designed to evaluate and improve screening, diagnosis, and patient care for persons with diabetes.

By Hub staff report

Elizabeth Selvin has been appointed the next director of the Welch Center for Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the Johns Hopkins University, effective May 1. She succeeds Lawrence J. Appel, who led the center for the past 14 years.

A collaborative effort between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health , the School of Medicine , and the School of Nursing , the Welch Center was established in 1989 with the primary mission of improving population health by conducting rigorous research that integrates clinical medicine with public health expertise and by training the next generation of interdisciplinary researchers and scholars.

Image caption: Elizabeth Selvin

An internationally recognized leader in the field, Selvin is a professor of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School and holds a joint appointment in the School of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine. She is the author or co-author of over 550 peer-reviewed papers. Selvin, who earned her PhD in public health from the Bloomberg School in 2004, has devoted her career to leading translational research projects designed to evaluate and improve screening, diagnosis, and patient care for persons with diabetes. Her work has directly influenced clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis and management of diabetes. Her many awards include the Harry Keen Memorial Award from the International Diabetes Epidemiology Group of the International Diabetes Federation and the Kelly West Award for Outstanding Achievement in Epidemiology from the American Diabetes Association. Selvin currently serves as a deputy editor of Diabetes Care .

In an announcement to the Hopkins community, leaders of the three schools collaborating at the Welch Center expressed gratitude for Appel's extraordinary leadership and congratulated Selvin for her accomplishments, noting her ongoing commitment to training the next generation of students and fellows from across the university. In 2024, she received the David M. Levine Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine.

"For over three decades, the Welch Center has fostered the integration of public health, medical, and nursing expertise to tackle some of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity here at home and globally," wrote School of Medicine Dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine Theodore L. DeWeese , Bloomberg School Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie , and School of Nursing Dean Sarah L. Szanton . "It is widely recognized as one of the world's premier centers for training and research in clinical epidemiology, with a focus on translating science for impact. We look forward to the next chapter in the center's remarkable history under Dr. Selvin's leadership."

Posted in University News

Tagged interdisciplinary research , johns hopkins medicine , school of public health , school of nursing

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Understanding why autism symptoms sometimes improve amid fever

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A little girl lies on a couch under a blanket while a woman holds a thermometer to the girl's mouth.

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Scientists are catching up to what parents and other caregivers have been reporting for many years: When some people with autism spectrum disorders experience an infection that sparks a fever, their autism-related symptoms seem to improve.

With a pair of new grants from The Marcus Foundation, scientists at MIT and Harvard Medical School hope to explain how this happens in an effort to eventually develop therapies that mimic the “fever effect” to similarly improve symptoms.

“Although it isn’t actually triggered by the fever, per se, the ‘fever effect’ is real, and it provides us with an opportunity to develop therapies to mitigate symptoms of autism spectrum disorders,” says neuroscientist Gloria Choi , associate professor in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and affiliate of The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

Choi will collaborate on the project with Jun Huh, associate professor of immunology at Harvard Medical School. Together the grants to the two institutions provide $2.1 million over three years.

“To the best of my knowledge, the ‘fever effect’ is perhaps the only natural phenomenon in which developmentally determined autism symptoms improve significantly, albeit temporarily,” Huh says. “Our goal is to learn how and why this happens at the levels of cells and molecules, to identify immunological drivers, and produce persistent effects that benefit a broad group of individuals with autism.”

The Marcus Foundation has been involved in autism work for over 30 years, helping to develop the field and addressing everything from awareness to treatment to new diagnostic devices.

“I have long been interested in novel approaches to treating and lessening autism symptoms, and doctors Choi and Huh have honed in on a bold theory,” says Bernie Marcus, founder and chair of The Marcus Foundation. “It is my hope that this Marcus Foundation Medical Research Award helps their theory come to fruition and ultimately helps improve the lives of children with autism and their families.”

Brain-immune interplay

For a decade, Huh and Choi have been investigating the connection between infection and autism. Their studies suggest that the beneficial effects associated with fever may arise from molecular changes in the immune system during infection, rather than on the elevation of body temperature, per se.

Their work in mice has shown that maternal infection during pregnancy, modulated by the composition of the mother’s microbiome, can lead to neurodevelopmental abnormalities in the offspring that result in autism-like symptoms, such as impaired sociability. Huh’s and Choi’s labs have traced the effect to elevated maternal levels of a type of immune-signaling molecule called IL-17a, which acts on receptors in brain cells of the developing fetus, leading to hyperactivity in a region of the brain’s cortex called S1DZ. In another study , they’ve shown how maternal infection appears to prime offspring to produce more IL-17a during infection later in life.

Building on these studies, a 2020 paper clarified the fever effect in the setting of autism. This research showed that mice that developed autism symptoms as a result of maternal infection while in utero would exhibit improvements in their sociability when they had infections — a finding that mirrored observations in people. The scientists discovered that this effect depended on over-expression of IL-17a, which in this context appeared to calm affected brain circuits. When the scientists administered IL-17a directly to the brains of mice with autism-like symptoms whose mothers had not been infected during pregnancy, the treatment still produced improvements in symptoms.

New studies and samples

This work suggested that mimicking the “fever effect” by giving extra IL-17a could produce similar therapeutic effects for multiple autism-spectrum disorders, with different underlying causes. But the research also left wide-open questions that must be answered before any clinically viable therapy could be developed. How exactly does IL-17a lead to symptom relief and behavior change in the mice? Does the fever effect work in the same way in people?

In the new project, Choi and Huh hope to answer those questions in detail.

“By learning the science behind the fever effect and knowing the mechanism behind the improvement in symptoms, we can have enough knowledge to be able to mimic it, even in individuals who don’t naturally experience the fever effect,” Choi says.

Choi and Huh will continue their work in mice seeking to uncover the sequence of molecular, cellular and neural circuit effects triggered by IL-17a and similar molecules that lead to improved sociability and reduction in repetitive behaviors. They will also dig deeper into why immune cells in mice exposed to maternal infection become primed to produce IL-17a.

To study the fever effect in people, Choi and Huh plan to establish a “biobank” of samples from volunteers with autism who do or don’t experience symptoms associated with fever, as well as comparable volunteers without autism. The scientists will measure, catalog, and compare these immune system molecules and cellular responses in blood plasma and stool to determine the biological and clinical markers of the fever effect.

If the research reveals distinct cellular and molecular features of the immune response among people who experience improvements with fever, the researchers could be able to harness these insights into a therapy that mimics the benefits of fever without inducing actual fever. Detailing how the immune response acts in the brain would inform how the therapy should be crafted to produce similar effects.

"We are enormously grateful and excited to have this opportunity," Huh says. "We hope our work will ‘kick up some dust’ and make the first step toward discovering the underlying causes of fever responses. Perhaps, one day in the future, novel therapies inspired by our work will help transform the lives of many families and their children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."

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MIT and Harvard Medical School researchers have uncovered a cellular mechanism that may explain why some children with autism experience a temporary reduction in behavioral symptoms when they have a fever.

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