Starting a New Project

As when learning anything new, you derive the greatest satisfaction in the long term if you make a strong effort to master the basics at the outset. Key elements determining your ultimate success will include:

  • your understanding of what specifically the project entails;
  • your understanding of your advisor’s expectations;
  • your knowledge of the relevant technical literature;
  • your mastery of the requisite fundamental lab skills, method, techniques, and instrumentation; and
  • your ability to work with and through the other individuals on your research team

A good way to make a strong start is to make it a point to meet with your advisor at the outset to discuss the project and to learn specifically what his/her expectations are regarding your research project. You may find it helpful to craft a research learning contract in this regard. Crafting a research learning contract will help you clarify the purpose of your work, the criteria for success, help you identify the resources you need for success, etc.

Even if your advisor does not require it, you should plan to take some time at the outset of your work to get to know the other members of your research group – what their educational backgrounds are, what projects they are working on, and what skills/techniques they possess – as your teammates’ knowledge and experience can be invaluable to you in accomplishing your research objectives.

Lastly, it is a wise idea to spend some time on-line or in the library and carry out a thoughtful and thorough literature search in order to determine what is already known, what has already been done (by your research group and others), and to learn about the skills, techniques, and any instrumentation that you may need in order to accomplish your objectives. This will give you the knowledge you need in order to decide whether this project is indeed a good match for your interests, skills, and abilities, and help you identify what materials, resources, and assistance, if any, you will require in order to be successful.