Students selected to participate in a research elective may help in designing the experiment or observational study, acquire empirical data, be trained in using measurement equipment, analyze empirical data, or take part in other parts of the research project. Students must write a short research elective report of maximally 5 pages about the obtained practical experience. Students are expected to spend 84 hours on the Research Elective (or 168 hours on a Long Research Elective), which includes practical work and the elective report. The principal investigator of the project will supervise the practical work and grade the elective report.
What is a Research Elective?
In case of Covid-19-related restrictions or lockdowns, carefully discuss with your supervisor if and how tasks can be completed before you start the elective. This includes lab access, equipment handling, being in close proximity to participants, whether you are allowed to manage a lab yourself or with qualified personnel, etc. Discuss alternative back-up plans, such as analysing already collected data, or conducting online studies. In case the elective is not possible within imposed restrictions, consider converting the project to a Review Elective, or choose a different elective altogether. Do not wait too long in discussing back-up plans and possibilities; avoid situations in which you are in doubt of elective possibilities until near the deadline of your elective grade.
How to apply for a Research ElectiveYou can find descriptions of Research Electives that are offered by FPN/FHML staff on "Collent". The electives are not listed in any particular order. You are in principle free to browse and apply to any of the electives of any RM track, given your match to the project requirements. Specify "Research" in the SUMMARY filter box to see a list of all offered Research Electives. Add further keywords for topic or supervisor to refine your search. To view the project information, click on the "eye" icon on the right of the elective record. When you encounter an elective of your interest, contact the supervisor by email, indicate your motivation and interest for the project, and ask whether you can participate. Decision to participate may depend on several factors, including (but not limited to) your match to the project requirements, timing and scheduling of the project, to what degree you possess required skills or theoretical knowledge, and vacancy in the project. If you and the supervisor reach a common decision to collaborate on the project, register yourself for the elective via "Collent". Apply for a Research Elective one project at a time! Start by applying to your most "favourite" elective and, in case you cannot join the project, move on to the next elective on your "favourite electives" list. Do NOT "shop around and spread your chances" by sending out applications to multiple projects at once. This causes miscommunication and unnecessary frustration for both the contacted supervisors as well as you, the applying student.
In some circumstances, you and the supervisor may want to develop a new elective project "from scratch". In that case, the elective supervisor must first submit a short description of the newly developed elective via"Collent" before you can register yourself to the elective. The RM Electives coordinator must accept a newly developed elective, which is not a priori guaranteed. An elective that is not accepted may require changes in task description, project timing or other matters. So, consider your new elective carefully in order to avoid unnecessary delays!
Monitoring progress during the elective
During the period of the Research Elective, you may have limited contact with your supervisor. While this may be fine for some students and supervisors, others may find themselves stuck or left with questions about the project. In case you have questions or are in doubt about elective progress, be assertive and contact your supervisor. In general, it is very important to remain in good contact and communicate regularly with your supervisor to check that you have mutual goals and expectations for the project. To assist you in structuring your communication with your supervisor and monitor the progress of the project, you can use the Evaluation Form. To fill out this form, student and supervisor must discuss project progress, intended goals and outcomes and expectations about supervision and educational value. The items on the form only cover practical performance and do not cover aspects related to grading a written document, such as a Review paper, Research report, Lab logbook, etc. The form contains a half-way and a final evaluation.
If both student and supervisor are satisfied about the work and how project is developing, then everyone is happy and you all continue with the project. However, if the answers on the form indicate reconsideration, it is crucial that student and supervisor openly discuss how to improve the project. In case student and supervisor find that they cannot resolve the raised issues, they can either contact the RM coordinator for assistance, or, in the extreme case, end the collaboration. To pick up on any miscommunication or problems, it is therefore important to 1) carefully discuss plans and goals at the start of the elective and 2) fill out the half-way part of the form at least half-way during the elective, or even earlier.
Format of the Elective Report
The format and contents of the Research Elective Report highly depends on the format and contents of your elective project. Some example formats are listed below:
- The report can be a general paper-style description of the tasks you performed and the results that you found. Keep the discussion of background literature to a minimum (that is what the Review Elective is for) and focus on the tasks and results.
- If your elective includes programming or coding an experiment, data analysis, visualization, etc., the report can be a well-annotated (!) copy of the code that you created. Be sure that your code is error-free and runs the way that it should! Your supervisor will want to check and run the code.
- If your elective focuses on using particular methodologies or non-standard analyses, your report can be a step-by-step How-To manual of said method or analysis with example screenshots from your own work. Be sure that someone else is able to follow your manual through without problems!
- If your elective focuses on data collection or lab management, your report can be a Lab Log of the events that occurred in the lab, or a How-To lab manual that describes important steps in running the experiment in the lab. Be sure to anonymize any participant references in your report.
Submitting the final manuscript for grading
To finish the elective, your supervisor must grade the Elective report + your practical performance during the elective. You must submit the Elective report on "Collent", which will then forward the document to your supervisor. Note that you must be registered to the Research Elective project on "Collent" in order to submit the document. The day and time of submission will be automatically registered as the official moment that you finished the elective.
The elective must be completed and graded before the start of the internship. When you submitted the elective but do not see the grade listed on your gradelist, contact the RM Electives coordinator in time. We can then figure out whether the supervisor has not yet finished grading, has not yet submitted the grade on "Collent" or whether there is an unexpected error or delay in processing the grade. Do not wait until the day before you start the internship to contact the RM Electives coordinator! You are responsible for finishing your elective in time and signalling any unexpected events about the elective. Finally, the Research Elective grade does not count into your GPA, but the elective credits are required for your graduation.