The Complete Guide to Independent Research Projects for High School Students


Indigo Research Team

college research assignment for high school students pdf

If you want to get into top universities, an independent research project will give your application the competitive edge it needs.

Writing and publishing independent research during high school lets you demonstrate to top colleges and universities that you can deeply inquire into a topic, think critically, and produce original analysis. In fact, MIT features "Research" and "Maker" portfolio sections in its application, highlighting the value it places on self-driven projects.

Moreover, successfully executing high-quality research shows potential employers that you can rise to challenges, manage your time, contribute new ideas, and work independently. 

This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to take on independent study ideas and succeed. You’ll learn how to develop a compelling topic, conduct rigorous research, and ultimately publish your findings.

college research assignment for high school students pdf

What is an Independent Research Project?

An independent research project is a self-directed investigation into an academic question or topic that interests you. Unlike projects assigned by teachers in class, independent research will allow you to explore your curiosity and passions.

These types of projects can vary widely between academic disciplines and scientific fields, but what connects them is a step-by-step approach to answering a research question. Specifically, you will have to collect and analyze data and draw conclusions from your analysis.

For a high school student, carrying out quality research may still require some mentorship from a teacher or other qualified scholar. But the project research ideas should come from you, the student. The end goal is producing original research and analysis around a topic you care about.

Some key features that define an independent study project include:

● Formulating your own research question

● Designing the methodology

● Conducting a literature review of existing research

● Gathering and analyzing data, and

● Communicating your findings.

The topic and scope may be smaller than a professional college academic project, but the process and skills learned have similar benefits.

Why Should High School Students Do Independent Research?

High school students who engage in independent study projects gain valuable skills and experiences that benefit and serve them well in their college and career pursuits. Here's a breakdown of what you will typically acquire:

Develop Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Research and critical thinking are among the top 10 soft skills in demand in 2024 . They help you solve new challenges quickly and come up with alternative solutions

An independent project will give you firsthand experience with essential research skills like forming hypotheses, designing studies, collecting and analyzing data, and interpreting results. These skills will serve you well in college and when employed in any industry.

Stand Out for College Applications

With many applicants having similar GPAs and test scores, an Independent research study offer a chance to stand out from the crowd. Completing a research study in high school signals colleges that you are self-motivated and capable of high-level work. Showcasing your research process, findings, and contributions in your application essays or interviews can boost your application's strengths in top-level colleges and universities.

Earn Scholarship Opportunities

Completing an independent research project makes you a more preferred candidate for merit-based scholarships, especially in STEM fields. Many scholarships reward students who show initiative by pursuing projects outside of class requirements. Your research project ideas will demonstrate your skills and motivation to impress scholarship committees. For example, the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology rewards students with original independent research projects in STEM fields. Others include the Garcia Summer Program and the BioGENEius challenge for life sciences.

college research assignment for high school students pdf

Gain Subject Area Knowledge

Independent projects allow you to immerse yourself in a topic you genuinely care about beyond what is covered in the classroom. It's a chance to become an expert in something you're passionate about . You will build deep knowledge in the topic area you choose to research, which can complement what you're learning in related classes. This expertise can even help inform your career interests and goals.

Develop Time Management Skills

Time Management is the skill that lets you effectively plan and prioritize tasks and avoid procrastination. With no teacher guiding you step-by-step, independent study projects require strong time management, self-discipline, and personal responsibility – skills critical in college and adulthood.

Types of Independent Research Projects for High School Students

Understanding the different types and categories can spark inspiration if you need help finding an idea for an independent study. Topics for independent research generally fall into a few main buckets:

Science Experiments

For students interested in STEM fields, designing and carrying out science experiments is a great option. Test a hypothesis, collect data, and draw conclusions. Experiments in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and psychology are common choices. Science experiment is best for self-motivated students with access to lab equipment.

Science Experiments Independent Research Projects

Social Science Surveys and Studies  

Use research methods from sociology, political science, anthropology, economics, and psychology to craft a survey study or field observation around a high school research project idea that interests you. Collect data from peers, your community, and online sources, and compile findings. Strong fit for students interested in social studies.

Literary Analysis Paper

This research category involves analyzing existing research papers, books, and articles on a specific topic. Imagine exploring the history of robots, examining the impact of social media on mental health, or comparing different interpretations of a classic novel. If you are an English enthusiast, this is an easy chance to showcase your analytical writing skills.

Programming or Engineering Project

For aspiring programmers or engineers, you can take on practical student projects that develop software programs, apps, websites, robots, electronic gadgets, or other hands-on engineering projects. This type of project will easily highlight your technical skills and interest in computer science or engineering fields in your college applications

Historical Research

History research projects will allow you to travel back and uncover the past to inform the future. This research involves analyzing historical documents, artifacts, and records to shed light on a specific event or period. For example, you can conduct independent research on the impact of a local historical figure or the evolution of fashion throughout the decades. Check to explore even more history project ideas for high school students .

Artistic and Creative Works

If you are artistic and love creating art,  you can explore ideas for independent study to produce an original film, musical composition, sculpture, painting series, fashion line, or other creative work. Alongside the tangible output, document your creative process and inspirations.

Bonus Tip: Feel free to mix different ideas for your project. For example, you could conduct a literature review on a specific historical event and follow it up with field research that interviewed people who experienced the event firsthand.

How To Conduct an Independent Research Project

Now that you have ideas for project topics that match your interests and strengths, here are the critical steps you must follow to move from mere concept to completed study.

1. Get Expert Guidance and Mentorship

As a high school student just starting out in research, it is advised to collaborate with more experienced mentors who will help you learn the ropes of research projects easily. Mentors are usually professors, post-doctoral researchers, or graduate students with significant experience in conducting independent project research and can guide you through the process. 

Specifically, your mentor will advise you on formulating research questions, designing methodologies, analyzing data, and communicating findings effectively. To quickly find mentors in your research project area of interest, enroll in an online academic research mentorship program that targets high school students. You’d be exposed to one-on-one sessions with professors and graduate students that will help you develop your research and publish your findings.

The right mentor can also help transform your independent project ideas into a study suitable for publication in relevant research journals. With their experience, mentors will guide you to follow the proper research methods and best practices. This ensures your work meets the standards required, avoiding rejection from journals. 

2. Develop a Compelling Research Question

Once you are familiar with the type of independent research best suited to your strengths and interests, as explained in the previous section, the next step is to develop a question you want to answer in that field. This is called a research question and will serve as the foundation for your entire project.

The research question will drive your entire project, so it needs to be complex enough to merit investigation but clear enough to study. Here are some ts for crafting your research question:

●  Align your research question(s) with topics you are passionate about and have some background knowledge. You will spend a significant amount of time on this question.

●  Consult with your mentor teacher or professor to get feedback and guidance on developing a feasible, meaningful question

●  Avoid overly broad questions better suited for doctoral dissertations. Narrow your focus to something manageable, but that still intrigues you.

●  Pose your research question as an actual question, like "How does social media usage affect teen mental health?" The question should lay out the key variables you'll be investigating.

●  Ensure your question and desired approach are ethically sound. You may need permission to study human subjects.

●  Conduct preliminary research to ensure your question hasn't already been answered. You want to contribute something new to your field.

With a compelling research question as your compass, you're ready to start your independent study project. Remember to stay flexible; you may need to refine the question further as your research develops.

3. Set a Timeline and Write a Proposal

After defining your research question, the next step is to map out a timeline for completing your research project. This will keep you organized and help you develop strong time management skills.

Start by creating a schedule that outlines all major milestones from start to finish. In your schedule, allow plenty of time for research, experimentation, data analysis, and compiling your report. Always remember to build in some cushion for unexpected delays.

Moreover, you can use tools like Gantt charts to design a timeline for an independent research project . Gantt charts help you visualize your research project timeline at a glance. See the video below for a tutorial on designing a Gantt chart to plan your project schedule:

[YouTube Video on How to Make a Gantt Chart: ]

Research Proposal

To have a clear direction of the step-by-step process for your independent study, write a 1-2 page research proposal to outline your question, goals, methodology, timeline, resources, and desired outcomes. Get feedback from your mentor to improve the proposal before starting your research. 

Sticking to your timeline requires self-discipline. But strive to meet your goals and deadlines; it will build invaluable real-world skills in time and project management. With a plan in place, it's time to move forward with your research.

4. Do Your Research

This is the active phase where a student is conducting a research project. The specific method you will follow varies enormously based on your project type and field. You should have your methodology outlined in your approved research proposal already. However, most independent research has a similar basic process:

  • Review existing studies : Perform a literature review to understand current knowledge on your topic and inform your own hypothesis/framework. Read relevant studies, articles, and papers.
  • Create methodology materials : Design your independent research methodology for gathering data. This may involve experiments, surveys, interviews, field observations, or analysis of existing artifacts like texts or datasets.
  • Permissions and Equipment :  Secure any necessary equipment and permissions. For example, if doing interviews, you'll need a recording device and consent from participants.
  • Collect your data : For science projects, perform experiments and record results. For surveys, recruit respondents and compile responses. Gather enough data to draw valid conclusions.
  • Analyze the data using appropriate techniques : Quantitative data may involve statistical analysis, while qualitative data requires coding for themes. Consult your mentor for direction.
  • Interpret the findings : Take care not to overstate conclusions. Look for patterns and relationships that shed light on your research question. Always maintain rigorous objectivity.

While a student's project methodology and its execution are unique, ensure you follow the standard practices in your field of interest to ensure high-quality acceptable results. You can always refer to the plan in your research proposal as you diligently carry out the steps required to execute your study. Ensure you have detailed records that document all your processes.  

college research assignment for high school students pdf

5. Write Your Final Paper and Presentation

Once you've completed your research, it's time to summarize and share your findings with the world by writing the final paper and designing its presentation. This involves synthesizing your work into clear, compelling reporting.

Drafting the paper will likely involve extensive writing and editing. Be prepared to go through multiple revisions to get the paper polished. Follow the standard format used in academic papers in your field;  your mentor can provide you with examples of independent study related to yours. The final product should include: 

  • Abstract : A short summary of your project and conclusions.
  • Introduction : Background on your topic, goals, and research questions.
  • Literature Review : Summary of relevant existing research in your field.
  • Methods : Detailed explanation of the methodology and process of your study.
  • Results : Presentation of the data and main findings from your research. Using visual representations like charts was helpful.
  • Discussion : Objective interpretation and analysis of the results and their significance.
  • Conclusion : Summary of your research contributions, limitations, and suggestions for future work.
  • References/Bibliography : Full citations for all sources referenced.

Adhere to clear academic writing principles to keep your writing objective and straightforward. Generally, stick to a 10-15 page length limit appropriate for student work. However, you may need to write more depending on your project type.

6. Research Presentation

After writing your research project report, you should prepare a presentation to share your research orally. Moreover, a research presentation is a tangible opportunity to practice public speaking and visual communication skills. Your presentation will include slides, handouts, demonstrations, or other aids to engage your audience and highlight key points in your independent study project.

Once you have written your final paper, you will likely want to publish it in relevant journals and publications. For detailed tips see our guide on how to publish your student research paper . Some options you have to formally publish your high school-level independent research include:

  • Submitting your paper to academic journals and competitions
  • Presenting at symposiums and science fairs
  • Sharing on online research databases
  • Adding your work to college applications

Publishing your independent project allows you to share your findings with broader scholarly and student audiences. It also helps amplify the impact of all your hard work.

Independent Research Project Examples

To spark creative ideas for independent research projects, it can be helpful to read through and examine examples of successful projects completed by other high school students in recent years. Here are some inspiring examples:

●  Using machine learning to diagnose cancer based on blood markers (bioinformatics)

●  Applying feature engineering and natural language processing to analyze Twitter data (data science)

●  Investigating connections between stress levels and HIV/AIDS progression (health science)

●  The Relationship between Color and Human Experience

These published i ndependent research project examples demonstrate the impressive research high schoolers take on using the Indigo research service with mentors from different fields. Let these case studies motivate your creative investigation and analysis of the best ideas for your project.

Need Mentorship for Your Independent Research Project?

As outlined in this guide, conducting a rigorous independent research study can be challenging without proper guidance from experts, especially for high school students. This is why partnering with an experienced research mentor is so crucial if your goal is to produce publishable research work.

With Indigo's structured research programs and ongoing expert feedback, you can elevate your high school independent study to a professional level. To get matched with the perfect research mentor aligned with your academic interests and passions, apply to Indigo Research now.

Indigo Research connects high school students with PhD-level researchers and professors who provide one-on-one mentorship through the entire research process - from refining your initial topic idea all the way through analyzing data, writing up results, and finalizing your findings.

college research assignment for high school students pdf

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college research assignment for high school students pdf

A Guide to Pursuing Research Projects in High School

college research assignment for high school students pdf

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Most common high school pursuits and interests can be fit fairly neatly into the academic or extracurricular categories. There are of course required courses that you take, and then there are the activities that you pursue outside of school hours, usually for your own enjoyment. You may play on a sports team, participate in a service project, or pursue visual arts. In most cases, even if your interests are somewhat untraditional, you can somehow package them in a way that neatly qualifies them as an extracurricular activity.

But what if your interests outside of school are more academic in nature? What if you’ve long been fascinated by the potential that carbon sequestration holds to limit the effects of climate change? What if you’re interested in the history of civil disobedience, or the ability of exams to measure actual comprehension? Whatever the case may be, there are some topics of interest that just don’t fit neatly into any extracurricular club or activity.

If you find yourself longing to pursue an interest such as this, you might consider conducting your own research project. While the concept may seem daunting at first, if you break it down into smaller, manageable tasks, you’ll quickly find that you probably already have the skills necessary to get started.

In this post, we will outline the process for conducting a long-term research project independently, including several avenues for pursuing recognition of your work and a step-by-step guide to completing your project. If you’re interested in pursuing an independent research project during high school, keep reading.

Why Pursue an Independent Research Project?

An independent research project is a great way to explore an area of interest that you otherwise would not get to learn about outside of school. By undertaking a research project on your own, not only will you explore a personal area of interest in more depth, but also you will demonstrate your dedication to pursuing knowledge for the sake of learning and your ability to work independently over a prolonged period.

Independent research projects, when conducted well and presented appropriately on a college application, can be a great advantage to you on your college admissions.

How to Choose a Topic for a Research Project

If you’re interested in pursuing a research project, you probably already have a topic in mind. In fact, the desire to conduct a research project usually stems from an existing interest, not just from the idea to conduct research on a vague or undetermined subject matter.

You should aim to narrow your research project to something that has some academic relevance. Perhaps it is related to your existing coursework. Maybe it reflects work you hope to pursue in the future, either academically or professionally. Try to fine-tune your project enough that you can easily explain the driving force behind it and its relevance to your future career path.

While you don’t need to decide on your exact topic or thesis quite yet, you should have a general idea of what your project will entail before moving forward.

Are There Existing Avenues for Undertaking a Research Project At Your School?

While you could certainly conduct your research project completely independently from your school, it is usually easier and more productive to conduct it in a way that is somehow connected to the rest of your schooling.

If the project is STEM-oriented, think about whether it would fit into a science fair or other STEM competition in which your school already competes. Also consider the AP Capstone Program if your school offers it. The second course in this sequence is AP Research , and it requires an in-depth research project as its culminating assessment.

If neither of these formal avenues are available, or neither provides a good fit, look into the possibility of pursuing your project as an independent study. If your school offers independent studies for credit, you can usually get information about them from your adviser. These types of projects usually require an extended application process that must be followed closely if you want to gain approval.

Finally, even if you can’t take advantage of one of the options above, if you have achieved advanced standing or enough credits, your school might still allow you to undertake an extended individual research project through some type of formal arrangement. Talk with a teacher, mentor, or adviser to learn what your options are. Clearly communicate your innate desire to learn more about this specific topic and be prepared to give some background on the issue that you want to research.

Steps for Undertaking the Research Project

1. find a mentor or adviser.

You will need someone to help guide and advise your work, so finding a willing and able mentor should be one of your first steps. This should ideally be a person with existing expertise in the subject area you wish to pursue. In the least, this person should share your interest and passion for the topic.

A teacher at your school who can also serve as an adviser is ideal, and may even be a requirement if you are formally pursuing the project as an independent study for credit. If that is not possible, you can certainly find a mentor somewhere else, even remotely if necessary.

Find out if your subject matter pertains to any local industries or companies, or if there are any scientists or professionals nearby who specialize in it. Consider checking the instructors of local summer programs or judges from past science fairs at your school.   Also consider a professional who has written an article that interested you in the field.

Before you approach a mentor to request their help, familiarize yourself with his or her work. Be able to speak articulately about what has drawn you to him or her specifically. Put some thought into informed questions you might ask him or her. Be upfront about your needs if you are going to require any specific guidance or extended time or energy from your mentor. It might be difficult to find someone at first, but keep trying. Finding a mentor for your project is an important step.

2. Set a Timeline and Stick to It

Once you’ve found a mentor, you can get started laying out the timeline for your project. When you do this, list each step of your project as specifically as possible. These will include at a minimum: background research, writing a thesis statement, in depth research phase, outlining your final paper, drafting your paper, editing your paper, and publishing your paper.

You will probably have a completion date in mind, whether it’s required by the school or simply the end of the semester or school year. Work backwards from your completion date to set a realistic timeframe for each of these steps.

It helps to have a calendar displayed prominently with your deadlines listed clearly on it to keep you on track. Also be sure to put your deadlines into your school assignment book or Google calendar so that you can see how they overlap and affect your other commitments.

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3. Conducting Research

After you’ve completed your deadline calendar, you’re ready to get started with the fun stuff:   the actual research. There are many sources for finding high quality research materials. You can use your school library, your local library, and sometimes even the library at local colleges or universities. Sometimes the libraries at colleges are open only to registered students and faculty, but if you contact a library official or a member of the department related to your research project, you might be able to gain access for research purposes.

You may also take advantage of online research tools. Google Scholar is a good place to find peer-reviewed, high quality publications. You may also find out if your school has a subscription to any online research databases like Ebsco , or JSTOR . These databases provide digital compilations of hundreds of research journals, both current and archived.    

Be careful what you choose to use as sources, though. You need to ensure that every source you rely on is high-quality and fact-based. Many internet resources now are not as accurate as they might appear. Some are outdated and some are just wrong. Remember that just about anyone can publish something online these days, so you can’t rely on information that you find on just any old website. Be particularly wary of pages like Wikipedia that look like fact-based resources but are actually drawn from unfiltered user submissions.

As you research your topic, take careful notes to track your work. Choose a system to organize your notes, such as writing on notecards that can be easily organized, or using different colored pens to color code different subtopics of your research. By carefully organizing your notes, you’ll be better set up to organize your paper.

4. Organize Your Paper

Once you’ve completed the research phase of your project, you’re ready to organize your paper. Go through your notes carefully to see how they support your thesis. If they don’t, be prepared and open to changing your thesis. Always allow the research to guide the direction of your paper, and not vice versa.

Organize your notes into the order that makes most sense in your paper. Use them to guide an outline of your paper. Once they are in order, write out a rough outline of your paper.

Prewriting is an important step to writing your paper. It allows you to go into the drafting phase with as much preparation as possible so that your writing will have a clear direction when you begin.

5. Write Your Paper 

After your organization and prewriting, you’re ready to draft your paper. Try to break this phase up into smaller pieces so that you don’t burn out. Your final product will probably be one of the longest papers you’ve ever written, usually ranging from 15-30 pages depending on your subject, so you’ll want to pace yourself.

Break up your writing deadlines into more specific sub-deadlines to help guide your work. Set goals for completing the introduction, various sections of the body, and your conclusion.

6. Edit Your Paper 

There will be multiple stages of editing that need to happen. First, you will self-edit your first draft. Then, you will likely turn a draft of your paper in to your mentor for another round of editing. Some students even choose to have a peer or family member edit a draft at some point. After several rounds of editing, you will be prepared to publish your work.

7. Publish Your Work

Publication sounds like a very official completion of your project, but in reality publishing can take many different forms. It’s really just the final draft of your project, however you decide to produce it.

For some students, publication means submitting a draft of your project to an actual journal or formal publication. For others, it means creating a polished draft and a display board that you will present at a school or public event. For still others it might just be a polished, final draft bound and turned into your mentor.

However you decide to publish your work, be mindful that this should be a reflection of an entire semester or year of work, and it should reflect the very height of your learning and abilities. You should be proud of your final product.

If you’re a high school student with in-depth interests in a subject area that doesn’t fit neatly into any of your existing extracurriculars or academic courses, you should consider pursuing a research project to reflect your interest and dedication. Not only will your pursuit allow you to further explore a subject that’s interesting to you, but also it will be a clear example of your independence and commitment on your college applications.

Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our  free guide for 9th graders  and our  free guide for 10th graders . Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from  academics ,  choosing courses ,  standardized tests ,  extracurricular activities ,  and much more !

For more information about research and independent projects in high school, check out these posts:

  • Ultimate Guide to the AP Research Course and Assessment
  • How to Choose a Project for Your AP Research Course
  • How to Get a Research Assistant Position in High School
  • An Introduction to the AP Capstone Diploma
  • How to Choose a Winning Science Fair Project Idea
  • How to Plan and Implement an Independent Study in High School

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college research assignment for high school students pdf

Why Do a Research Project in High School? The Key to College Admissions Success

Photo of GP Lebourdais

By GP LeBourdais

Fulbright Scholar, and the Head of Strategic Initiatives at Polygence

7 minute read


Data from Harvard Admissions Office shows that students demonstrating “substantial scholarship or academic creativity” are 8x more likely to be accepted into top universities than those with perfect academics alone

Students who feature research guided by Polygence mentors on their applications report roughly 5 times higher admission rates to Ivy League colleges above the national average.

Personal research projects that students work on independently often impress colleges, because their commitment to a successful solo endeavor conveys initiative, self-discipline and originality.

How Do You Value a Research Project?

What’s the one thing you are most passionate about in the world? Have you ever thought of a specific problem or question in that area and wondered how you could start pursuing a solution or an answer? 

High school is a tricky time. On the one hand, students often deal with a rigorous course load and academic structure. On the other hand, it is often the first time students are asked to think deeply about what interests them and how to explore it. Research projects provide a structured system and way of thinking to delve deeply into a specific question about an area of interest. As a standard, project-based learning incorporates the following: 

A challenging research question

Sustained Inquiry


Student Voice and Choice

Critique and Revision

Public Product

Gold Standard PBL

These skills and attitudes are vital tools that allow students to examine a question in a meaningful way, dig in deeper using practical methods, exercise agency and intention in their learning, and ultimately arrive at a real final product. 

Conducting research helps students connect more deeply with a given subject matter—studies have shown that students that participate in Research Based Learning are more likely to pursue graduate-level education or be engaged in their field of interest long after project completion . Our own research presented here and in our white paper has shown that for over 80% of our students, their Polygence project had an influence on what they ended up studying in college. 

Even more convincing however is the growing role that research projects play in college admission success as evidenced by our research.

Are Research Projects a College Admissions Edge?

In the on-going affirmative action lawsuit filed against Harvard University Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard the prestigious university was required to release a trove of documents detailing their admissions criteria and process. These documents provide a rare glimpse into the black box that is competitive admissions.

Every year, more and more students are graduating high school with 4.0 GPAs and perfect or near-perfect scores on standardized tests. Yet, in spite of this, many of these students do not gain admission into their top choice universities. Harvard itself explicitly states that “Most applicants are academically qualified to attend Harvard.” [1] and that given that “More than 8,000 applicants for the class of 2019 had perfect GPAs, approximately 3,500 applicants had perfect SAT math scores, and nearly 1,000 applicants had perfect ACT and/or SAT composite scores,” [2] the university “takes an individualized approach to admissions that accounts for the whole person.”

Nelson Urena, a former admissions officer at Cornell describes several cases that further prove this point. 

During Urena’s time in the admissions office, many students came through who “were academically stellar and had adequate standardized test scores, but their applications lacked tangible indicators of their passions : a project, experiment, portfolio, or an endeavor on which they spent substantial time learning, tinkering, or creating.” Thus, they were not offered admission. 

At the same time, he recalls a particularly memorable applicant who wrote an essay about the weather station they built at home, a student who was ultimately offered admission. The difference? A “demonstrated intellectual interest” that clearly proved the student’s fit and match for the program.

Harvard Law School Building

Harvard has even codified this preference as part of its admissions ratings system. Students are rated across four key domains (personal, athletic, extracurricular , and academic) on a scale from 1 to 4, where 1 represents exceptional individual achievement.

The table below shows the ratio of students who received a 1 in only one area (multiple 1’s are extremely rare) and their chances of admission. This is based on a sample of 160,000 domestic applications between 2014-2019 studied in the Arcidiacono data set [3].

Ratings of harvard admissions based on exceptional achievement in academics, extracurriculars, personal, or athletics

Though, by and large, most students that apply to Harvard are academically talented, there is still a large variation in how they’re evaluated on this scale. The chart below summarizes the rate of admission for students who were rated either a 1, 2, 3, or 4 for academics. The rate of admission for students who were rated a 1 (68%) was almost eight times higher than students who were rated a 2.  

 Academic Applicants rate of admission

What is the difference between a 1 and a 2 on this scale? According to Harvard’s internal documents, students receiving a 2 typically have “perfect, or near-perfect, grades and testing, but no evidence of substantial scholarship or academic creativity” [4]. In contrast, students receiving a 1 have similarly stellar grades and test results, but have also demonstrated a history of “substantial scholarship or academic creativity”. In fact, Harvard itself states “In many circumstances, an applicant receiving a “1” academic rating has submitted academic work of some kind that is reviewed by a faculty member.”

So what kind of work gets reviewed by a faculty member? According to Harvard, “If the applicant has submitted material that Admissions Office staff believe would be best evaluated by a Harvard faculty member, such as an academic paper or a recording of a musical performance, the application may be sent to a faculty member [...] for review and assessment.”

In summary, based on Harvard’s statement, to get the highest academic rating and have a 68% chance of admission, a student must submit an academic paper or another portfolio item that showcases their ability to carry out substantial academic scholarship.

Data from Polygence alumni further testify to the weight of research in the admissions process. In a survey of 590 seniors from the 2022-23 college application cycle, those who featured research guided by Polygence mentors on their applications reported roughly 5 times higher admission rates to Ivy League colleges above the national average (24.4% vs 5%). 

Why Does Higher Education Love Research Projects?

The DNA, radar, game theory and the Google search algorithm were all discovered at top research institutions, such as Cambridge, MIT, Princeton and Stanford. Research at these top R1s institutions is a collaborative effort between professors, graduate students, and undergraduates. This is why these schools look for students who are capable of doing high-quality independent academic work when evaluating prospective applicants. Even at predominantly undergraduate institutions, students engage in serious research, because such an open-ended activity cultivates creativity, persistence, and team spirit in students.

U.S. News reports that “High school students who have an impressive personal project they are working on independently often impress colleges, because their commitment to a successful solo endeavor conveys initiative, self-discipline and originality” [5]. Recent announcements from top universities also support this claim. According to the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, “nearly one-third of the admitted students [to the class of 2026] engaged in academic research during their time in high school” [6]. And at CalTech, “ 45 percent of the students [admitted to the class of 2027] included materials documenting their own past research.” 

High school grades and test scores provide little opportunity for students to showcase academic creativity and rigor. A research project, in contrast,  is by definition a unique and highly personal achievement that allows students to showcase their intellectual abilities. This is why colleges, from top research institutions to small liberal arts colleges, look favorably upon students who distinguish themselves through independent projects.

From our analysis of the Harvard Admission Lawsuit and the insight of Polygence proprietary data, it is evident that original research stands out as a strong indicator of student academic achievement. Facing a seemingly unending flow of high-achieving applicants, universities have identified independent research as an effective measure to distinguish those with exceptional academic curiosity and grit.

For students themselves, original research allows them to showcase their passion and creativity as well as actively participate in an inherently collaborative intellectual endeavor. With each trial and iteration, research pushes individuals to examine their own role in a larger project of the advancement of knowledge.

In an environment where grades and test scores no longer suffice, this is a new and more durable way for students to make their intellectual vitality shine. 

What Are Other Opportunities Offered by Polygence?

If you are looking to develop your own research project, Polygence can help provide new  research ideas  for future projects. On everything from passion project ideas to matching you with a mentor, Polygence can help you start your journey to higher education. Learn more about our  mentor programs  and see what other students have done with the help of Polygence.

Related Content

Research Opportunities for High School Students in 2024: More Than 50 Options Across Multiple Academic Disciplines and Interests

Passion Project Ideas for High School Students in 2024

Filing - Harvard Statement of Material Facts - as Filed, Case 1:14-cv-14176-ADB, June 15, 2018,, §23.

David Card, “REPORT OF DAVID CARD, Ph.D.” Case 1:14-cv-14176-ADB (Docu- ment 419-141). Accessed October 1, 2021. cation/files/legal_-_card_report_revised_filing.pdf

Peter Arcidiacono, “EXPERT REPORT OF PETER S. ARCIDIACONO, No. 14-Cv-14176-ADB (D. Mass),” accessed October 1, 2021, https:// samv91khoyt2i- iacono-Expert-Report.pdf.

Peter Arcidiacono, “EXPERT REPORT OF PETER S. ARCIDIACONO, No. 14-Cv-14176-ADB (D. Mass),” accessed October 1, 2021, https:// samv91khoyt2i- iacono-Expert-Report.pdf. 

U.S. News and World Report, applicants-extracurricular-activities

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How To Write A Research Paper

Research Paper Example

Nova A.

Research Paper Example - Examples for Different Formats

Published on: Jun 12, 2021

Last updated on: Feb 6, 2024

research paper examples

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Writing a research paper is the most challenging task in a student's academic life. researchers face similar writing process hardships, whether the research paper is to be written for graduate or masters.

A research paper is a writing type in which a detailed analysis, interpretation, and evaluation are made on the topic. It requires not only time but also effort and skills to be drafted correctly.

If you are working on your research paper for the first time, here is a collection of examples that you will need to understand the paper’s format and how its different parts are drafted. Continue reading the article to get free research paper examples.

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Research Paper Example for Different Formats

A research paper typically consists of several key parts, including an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and annotated bibliography .

When writing a research paper (whether quantitative research or qualitative research ), it is essential to know which format to use to structure your content. Depending on the requirements of the institution, there are mainly four format styles in which a writer drafts a research paper:

Let’s look into each format in detail to understand the fundamental differences and similarities.

Research Paper Example APA

If your instructor asks you to provide a research paper in an APA format, go through the example given below and understand the basic structure. Make sure to follow the format throughout the paper.

APA Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Research Paper Example MLA

Another widespread research paper format is MLA. A few institutes require this format style as well for your research paper. Look at the example provided of this format style to learn the basics.

MLA Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Research Paper Example Chicago

Unlike MLA and APA styles, Chicago is not very common. Very few institutions require this formatting style research paper, but it is essential to learn it. Look at the example given below to understand the formatting of the content and citations in the research paper.

Chicago Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Research Paper Example Harvard

Learn how a research paper through Harvard formatting style is written through this example. Carefully examine how the cover page and other pages are structured.

Harvard Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Examples for Different Research Paper Parts

A research paper is based on different parts. Each part plays a significant role in the overall success of the paper. So each chapter of the paper must be drafted correctly according to a format and structure.

Below are examples of how different sections of the research paper are drafted.

Research Proposal Example

A research proposal is a plan that describes what you will investigate, its significance, and how you will conduct the study.

Research Proposal Sample (PDF)

Abstract Research Paper Example

An abstract is an executive summary of the research paper that includes the purpose of the research, the design of the study, and significant research findings.

It is a small section that is based on a few paragraphs. Following is an example of the abstract to help you draft yours professionally.

Abstract Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Literature Review Research Paper Example

A literature review in a research paper is a comprehensive summary of the previous research on your topic. It studies sources like books, articles, journals, and papers on the relevant research problem to form the basis of the new research.

Writing this section of the research paper perfectly is as important as any part of it.

Literature Review in Research Sample (PDF)

Methods Section of Research Paper Example

The method section comes after the introduction of the research paper that presents the process of collecting data. Basically, in this section, a researcher presents the details of how your research was conducted.

Methods Section in Research Sample (PDF)

Research Paper Conclusion Example

The conclusion is the last part of your research paper that sums up the writer’s discussion for the audience and leaves an impression. This is how it should be drafted:

Research Paper Conclusion Sample (PDF)

Research Paper Examples for Different Fields

The research papers are not limited to a particular field. They can be written for any discipline or subject that needs a detailed study.

In the following section, various research paper examples are given to show how they are drafted for different subjects.

Science Research Paper Example

Are you a science student that has to conduct research? Here is an example for you to draft a compelling research paper for the field of science.

Science Research Paper Sample (PDF)

History Research Paper Example

Conducting research and drafting a paper is not only bound to science subjects. Other subjects like history and arts require a research paper to be written as well. Observe how research papers related to history are drafted.

History Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Psychology Research Paper Example

If you are a psychology student, look into the example provided in the research paper to help you draft yours professionally.

Psychology Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Research Paper Example for Different Levels

Writing a research paper is based on a list of elements. If the writer is not aware of the basic elements, the process of writing the paper will become daunting. Start writing your research paper taking the following steps:

  • Choose a topic
  • Form a strong thesis statement
  • Conduct research
  • Develop a research paper outline

Once you have a plan in your hand, the actual writing procedure will become a piece of cake for you.

No matter which level you are writing a research paper for, it has to be well structured and written to guarantee you better grades.

If you are a college or a high school student, the examples in the following section will be of great help.

Research Paper Outline (PDF)

Research Paper Example for College

Pay attention to the research paper example provided below. If you are a college student, this sample will help you understand how a winning paper is written.

College Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Research Paper Example for High School

Expert writers of have provided an excellent example of a research paper for high school students. If you are struggling to draft an exceptional paper, go through the example provided.

High School Research Paper Sample (PDF)

Examples are essential when it comes to academic assignments. If you are a student and aim to achieve good grades in your assignments, it is suggested to get help from .

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Professional writers have your back, whether you are looking for guidance in writing a lab report, college essay, or research paper.

Simply hire a writer by placing your order at the most reasonable price. You can also take advantage of our essay writer to enhance your writing skills.

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college research assignment for high school students pdf

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Home » Teachers

Career Research Projects for High School Students

Immersive projects are a great teaching tool to get students excited about a potential career path.


As a teacher or homeschooler of high school students, you know the importance of in-depth, hands-on instruction. The more your students see how to apply their career planning and exploration skills, the better. Check out these career research projects for high school students that you can use in your classroom immediately! You can head to our careers curriculum center for lesson plans and more materials you can use as well.

Career Research Projects – Essays and Written Products

Sometimes, the best approach is the simplest. These projects require students to research and type up essays or written reports.

  • Career Research and Readiness Project: In this project , students take a personality assessment to see what kinds of careers they may enjoy. They research the job application and interview process, narrow their search to a few career choices, and then set SMART goals to help them achieve their dreams. 
  • Career Research Project Paper: Students will like this project’s   simple, straightforward instructions and layout. The components are broken into manageable chunks, letting your high schoolers tackle the project in parts. By the end, they will produce a well-researched essay highlighting their career. 
  • 3-Career Research Report: In this project , students choose three careers to focus on and create a written report. They learn MLA documentation, write business letters to organizations, take notes, and go through the formal writing process. This project has everything your students need to develop their career research reports with a rubric, parent letter, works cited page instructions, and more.
  • STEM Careers Research Poster and Brochure: Students conduct comprehensive research in this project , using what they learn to create several items showing their knowledge. They research and learn about a specific career and make a posterboard presentation. Then they can create a brochure, present their findings to the class, and answer any questions that classmates and others may ask.
  • Job Research Project: In this project , students first do research on any career they want. They must look up the various requirements, necessary skills, salary, and other details about the profession. They end with a thorough essay about their career, hopefully armed with the knowledge to help them in the future. The project is customizable to adapt to multiple grades, so your high school students will all benefit from the project. 

Career Research Projects – Digital Presentations

Fusing technology and research, these projects allow kids to show their knowledge through technology. Students create digital presentations and share them with the class using PowerPoint, Google Slides, and other formats.

  • Career Research Project: This project works with many grades, and teachers can customize it to fit their students’ levels. They use PowerPoint to make a comprehensive slide show to demonstrate their knowledge. It breaks down career research into ten slides (you can add more as needed), and students will have a solid understanding of their future career path by the end of the assignment. 
  • Career Presentation Project: In this project , high schoolers need to research career clusters, narrow their choices down to only one profession, and find many details about it. They look up median salary, entry-level pay, education requirements, required skills, and any additional benefits or perks that would attract potential applicants. They put all this information into a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.
  • Career and College Exploration Project: This project is broken down into clear and detailed descriptions for each slide of the presentation. It differs from other projects on the list because it weaves college research into the assignment, showing students the connection between education and careers. With 22 slides to complete, students will have an in-depth understanding of their chosen careers and how to navigate school and plan for future success.
  • Career Exploration Project: This project is unique as it takes a realistic approach to career exploration, requiring students to find the pros and cons of three potential careers. They see that every job has perks and drawbacks, and part of pursuing a specific one comes down to their personal preference. The project includes a detailed outline, so students know precisely what to research and have on each slide of their digital presentation. Presenting their findings is a significant part of their grade, which helps strengthen their accountability, quality of work, and public speaking skills.
  • Life Skills Career Research Project: This project is an excellent blend of hands-on production and digital skill-building, letting students show their findings in multiple formats. They research a career, finding things like education/training requirements, job responsibilities, drawbacks, benefits, opportunities for advancement, specific places of employment, and salaries. Students need to create a functional resume and attach it to the project. They use Google Drive to design poster components and can submit the project digitally or on a poster board.

college research assignment for high school students pdf

Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science

Environmentors offers high school students a college research experience.

MAY 21, 2024

Image Credit: Rukayya Ibrahim, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, served as a faculty mentor for high school student Sarah Gebrezgi in the EnvironMentors program. Ibrahim said exposing the students to an institution of higher learning is great experience for them, especially if they’re going to college to possibly specialize in STEM.  Credit: Sharon Siegfried / Penn State.  Creative Commons

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Mane Khachatryan, a second-year biology major at Penn State Harrisburg, said she didn’t really get to delve into science until she came to college. So when she heard about EnvironMentors — a program that helps expose high school students to STEM — she jumped at the chance to help younger students explore the field.

“I wish I had opportunities like this in high school,” she said.

Many of the Penn State Harrisburg students and faculty who signed up to be mentors for high school students through the EnvironMentors program cite a common reason they wanted to participate — the chance to give high school students something they didn’t have themselves.

Penn State Harrisburg began participating in the Penn State chapter of EnvironMentors in 2019. The program links a high school student with an undergraduate student mentor and a faculty mentor for an environmentally themed research project that takes place over the course of the academic year.

While some of the high school students are already interested in STEM, the goal is to reach them early, said Mitch Spear, laboratory manager at Penn State Harrisburg and part of the EnvironMentors leadership team. Through the program, the students are introduced not only to STEM fields, but to college life as well. 


.The EnvironMentors experience culminates in a research symposium, which was held at University Park. That means that in addition to experience with research, the students get a taste of what it’s like to present in a professional setting.

Sarah said that expressing her research and sharing it with an audience was challenging.

“I had to break out of my shell as well,” she said.

Ariam added that the research symposium was a great opportunity to network with researchers throughout Penn State.

“I met and spoke with many professors that were conducting research like mine and ended up learning even more from their findings,” she said.

Rukayya Ibrahim, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, served as Sarah’s faculty mentor. Ibrahim said she’s passionate about outreach, and so, for her, signing up as a faculty mentor was a “no brainer.”

“I grew up … not being able to see someone like me in science,” she said. She added that exposing the students to an institution of higher learning is great experience for them, especially if they’re going to college to possibly specialize in STEM.

Greg Jenkins, professor of meteorology and atmospheric science at Penn State, served as Ariam’s mentor. He said high school students don’t often get the opportunity to do this type of research, much less on a university campus.

The program has benefits for the mentors, too, he said.

“We’re interested in the projects,” he said. “They’re helping us to push our projects forward.”

Read the full story on Penn State News.


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    failing grade on the assignment will result in an "F" grade for first semester. Because the Research paper is a vital part of your student's semester grade, your student will be given adequate time to research and complete the assignment. Be advised that your student may need to conduct research on his/her own time; please plan accordingly.

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    Step #2: Find a mentor (if you can) After identifying a broad area of interest, invest time in finding a mentor. Certainly, you do not need to work with a mentor to conduct research. But, in my experience, it's hard to get started on a research project without some guidance.

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    Develop a list of future education and career interests. Brainstorm potential research topics relating to your passion or interest. Look up ongoing research studies by professors or doctoral degree-seeking students with a local college or university. Ask family members if they know any researchers who they could connect you with.

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    Start by using a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial, in 12 or 11 sized font. Also, add one inch margins for the pages, along with some double spacing between lines. These specifications alone get you started on a more professional and cleaner looking research paper.

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    If you are working on your research paper for the first time, here is a collection of examples that you will need to understand the paper's format and how its different parts are drafted. Continue reading the article to get free research paper examples. On This Page. 1. Research Paper Example for Different Formats.

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    FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS National Renewable Energy Laboratory Education Programs 1617 Cole Blvd. Golden, CO 80401 Tel: (303) 275-3044 ... Decide if you want to do a technical report or a hands-on activity research project in the area of biofuels, wind energy, or solar energy. 4. Choose a project, and discuss it with your teachers.

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    ENGAGING STUDENTS IN THE RESEARCH PROCESS Nancy's Approach Nancy completed her action research project during the 2011-2012 academic year at Peterson High School (school names are pseudonyms). During her study, the school had 2598 students enrolled in grades 9 through 12. Most of the students, 52.2%, were female, 88% were

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    Penn State Harrisburg began participating in the Penn State chapter of EnvironMentors in 2019. The program links a high school student with an undergraduate student mentor and a faculty mentor for an environmentally themed research project that takes place over the course of the academic year.