How to obtain research experience at an early stage


How to obtain research experience at an early stage

We all had a dream once we stepped into the university as undergraduate students. This dream can vary from becoming a top-class researcher or pursuing higher studies to an industry giant or an entrepreneur. Such goals make the students more competitive, and these competitions sometimes cause the students to be more focused on grades rather than the quality of assignments. However, I believe that we can make maximum use of our undergraduate studies by concentrating on the quality of our regular assignments.

I have gained most of my research experience while working as an Application Programmer and a Research Assistant at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). However, if an undergraduate student plans to pursue higher studies or become a researcher, they can start gaining research experience while studying. As I think, one of the easiest ways to master research is by identifying a research component in each of the assignments you have been given. At first, you can thoroughly explore the research components and try to apply those components in your assignments. It will provide you with a primary research experience and enhance the quality of your assignment.


If you closely study the undergraduate assignments, most of these assignments can be embedded with a research component. For example, suppose you have been given an assignment to design and develop a prototype of a hotel management system. Students tend to re-create one of the existing hotel management systems most often without performing a broader study. However, instead of re-creating a current system, you can review a few existing systems and the technologies such systems are used. It will aid you to understand the limitations of existing hotel management systems and the technologies they use and thereby help you to come up with an innovative system design with advanced technologies. Although this is a fundamental example, it will guide you to observe other ways in embedding research components into your assignments.

The practice of applying research components on assignments and other tasks during your undergraduate study helps you to identify possible research paths to continue your research career in future. The experience I have gained working with both computer science and information systems based research groups aided me to identify possible research areas that need consideration. The research I conducted with computer science research teams at NTU gave insights on existing techniques such as novel Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) techniques. Subsequently, my experience by researching health-related information systems assisted in identifying where those learned NLP and ML techniques need to be applied. For example, when studying health-related issues relating to information systems, I observed that social media hate speech towards obese individuals has become a major societal issue, affecting them sociologically and psychologically. One way to tackle this issue is by applying NLP and ML techniques to identify the patterns of such hate speech promoting discussions. Therefore, the knowledge I gained by research helped me to develop a methodology to identify discussion patterns relating to fat stigma in social media platforms using available NLP and ML techniques. Although I have gained this experience by working as a researcher, you can achieve similar or even advanced research experience by adding research components wherever possible during your undergraduate studies.

We are now living in a very competitive world where research rules in many fields, including IT. Therefore, research experience will not only helps you to become a good researcher but also helps you to become a successful entrepreneur. The capability of conducting research fuel the ability to think innovatively. It will guide you to understand what is happening in the world and where the opportunities are placed. Therefore, I suggest undergraduate students start practising research at an early stage to become a success in future.


Vajisha Wanniarachchi

PhD Candidate – Massey University Linkedin


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