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Research Apprenticeship Program

Each student will collaborate with a doctoral candidate on the mentor’s own research project in the winter and spring quarters. Under the guidance of the mentor the student will write a seminar paper of approximately 20 pages in the spring quarter. Applications received by Friday, November 20, 2020 will receive first consideration for the 2020-21 academic year, but positions will remain open until filled.

Graduate mentors are Ph.D. candidates in the Department of Political Science. The faculty member in charge is the Department Chair, Thad Kousser. Questions about the Research Apprenticeship Program should be directed to the Department's Undergraduate Advisor, Natalie Ikker, during in-person advising or via the Virtual Advising Center.


Participants must be majors in Political Science with junior or senior standing and a GPA of 3.0 or higher in all political science courses taken at UCSD. Individual projects may require other prerequisite training, such as Political Science 30(D). Please read each project description carefully.

Transfer students - Please note that the graduate students understand you are entering UCSD with a 0.0 GPA; please review the application form to see what GPA you input. 

Time Commitment

During the Winter and Spring quarters each student must commit to 12 hours per week as a research assistant in POLI 198RA.

During the Spring quarter each student enrolled in the POLI 199 component must contribute the completion of the jointly authored research paper or complete their own research paper, which must be a miminum of 20 pages in length.

Course Credit and Applicability to Major Requirements

Students enroll in POLI 198RA in the Winter and Spring quarters and in the optional POLI 199 course in the Spring quarter. Students will receive 4 units for each quarter in POLI 198RA and 4 units for completing the course requirements of a POLI 199. All three courses may count as major electives as long as you earn a "Pass" grade.  

  • Please note that POLI 198RA and POLI 199 are taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis only.
  • By university regulations, no more than one-quarter of an undergraduate’s units toward graduation can be taken on a P/NP basis.
  • No more than two POLI 198RA courses and no more than two POLI 199 courses can be counted toward the Political Science majors.
POLI 198RA and POLI 199 courses are the only courses allowable for "Pass" credit in the upper division Elective category of the Political Science majors.

How to Apply

[1] Read the project descriptions for the 2020 - 2021 cycle

[2] Download and complete the preference form.

[3] Prepare a cover letter and resume. Read the guidelines about the cover letter.

[4] Print your academic record.

[5] E-mail the completed form with a cover letter, resume, and copy of your academic record to the Mentor of each project to which you are applying.

Deadline for First Consideration: Friday, November 20, 2020

Timeline for the Research Apprenticeship Program & POLI 198RA/POLI 199 Enrollment

September - Mid-October: Graduate students eligible to serve as mentors for the Research Apprenticeship Program are invited by the Undergraduate Advisor to submit their research projects that need undergraduate research assistants. 

Mid-late October: The list of available projects are finalized. Undergraduate Political Science students are notified of the opportunity and may begin applying for the program, sending their application and other required materials to the graduate student whose project(s) they are interested in serving on.

Mid-November: First consideration of undergraduate research assistant applicants are due.

Mid-November - Mid-December: Graduate students interview, select, and confirm the undergraduate research assistants they would like to mentor for the Winter and Spring quarters. After this process, graduate students complete a form that indicates the research assistants that have been chosen for - and accepted their role in - the Research Apprenticeship Program. 

Mid-December - Late December: The Undergraduate Advisor receives the list of students chosen for the Research Apprenticeship Program and preauthorizes the selected students for POLI 198RA in the Winter quarter. 

Late December - Friday of Week 2 of Winter Quarter: Students selected as research assistants for the Research Apprenticeship Program must enroll in POLI 198RA for 4 units by the add deadline. 

Finals Week of Winter Quarter: Student grades for POLI 198RA in Winter are submitted.

Spring Break - Friday of Week 2 of Spring Quarter: Student eligible to enroll in POLI 198RA and - if desired, POLI 199 - for Spring quarter, are preauthorized by the Undergraduate advisor for enrollment.  Students must then enroll in POLI 198RA for 4 units (and, if approved, POLI 199 for 4 units) by the add deadline. 

Finals Week of Spring Quarter: Student grades for POLI 198RA and POLI 199 in Spring are submitted.

Student Feedback About The Research Apprenticeship Program

Many students interested in the Research Apprenticeship Program ask about some of the tasks they are given, benefits of the program, and how they are impacted through participation. Below is some anonymous feedback we received from students about these aspects!

In what ways did you help the Graduate Mentor with their project?

"I wrote literature reviews for the topics and covered 30+ peer-reviewed papers. I also conducted case studies based on news reports of related incidents. I have also helped data-cleaning, reference lookup-up, and primary analysis as well."

"I collected and cleaned government data files in R created new variables and datasets for analysis."

"Every week we had assignments. I collected data, read and summarized news articles, and I participated in a bit of coding."

"I did background research and wrote memos and am in the process of creating a database of satellite image based graphs and whether they match with harvest for a future project."

"He taught me how to structure a research paper and execute my own idea. Awesome!"

What were the benefits to participating as a Research Assistant in the Research Apprenticeship Program?

"Getting to know a PhD candidate was especially valuable. I enjoyed seeing their approach to their research, and I was impressed with the amount of work that went into writing a dissertation. This gave me a better idea of what is expected out of graduate students."

"I meet this really patient and helpful mentor and peer mentees. My experience as a research assistance also helps me better understand my passion for a research career in the field."

"One benefit of the program was that you were allowed to complete the tasks at your own pace giving me more time to understand the data I was working with and gain hands-on experience on how to work with data in research. Furthermore, this was a large opportunity for self-improvement because I learned how to solve programming problems by myself and improve the efficiency of my codes."

"I learned how to be disciplined, focused and vulnerable. This helped me decide to do my senior honors thesis."

"I learned a lot in terms of research methods and skills, writing my own research paper, and found someone I could talk to about the future who could guide me."

"The RA Program really helped me establish that I would like to pursue a career in politics research. I enjoyed the other RAs I've worked with and my Graduate Mentor was wonderful. I think it was a great networking opportunity. I have no doubt in my mind that I will see this group of people again and continue to be connected through our careers. Also, something that was very important to me was that the research paper you write can be used as a writing sample for future endeavors."

How has your understanding of research skills and research implications in the realm of Political Science changed through participating in the Research Apprenticeship Program?

"I am now much better equipped to read through and properly analyze scholarly articles. Whereas I had some experience with this prior to POLI 198RA, I no longer see reading and understanding complex articles as an insurmountable challenge. Further, I think this course goes nicely with POLI 170A (which I took two quarters prior to POLI 198RA), as this course was basically a real-world application of what I learned in that class."

"My experience gave me a better perspective of the complicated nature of research, allowing me to gain even more appreciation for researchers. I also realized that research is multi-faceted and to be a good researcher, you have to be well-rounded in your critical and technical skills."

"Being able to create an original data set, helped widen my perspective to what I want to research in political science."

"I have a better understanding of the kind of research that I am interested in and may want to conduct later in my academic career."

"Definitely improved, as I learned lots of formulas in excel and R by myself"

"I think I knew a decent amount about research before. However, working with the group helped me to establish stronger methods and think outside the box."