Advisor Matching Process

The Director of Undergraduate Studies will have a mandatory meeting to discuss the NEU advisor matching process. This process will take place in the fall semester of your junior year. You will be assigned to a research lab to conduct your research and complete your junior paper.

One Major Event

Students’ Spring Independent Work consists of submitting a grant proposal. This proposal will serve as the basis for your senior thesis work. As in the typical grant, the proposal will include a survey of the literature. You should expect to meet with your advisor regularly during the semester to formulate the project and discuss the literature.

Deadline and Submission

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the proposal will be due on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at 5:00pm EST, which is the University deadline for junior independent work.

All papers will be submitted in the IW Portal. Use your PU Net Id and password to log in the IW Portal to upload your junior paper. Please do NOT email your paper to your adviser.

Students will receive written comments on the junior paper as well as a grade. Students are encouraged to discuss their papers with their faculty.

Guidelines and Structure

In the spring term, you will carry out a second program of independent work with a faculty advisor. Typically, this is the faculty with whom you will eventually do your Senior Thesis. The spring Junior independent work takes the form of a research proposal.

You should regularly meet with your advisor during the course of the semester to develop ideas and get feedback.

Format of the Research Proposal and Other Tips

The proposal part (for both the experimental and the non-experimental) should be no more than 15 pages in length, double spaced, and be structured as follows:

Abstract (200 words)

(often the last thing you write, but the first thing that the reader will see in the final document)

  • Include a brief summary of the topic & significance
  • Set up the question or hypothesis you are researching
  • Provide a concise road map of how you plan to make progress
  • Cover all of the main points of your proposal
  • Abstracts typically do not have references
  • Should stand alone as an effective summary for the proposal

Background and Significance (~2-3 pages)

  • Provide the reader with insight into the significance of the research – explain why the reader should care about your research.
  • Identify the key findings that have led to the current line of inquiry. Become proficient with the major databases for finding relevant papers (Web of Science, BIOSIS, PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar).
  • Provide an overview of the relevant primary literature – give the reader enough information to understand the problem your research addresses.
  • Synthesize the material to make an accurate, original and comprehensive contribution – tell an interesting “story” providing the logical flow of the science – not necessarily the chronological order of the findings.

An important criterion for evaluating the Background and Significance concerns the Scholarship:

  • Reference each fact presented with the primary source, not a review. The citation is typically included at the end of a sentence; however sometimes citations appear within a sentence.
  • Rely on recent reviews to point the reader to a more extensive source of information about a field. The style of citation is the same as for a primary literature citation; however the citation should be proceeded by, “reviewed in…”, or “… and the references therein”.

Specific Aims (~half a page, often written first and revised throughout)

  • Include a very brief summary of the topic and significance (one or two sentences). State the question or hypothesis you are researching.
  • Write each specific aim followed by a brief description of how you plan to achieve the goal. The 3 specific aims section includes what you intend to accomplish, followed by a short paragraph with the general outline of the experimental plan.
  • The specific aims should be concise, thorough, explicit and clear.
  • The aims should summarize the goals and a reasonable and carefully thought out research plan.

Detailed Description of the Proposed Research (~7-10 pages)

This is the main part of your proposal where you provide the rationale and experimental procedures for each of your Specific Aims. If you’ve already done some experimental work related to your proposal, then you would include analyses of the data in the appropriate section.

  • Break the proposal into sections reflecting each of your Specific Aims
  • Explain “why” you are proposing each aim followed by “how” you are going to accomplish the aim.
  • Write for a scientist not familiar with your research so that the rationale and experimental methods are widely accessible.
  • Include a general description of the methods that will be used.
  • For each experiment describe the specific controls that will be needed to evaluate whether the experiment is providing meaningful data.
  • For each experiment describe the expected outcomes and how they would be interpreted. Discuss potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success.


  • At least 10 primary sources
  • Only list articles that you cite in the document
  • Detail each citation in the end in the reference section
  • Use the format of a published journal
  • Learn to use RefWorks or Endnote (both are free and the library gives tutorials)