How to Put Research + School Projects on your Resume
Writing about your achievements in a research lab or during an independent study can be difficult, especially when you want to add this experience to a resume or CV. Here are some tips and examples to help you get the most out of your hard work!
The Basics (Decide First)
Format: If you need help with formatting, try using a Google Doc Template or a template in your software of choice.
Resume Placement: Review this guide to decide where and how to list your experience, but you can ignore needing to clarify if it was paid work or not. Your experience and skills are what a resume is selling, not how you were compensated. They can ask that in an interview if they care.
Terms: Make sure to use the right research terms (but only if you can answer a question about them in an interview, if you can't do that then you need to make a date with Google). Use action verbs and outcomes to describe your KSA's = Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities.
KSA's: What you choose to emphasize should depend on what you spent the most time on or the KSA's you feel you have most developed and what is relevant for whatever position you're applying for - just keep the focus on your KSA's.
For example for one project we worked with 'archival data', learned 'how to code and analyze qualitative data'. We've learned about 'human subjects research' and 'research ethics'. You're all certified in human subjects research, have been a part of a virtual research team, improved your reporting and critical analysis skills, etc.
In our lab, we use our running agenda to keep track of the projects you're working on every week - this is a great place to check when you're not sure you've listed all your achievements. Maybe you forgot that amazing literature review you pulled together at the beginning of the semester, or a collaboration with another research assistant that resulted in a beautiful finished product. Reviewing the agenda when writing your resume will ensure you list everything you actually did in the lab!
Here is an example of how this experience is listed on a resume used to apply for library positions (hence the focus on search techniques, they care about that skill):
University of Arizona South, Research Assistant, Tucson, AZ Jan 2015-May 2015
Created comprehensive literature reviews using EBSCO, Google Scholar, & Summon
Presented project and results at college-wide research showcase
Participated in drafting of research article for peer-reviewed journal
Mentored other students in coding protocols, research skills, and online programs to facilitate research and collaboration
Note how each one starts with an action verb, while describing knowledge, skills, or abilities that those reviewing this resume for the job would be interested in.
Cover Letter Example
And here you can see this same experience re-framed on the cover letter. This is again for a library position, and this one was precisely mapped to bulleted KSA's mentioned in the job ad:
Throughout my time in college I’ve focused on developing research and computer skills. Over the past year I’ve been promoted to Lab Assistant in the Leadership and Mentoring Collaboratory with Dr. Brown and Dr. Lunsford, These skills translate to modern library systems effortlessly. For example, I utilize library and online databases regularly and efficiently to find the best research for the project and have reached a level of skill where I am trusted to draft literature reviews for inclusion in future publications.
Cover letters give you a chance to give them a short targeted story which points up your achievements or things you know they REALLY care about from the job ad. This is where you must not be humble. You should SELL your experience to them as hard as you can. That can be extremely hard, so get help writing it if you need to.
Often a close peer or friend who thinks highly of you is great for helping with this if you struggle. I also try to channel a ridiculously egotistical alter ego when I write these kinds of things for myself, and that helps too, but it took practice to be able to do it well.
P.S. For those intending to pursue an academic career you're going to need to begin creating a Curriculum Vitae when you're in grad school (and maybe before for some applications), not a resume. That's a different topic, but the cover letter information still applies.