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Research Opportunities for Undergrad Linguists

Do you want to pursue a research career in linguistics but don’t know how to build up your research repertoire as an undergraduate linguist? Or are you interested in trying out linguistics research but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place! This page aims to provide a near-comprehensive list of research opportunities that you, as an undergraduate linguistics student at U of T, have access to.

Disclaimer first: While we try our best to describe these research opportunities and the pros and cons of each, individual experience will inevitably vary. Even within the same type of research opportunity, how you will participate in the faculty member’s research is very much dependent on where they need your help.

Research Opportunities Program

Research Opportunity Programs (ROPs) provide second- and third- year students the opportunity of participating a faculty-led research project and earn credit from their participation. ROPs are a great way to get started in research, because many projects require little to none prior experience! In addition, since ROPs are structured like a course, students usually first get to learn about the research and gain necessary background knowledge before jumping to work. See this page on the Arts & Science website to learn about eligibility, application timelines, and ongoing ROP projects (many of these projects will be offered again in the following year). ROP applications are submitted on CLNx.

Research Excursion Program

Research Excursion Programs (REPs) are similar to ROPs, but the projects are located off-campus, sometimes even internationally. A limited number of REPs are offered in the Faculty of Arts and Science. See this page on the Arts and Sci website for details.

Work Study

Already finished your first ROP and want to look for something more? Similar to ROPs, you will be able to work alongside faculty members and contribute to their research projects. However, instead of earning credits, you get paid (although you generally get minimum wage). Also unlike ROPs, you are treated less like a student but more like a research assistant (RA). See this page for more information about the Work Study Program and make sure to log in to CLNx to see more details.

Casual Employment and Volunteering

With casual employment and volunteering, you may work in many of the same positions as Work Study. Why would you want to consider these opportunities instead then? For one thing, if you’ve missed the Work Study deadline or already have a position with Work Study, you won’t be able to take more positions through it. In that case, emailing the professor and asking whether they can take you as a regular Research Assistant or a volunteer is the next best thing you can do. In addition, casual positions sometimes pay better than Work Study. However, since casual employment is not subsidized by the university, professors are much more willing to hire Work Study students than casual RAs.

Note: The casual employment we’re talking about here is not equivalent to the casual jobs posted on CLNx. You’ll most likely have to approach the faculty members individually to find out about these opportunities.

Independent Projects

Do you already have some research experience and are thinking of carrying out an independent project? If you have an idea for a research project, the best way to start is to email faculty members who work in the relevant area(s) (make sure to check out the faculty directory). While cold emailing a faculty member sometimes works, you have a much higher chance of securing an independent project if you ask people you have worked with in the past to be your supervisor. Once you’ve secured a supervisor, you can carry out your project through an individual project course.

– Individual Project Courses

If you can secure a faculty to supervise your project, you could enrol in an Individual Project course at the Department of Linguistics. These courses are given the course codes LIN49X. This page on the department website specifies the requirements and application process. In addition, Independent Study/Individual Project courses are also offered by colleges and some other academic units, including from other U of T campuses (like this one). However, only up to 1 credit from courses taken outside of the Department of Linguistics may be counted towards a LIN Major or Specialist—this includes courses from the UTM/UTSC linguistics departments.

– Fellowship/Fund/Research Award

If you require funding for your research, you can apply to an undergrad research fellowship/fund/award with your project proposal. This page on the Sidney Smith Commons website includes a detailed guide for getting research grants. One notable example is the Arts & Science Undergraduate Research Fund. Your college may also offer additional awards, such as the Northrop Frye Centre Undergraduate Research Award. For other research awards or funding opportunities within U of T, use the U of T Award Explorer or U of T Research Funding Opportunities Database to your advantage. Finally, don’t forget about award opportunities outside of U of T. As an example, check out the .

Summer Research Opportunities

Since most students take fewer courses during the summer, they are able to participate in more intensive research programs. This is why you should definitely not miss out on the opportunity to apply for certain programs that are only offered in the summer, such as the Laidlaw Scholars Leadership and Research Programme and the Jackman Scholars-in-Residence (SiR). These programs are usually highly competitive and start accepting applications early, so don’t wait till the last second to apply!

Don’t know who to work with?

The official site for the Department of Linguistics has a variety of useful pages and directories! For starters, the Research page contains a table that outlines meeting times for all the research groups (in our department). While research groups meetings bare primarily for faculty and graduate students, they are open to undergraduate students as well! Just send an email to the contact person and they’ll add you to the mailing list.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you will also see a list of linguistics labs. These labs each have their own website. Follow those links to see what the researchers and Research Assistants (RAs) are up to!

This is what you should see ⬆️

Of course, not every researcher has their own “lab”, so make sure to also check out the department directories to see the research interests of individual faculty members and graduate students. If you are more interested in applied linguistics, the Departments of Language Studies at UTSC and UTM are both great places to explore. Finally, if nothing catches your eye, there are researchers in other departments that are doing linguistics-related research as well. For example, check out the Department of French, Department of Psychology, and the Language and Learning Lab.