Summer High School Research Project: First Steps

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Participating in a summer research project can be an excellent opportunity for high school students to gain hands-on experience, explore their interests, and develop important skills.

At Pioneer Academics, we offer full institutional resources, including professor mentors and an oversight system to guide you in crafting original research that meets our high standards of rigor. Our respected, rigorous process is why we are the only fully accredited online research institute in the world, certified by Oberlin College.

We are pulling from our 11 years of experience as an institution designed to guide the research process for passionate high school students for you today. Read on to get our insights on the essential first steps for developing your own original research project.

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Answer First: Why Do You Want To Do Research?

High school students may be motivated to conduct independent research projects for various reasons. Some may have a personal interest in a particular subject, and research can satisfy their curiosity and provide them with more knowledge. For others, the motivation may stem from the desire to excel academically and stand out among their peers. Similarly, some students may be motivated by the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge in their desired career field.

Working with a mentor or advisor on a research project can also provide valuable networking connections for future endeavors. Personal fulfillment and satisfaction from making discoveries or contributions in a chosen research area can be a significant motivator for some students. Overall, there are multiple reasons why high school students may choose to conduct independent research projects.

Steps to Develop Your Research Project

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1. What are you interested in?

Before starting a research project, the first question you should ask yourself is what research interests you and keeps you engaged. Letting your personal interests guide you can help you make important decisions. Are you passionate about Social Studies, or do you want to explore other fields? It is essential to choose a research area that fascinates you as it can motivate you to learn more and achieve success in your research endeavors.

2. Narrow down your topic.

Take some time to reflect on what you are passionate about and what field of study you would like to learn more about. When choosing a research topic, it is important to consider options that challenge you academically. Avoid selecting a topic that you are already familiar with, as the research experience should be one of exploration, learning and discovery. This will allow you to expand your knowledge and develop new skills while working on your project.

Research should explore an original idea, so avoid replicating topics that already exist and seek opportunities to expand upon findings that interest you or create something totally original. This will help your research project be more rewarding for you and create a lasting impact in moving your research area forward.

We recommend enlisting the help of a mentor to guide this process.

3. Develop a research question.

Once you have established your research topic, it is recommended to examine previous projects in the same field to identify the methods used and any available research resources. This will aid you in determining the research type that best fits your project. It is common for research to involve multiple types, so combining various research methods may be necessary to achieve your goals. You can then formulate your research question.

Three common categories for research questions are:


Descriptive research questions utilize a careful assessment and comprehensive observation of a subject, trait, event, phenomenon, or something similar. Descriptive research questions should characterize a subject in detail, possibly revealing new aspects or patterns around this topic.

An example of a descriptive research question comes from Pioneer student Dihan N. in The Impossibility of Certain Knowledge: A Critique of Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy. This paper forms objections against some of Descartes’ conclusions.


Causal research questions examine whether changing certain variables would change separate variables, suggesting a causal relationship.

Pioneer student Elis S. shows an example of a causal research question in: Would Limiting Animal Product Consumption Be an Effective Public Health Strategy? The Role of Industrial Farming in the European Union as a Catalyst for Foodborne Disease Resulting from Antimicrobial-resistant Bacteria.


Lastly, research questions might also be comparative. These questions look into the similarities and differences between two or more entities involved.

While attending one of Pioneer’s online programs, student Georgia M. wrote Are Hedge Funds a Veblen Good? In writing this paper, Georgia evaluates the data behind the overall performance of hedge funds.

Pioneer Research Project Examples

high school projects

Pioneer Academics welcomes students from all over the world to participate in a demanding yet fulfilling experience that culminates in the creation of an original research paper meeting our high standards.

Look through the following examples to get an inside look at the results that can be achieved by having strong, original topic development as part of your research project development:


psychology research projects

Pioneer Scholar Qianyu L. explores the oxymoronic, psychological impact that religious practice can have in invoking depression in their paper The Relationship Between Religious Practice and Depression: Intrinsic Religiousness as Moderator.



Pioneer Scholar Ezgi E. explored the problems faced by Syrian refugees and immigrants living in Turkey along with forming conclusive thoughts on the different coping mechanisms used to combat the current landscape in The Consequences of Urbanization on Access to Housing and Education in Turkey: Struggles and Coping Strategies of Syrian Refugees.


history research

In Opening Our Hearts: An Analysis of How Noel Pearson Reframes the Debate through Irony and Identification, Pioneer student Laura Z., provides a deep understanding of one of Pearson’s most notable speeches, expanding beyond previous observations into original ideas.


Biology research

Pioneer Scholar Isaac L proposes using enzyme replacement therapy to treat 21-OHD congenital adrenal hyperplasia. In A Proposal to Facilitate Endogenous, Physiological Adrenal Steroidogenesis in 21-OHD CAH Patients via Recurrent Enzyme Replacement Therapy.

Art History

Researching art history

Pioneer Scholars are encouraged to combine multiple interests into the focus of a single research project. That is what Pioneer student Ruoxuan F. did in Ship of Theseus: Looking at Hagia Sophia’s Cultural Complexity in the 21st Century, which explored Hagia Sophia’s impact on politics, culture, and religion.



Economics research project

Economics is a subject with many areas for interested students to explore. It goes beyond stereotypical college subjects like macroeconomics and microeconomics and can explore areas such as gaming theory. In Migration’s Effect on the Sending Country: The Case of Poland, Pioneer student Ziyu Z. looks at the link between mass migration and a post-accession future.

Computer Science

Computer science

Combining the popular interest in Computer Science with a modern, global event, Pioneer scholar Nabo Y. completed their research project on the Analysis of Testing Accuracy Threshold for COVID-19 Through a Computational SIR Model.



Pioneer Scholar Dojin C. completed Exploring Neurotrophin Therapy as a Treatment for Rehabilitating Victims of Childhood Abuse. This paper proposes using neurotrophic therapy to resolve the intellectual disabilities of abused youth victims.


mathematics research program

In Blockchain: Building a Path to Utopia, Pioneer student Ziyang Z. looked at the mathematical world that drives blockchain technology. This is a great example of how Mathematics research transcends numbers.

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Pioneer Academics: For Students Interested in Research

The Pioneer Research Program is respected for its selectivity and its rigorous academic system. In this system, selected students are mentored first in small international groups and then in one-on-one research by faculty of the leading colleges and universities, culminating in a full-length research paper.

Pioneer Academics has spent the past 11 years welcoming high-achieving students from schools around the world to apply for this completely unique, guided experience. Pioneer takes a well-respected, rigorous approach to develop students’ research abilities.

Along with gaining access to transformative resources, tools, and mentors, Pioneer scholars also get connected with a community of like-minded peers and remain connected to their fellow Pioneer Alumni through our Alumni Networking.

Sign up for an online information session today to learn more about Pioneer Academics.

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Info session for blog page 400x270 1Doing research is commonplace.

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