Skip to main content

Neuroscience 3863 and 3864 Undergraduate Research Guidelines


The purpose of the Advanced Research course is to provide the student who has developed the technical and conceptual skills to conduct laboratory research an opportunity to continue and expand upon his/her research experience. The student works in the laboratory of a member of the neuroscience faculty at Vanderbilt and is expected to provide independent contributions to the design and execution of the research project.


Completion of NSC 3861 and NSC 3862 is required as a pre-requisite for NSC 3863. Completion of NSC 3863 is required as a pre-requisite for NSC 3864. NSC 3864 may be repeated for credit.

Selecting a Research Mentor

The student will select a mentor from the faculty of the Neuroscience Program. If you are interested in working with a faculty member that is not already approved to mentor students but conducts Neuroscience research, you must first get permission from the Director of Independent Studies. The faculty member must then agree that they are willing to direct a student’s research for these courses. Generally it is expected that the student will continue research in the laboratory in which NSC 3861 and NSC 3862 were completed, but it is not required.

Application and Registration

  • Read the “course structure and requirements” (below)
  • Research Contract: Initiate your research proposal HERE.
    • Complete the above REDCap survey in its entirety. This will serve as your research contract. Once submitted, the information will require two approvals: first by your mentor and second by our Director of Independent Studies (DIS). If approved by both parties, the information will be routed to the Program Office for registration. You will be notified after each step is completed and will also be notified once enrolled.
    • Inform your mentor that a REDCap link will be sent to their email and will require action.

A new contract is required for each semester you register and you will not be able to register yourself. If after following all guidelines you still have questions, contact the Program Office.

**IMPORTANT: The link to initiate a research contract will close at the end of the Open Enrollment period. Contact the Program Office to request the link after this date.**

Course Structure and Requirements

Once a student has been admitted to NSC 3863/NSC 3864, his or her primary interactions during the semester will be with the faculty sponsor and members of the sponsor’s laboratory. Students are expected to spend 12-15 hours per week in laboratory or library work for this course during the Academic Year and 18-20 hours per week in the Summer Session.

1. Final written report: All students are required to write a final paper that summarizes the research accomplished throughout your tenure in the lab.  In most cases this paper will be a revision/extension of the paper your wrote for NSC 3862 (or NSC 3863 if you are in NSC 3864).   In that case you should treat the earlier paper as a draft, and the goal should not be to rewrite the entire paper but to significantly improve on the quality of the writing and scholarship that went into the earlier paper while adding in new data/results/interpretations that emerged from your work this semester.

The paper should be modeled after a typical scientific journal article and include an Introduction/Background, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections. The document should be no more than 20 double spaced pages with 1-inch margins, and 12pt Times or equivalently clear font. Figures and tables should be embedded within the document and all figures must be accompanied by figure legends. A list of cited references should be included at the end of the paper. The references do not have to fit into the page limit.

The expectation is that the student will have read previous papers on the topic of their research and understand the reasoning that led to their research effort. They should also express an understanding of the hypotheses and methods on which their lab efforts were based. In all, students should be able to demonstrate (a) an understanding of fundamental principles and concepts of neuroscience, (b) an ability to think critically, (c) an ability to organize and communicate conceptual and factual information, and (d) a depth of knowledge in the area of the research project. The introduction to the paper should include a discussion of the neuroscience background and significance of the work. If the results warrant statistical treatment, the analytic methods should be included or referenced – wherever appropriate, it is expected to provide the statistical test (such as T-value, F-value, R-value); if a statistical test cannot be provided, include a section explaining what the appropriate test would be and why it was not performed (for instance, the sample size was too small). The discussion should be focused narrowly on the results and their interpretation. Please contact the Program Office if you have questions about the organization and style of the paper.

2. Oral presentation: Students will also be expected to give an oral presentation of their research to the members of the laboratory. This presentation will be evaluated by the student’s research sponsor and will contribute to the assessment of the final grade.


The paper is due on the last day of class. There will be a deduction of 1 letter grade on papers received after the deadline. Copies should be submitted to the program through Brightspace AND to the student’s faculty mentor. The paper is to be graded by the faculty mentor who should submit a recommendation for a final grade to the Program Office within one week of the due date.