Advice to Future AP Research Victims

What I have learned from my AP Research project and what you should do for yours


Just last week I had my POD (Presentation Oral Defense)  and soon will submit my AP Research paper with the rest of the senior class. For those who are not aware, every Academic Magnet senior must complete an AP Research project where they must conduct an investigation and explain their research and findings. Because all Magnet student will eventually undergo this class and it is a fairly new one, I want to give my advice to the future students at Academic Magnet.

Picking a Research Topic/Question

The most important advice I can give for picking a research topic is very basic: pick whatever is in your realm of interests. You have to spend almost a full year on the research question you choose so it’s helpful to pick something you will not be sick of by Christmas. One good thing about AP Research is your topic could really be anything from an analysis of a TV show phenomena to studying the effects of caffeine on students’ sleep schedule. Whatever your research topic is, just make sure it is something you are either passionate about or at least interested in. This will make the work much less boring (however it will still be boring at times). You also have to make sure your research question is addressing a gap, which is basically something that has never been researched or has been barely studied. But the trick for this is to address a small and feasible gap, not to find a cure for cancer or anything. Also ensure that your research topic has a lot of sources that could support your question and the reason for you inquiry. If you pick something overly niche with a too big gap, you will be lost and have no supporting sources.  This is essential in order to have a strong Review of Literature, a very important part of you research paper.

Finding Sources

As I mentioned before, sources are crucial to your paper in order to build a strong Review of Literature. In AP Seminar, I was able to find all my sources only using the websites provided by the school such as JSTOR, Academic OneFile by Gale. However, this year I could not find enough sources on these sites alone. For me, the best way to find sources was type my topic with the word pdf into google. This will often take you to articles on sites such as Research Gate where there is also a section of related articles. Now, often these websites will require you to pay to access the full articles but a simple copy and paste of the DOI into Sci-Hub fixes this problem. If you are still struggling to find sources try checking the works cited of research papers on the topic and looking up the articles they used. You want the sources you use to be credible so keep in mind it should mostly be journals and research papers. I also recommend you find some sources that are studies, so you can get an idea of what methodology you would do for your research. Many students, including myself, model their correlational and experimental design studies around sources they feel could support their research. This makes it much easier to collect and analyze your data in an orderly fashion and not feel lost throughout the investigation process.

Be Realistic

While completing your research project it’s important to make sure your project is feasible. Keep in mind of the time crunch. Do not be overly ambitious with your topic. You are a high school student with very limited time and resources. This research project doesn’t have to cure any disease or stop climate change. It is your senior year and you really do not want to pile on the work when you have college/scholarship applications and you other classes. Trust me, by the time second semester rolls around you really do not want to be struggling with completing your AP Research project especially if you are undergoing senior-itis.

Don’t Stress Yourself Out

While you probably want to do well on this project, remember that you do not need to stress too much. I know to many Magnet students this is easier said than done. Obviously it would be nice to get a five but many colleges don’t even take the AP Capstone credit, and if they do it is usually AP Seminar. If you read example papers you see that it is fairly easy to get a 3 so if all you want to do is pass there is no reason to overly stress yourself. I am not trying to say you should purposely fail. Still try your best but I just think it is important that you know in the back of your mind that if you do not pass, it is not the end of the world.


One way to help with the last piece of advice is to not procrastinate. I know to some Magnet students this is impossible and no matter how many times your teachers tell you not too, you will still put off the workload (I am very guilty of this). But not procrastinating really will save you unnecessary stress. Now I’m not saying you have to work every free research class (sorry Mrs. Smith) but not putting off major deadlines and things like data collection will make your AP Research experience much more enjoyable.

As the years comes to the end and AP Research is now mostly free classes and wrapping up, I can safely say that I feel pretty indifferent about my project. It’s by no means my magnum opus, but it’s still something I think will get a four. If not, it doesn’t really matter. Good luck to all future AP Research students and if there is one piece of advice you take away from this articles please let it be: Don’t make your research question – Are high-school students stressed? Trust me there is no gap in this and it’s very boring.