Rad Research

AP Research students and teacher give updates on their projects


Credit: Ariel McGee ’23

AP Research, the second year of the AP Capstone program, is a rigorous class for seniors that has students partake in a year-long research project. 

This year, seniors’ projects range from psychology to analysis of tv shows, and they have free range for the topic they choose. 

“My project is an evaluation of the effects of gender identity [on high school students’ relationships with their parents], specifically gender nonconforming, transgender and cisgender high school students,” said AP Research student Sage McHugh ‘23. 

McHugh, like many other research students, has a focus on psychology, and is interested in pushing the boundaries of research in this field. 

“I knew from the get-go that I wanted to do a psychology project,” said McHugh. “I was originally interested in evaluating the effects of neurodivergence on conception of gender, because it’s a really interesting new field in psychology.”

However, not all topics are as complex, and AP Research gives students the opportunity to go down any path, within reason. 

“I have a student doing a project on looking at the ways in which gendered language is used on Tik Tok regarding the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial,” said AP Research teacher and English Department Head Caitlin Miller. “There are lots of different kinds of projects, different disciplines, and all really cool ideas.”

Students don’t have to go through this process alone, however, and are paired with a mentor in order to help them with the research process. 

“My mentor is a grad student in Sociology at [Duke University] and we meet every week,” said AP Research student Norah Hendrickson ‘23. “We exchange messages, and they’ve been really helpful with finding outside research related to my topic along with building a literature review.”

Mentors can be beneficial to AP Research students in multiple ways; not only with their research, but also with networking and fostering professional relationships, according to Miller.

“I think students who really make lasting relationships with their mentors tend to have awesome projects,” said Miller. “They really are able to get into the discipline a little bit more and understand how researchers in that field conduct research.”

In order to conduct their research, students must examine data that they collect. For example, through a survey they conduct. 

“It’s pretty typical in a lot of quantitative psychology research to use surveys, and I wanted to go with what was best for my discipline,” said McHugh. “I already knew of a couple existing scales that I wanted to use, so I’m not just writing random questions.”

For others, strategies of interviews or focus groups are more beneficial to their topic, like Hendrickson, whose project focuses on the benefits and intricacies of tarot reading. 

“I am interviewing professional tarot readers and also young amateur tarot users to see what drives them to want to use tarot, and what they get both spiritually and emotionally out of using it,” said Hendrickson. 

The research that these students participate in isn’t always easy, and often many students run into roadblocks. 

“Psychology is a hard field,” said McHugh. “Especially being younger and doing psych research because access is always going to be an issue.”

But even with possible difficulties, they are supported by their teacher, Ms. Miller, along with their peers and mentors.  

“Students are successful in AP research when they can manage their time effectively, ask a lot of questions, are engaged in the process, and listen to feedback,” said Miller. 

This year, students even have the opportunity to expand their audience of their research project by submitting their work for a showcase. 

“Students actually have some opportunities this year to do some presentations outside of the school,” said Miller. “There’s one showcase in particular, called the Student Research Showcase where one student per school will be selected to present in March.”

AP Research students work both in and out of school to research and synthesize interesting projects, and there are many opportunities for Jones students to get involved. 

“A lot of us [AP Research students] get super stressed about… being able to meet research criteria and having people participate in our research is helpful,” said McHugh. “So if you can go to a focus group, or if you’re willing to reply to someone’s survey that is immensely helpful.”