On September 1, HSE University launched the Student Research Paper Competition 2021. Any bachelor's students, master's students or 2021 graduates can submit their papers until October 15. Here, winners from previous years share why it’s worth participating in the competition—even if you have doubts.
The competition is a good opportunity to use your term paper or thesis to receive feedback on your work. Competition winners can apply for scholarships, academic travel grants and other bonuses that you can learn more about here (in Russian).
HSE Life talked to the winners and laureates of the Student Research Paper Competition 2020 about doubting their own work and their experience of the competition.
In my fourth year of studies, I submitted a term paper I prepared in my second year to the competition. I really wanted to try and submit an application, but I kept putting it off because I wasn’t sure about it. I think that often happens—that you can't figure out whether your paper is interesting and well-prepared—because to you, it seems obvious and simple after you’ve spent a whole year trying to analyze a specific topic.
In the end, my Academic Supervisor, Lyubov Tsyganova, advised me to submit my paper: ‘Just try it, why not?’ I uploaded my research 1.5 hours before the deadline. I didn’t think I would win anything at all, because it seemed to me that there were better, more interesting works that weren’t as banal as mine. As it turned out a month and a half later, I had greatly underestimated my work—I won first place. That’s when I realized that you shouldn’t be afraid to write research papers. Even if you feel like it isn’t working out, there’s always something interesting and important in your work. Then I started to work on my diploma, and winning in the competition helped me to feel more confident and motivated.
Regarding the quality of the work, I think that’s a question of my self-esteem rather than the work itself. I always want to do better and more—this is a natural desire, which, unfortunately, sometimes gets in the way of thinking reasonably. What if I'm wrong? What if I’ve done something wrong? But the fact that I won the competition clearly shows that I did everything right.
You shouldn’t allow bad thoughts to influence your decisions—in this case, to keep you from submitting your work to the competition. You should definitely submit it, no matter what doubts you’re having.
Why didn’t I feel confident about my paper? Well, first of all, I wasn't sure if it fit the field I was applying for. The work is titled ‘The Problem of Justifying War in Russian Orthodoxy.’ I wrote it during my studies on the Master’s programme in Philosophy and History of Religion. The competition field was just ‘Philosophy’, and there wasn’t much philosophy in my work. In addition, I didn’t consider my work to be good: there were obvious shortcomings in it, I didn’t use all the available sources, and the logical reasoning behind it wasn’t completely clear.
Initially, I wasn’t planning to submit my paper to the Student Research Paper Competition. When my supervisor advised me to do it, I was very sceptical, because I saw two serious drawbacks to my work. The topic was too personal and, it seemed to me, wouldn’t be interesting or objectively valuable to another reader. The narration and presentation were, on the contrary, impersonal—this was my first work, and due to the need to speak scientific language and constantly re-read and edit it, I lost the ability to perceive my text as a whole at some point.
My main advice is not to be afraid and not to expect much. It’s general advice, but it applies to every field. You shouldn’t be afraid—you’ve got nothing to lose by applying, and it's difficult to assess your own work. And you shouldn’t expect much, not only to avoid disappointment, but also because it makes your work more honest and, therefore, more valuable. Try to make it understandable and easy to read—that's all you need to do. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for the results.
The competition includes 24 categories in different fields, each of which (except Mathematics) is divided into two subcategories for bachelor’s students and for master’s students and 2021 graduates. This is done to make the assessment process fairer. If you are interested in applying, please read the rules and recommendations carefully before submitting your work.
When assessing the student works (bachelor’s and master’s) submitted to the competition, the jury first and foremost appreciates new ideas, perspectives and materials that provide a fresh look at things you’ve seen before, as well as daring hypotheses, logic and consistency of arguments.
Since the works shouldn’t exceed the set volume, I strongly advise applicants not to spend too much time reviewing the literature. They should briefly cover only those works that are necessary to support their own reasoning or, on the contrary, are reasonably disproved in their work.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to submit papers to the competition. Successful student research doesn’t have to be flawlessly written or presented. Senior colleagues, as a rule, will forgive technical shortcomings if the work is interesting.
For more information, please see the competition website. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the organizing committee: Tatiana Zakharova (email@example.com or tel. 772 95 90, ext. 22557).