CSU Student Research Competition (System-wide)

Procedures and Guidelines

Who May Apply

Undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled at any CSU campus as well as alumni/alumnae who received their degrees in Spring, Summer, or Fall 2016 are eligible.  The research presented should be appropriate to the student’s discipline and career goals.  Proprietary research is excluded.  Presentations from all disciplines are invited.  There will be separate undergraduate and graduate divisions for each of the following categories (unless a division has four or fewer entrants, in which case undergraduate and graduate divisions may be combined).  The Cal Poly steering committee reserves the right to combine or subdivide these categories or to move an entrant from one category to another, as numbers of submissions necessitate.  The ten categories are as follows:

  • Behavioral and Social Sciences
  • Biological and Agricultural Sciences
  • Business, Economics, and Public Administration
  • Creative Arts and Design
  • Education
  • Engineering and Computer Science
  • Health, Nutrition, and Clinical Sciences
  • Humanities and Letters
  • Physical and Mathematical Sciences
  • Interdisciplinary

A campus delegation may include up to ten entries in the ten categories.  A small team of students making a single presentation counts as a single entry but each student participant must fill out the Student Delegate Registration Form with demographic and contact information.

How to Apply

Each CSU campus appoints a campus coordinator and develops its own procedures for selecting its student delegates to the system-wide competition.  Interested students should contact their campus coordinator for information on how their work is to be considered at the campus level.  Only those students endorsed by a campus coordinator can enter the system-wide competition.

If a student’s work has been selected by the campus for presentation in the system-wide competition, the campus coordinator will provide a list of the chosen delegates to abwalter@calpoly.edu, AND each student will register via the Student Delegate Registration Form on the Competition Registration website (calpoly.infoready4.com) by Friday, March 17, 2017. A written Summary must be provided with each registration.

The rules governing the written Summary are as follows:

  • The summary must include the name(s) of the student(s) and the title of the presentation.
  • The narrative may not exceed five doubled-spaced pages.  Use fonts and margins that ensure legibility.
  • Appendices (bibliography, graphs, photographs, or other supplementary materials) may not exceed three pages.
  • Research that has human or animal subjects’ involvement must have appropriate institutional review.
  • It is expected that the student will not make an oral presentation by simply reading directly from this summary.

Campus coordinators will be notified in writing by the Cal Poly steering committee of the times of their student delegates’ presentations, local hotel and transportation options, and program details.  More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Competition Site


Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, is recognized by peer institutions and by the U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation's finest public, primarily undergraduate institutions.  The university is particularly well known for its outstanding programs in engineering, architecture, and agriculture.  With over 6,000 acres, the campus is one of the largest in the nation and accommodates a working vineyard among other agricultural operations.  With the recent completion of Poly Canyon Village, a spectacular sustainable living environment with a host of amenities, the primarily residential campus houses more than 5,500 students.  Cal Poly's "learn by doing" philosophy permeates teaching, learning, and living as a campus community.  Over 100,000 alumni and students have benefited from the Cal Poly advantage and have contributed to the state's and the nation's intellectual and economic engines.  Among its prominent alumni are Robert "Hoot" Gibson, five-time NASA astronaut, and Al Smith, founder of the Orchard Supply Hardware chain.

Competition Guidelines

Students will present their work orally before a jury and an audience.  Students will compete by discipline category and, where feasible, by class standing (undergraduate/graduate), as described above in “Who May Apply.”  Each student will have ten minutes for an oral presentation of his or her work and five minutes to listen and respond to juror and audience questions.  All entrants may use audiovisual materials as appropriate, and presenters are encouraged to use delivery techniques that promote interaction with the audience.  Entrants in the Creative Arts and Design category may present an audio and/or visual record of a performance they have given or a work they have created; their oral presentation should focus on the rationale and historical context underlying their interpretation of the material.

Each entry (oral presentation plus written summary) will be judged on the following:

  • Clarity of purpose
  • Appropriateness of methodology
  • Interpretation of results
  • Value of the research or creative activity
  • Ability of the presenter to articulate the research or creative activity
  • Organization of the material presented
  • Presenter’s ability to handle questions from the jury and general audience

Detailed information on the scoring criteria is provided in the Scoring Criteria Definitions document.


Based on the recommendations of the jurors, cash awards will be provided to the outstanding presenter and the runner-up in both the undergraduate and graduate divisions of each category.  If the undergraduate and graduate divisions of a category have been combined because there are fewer than four presenters in one division, awards will be provided to the outstanding presenter and the runner-up without regard to class standing.  In the event there are five or fewer presenters in a session, only the outstanding presenter will receive an award.


Student questions should be directed to the local campus coordinator.  Coordinators may contact Allie Walter, abwalter@calpoly.edu, (805) 756-5153, or Debbie Hart, dahart@calpoly.edu, (805) 756-1508.

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Upcoming Presentation

"How to Save the World, or Carbon Capture by Temperature Swing Adsorption," Dr. John S. Dunning, Monday, November 27, 2017, 4:10pm, Rm 35-209

See the flyer

Grants 2.0 Workshop

Turn Your Good Idea into a Great Proposal -- Are you interested in obtaining funding for research, but aren't quite sure how to get started? Have you submitted a proposal and had it rejected? November 16, 8:10am

Workshop on November 16

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Research Funding

Human Subjects Research

The Cal Poly Insitutional Review Board (IRB), effective October 18, 2017, will be using an online system, IRBManager, for the review of human subjects research projects.

More information