AP Research, the second course in the AP Capstone experience, allows students to deeply explore an academic topic, problem, issue, or idea of individual interest. Students design, plan, and implement a yearlong investigation to address a research question. Through this inquiry, they further the skills they acquired in the AP Seminar course by learning research methodology, employing ethical research practices, and accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information. Students reflect on their skill development, document their processes, and curate the artifacts of their scholarly work through a process and reflection portfolio. The course culminates in an academic paper of
4,000–5,000 words (accompanied by a performance, exhibit, or product where applicable) and a presentation with an oral defense.
Research Methodology (Focus)
Students develop an understanding of the different disciplines’ paradigms, ways of knowing, and inquiry methods for the purpose of determining which method best fits their chosen topic of inquiry/research question. Each student then uses a selected method to complete his or her investigation.
AP Research Course and Exam Description
Duration of Course
Successful completion of AP Seminar: AP Seminar is a prerequisite for AP Research. Completing AP Seminar and all its required assessment components is necessary for students to develop the skills to be successful in AP Research.
Course Specific Subject Requirements
The AP Research course operates as year two of the AP Capstone program. After teaching students how to enter the academic conversation in AP Seminar, the AP Research year is designed to instruct students how to begin that conversation. AP Research is an inquiry-based course that encourages students to locate a gap in their preferred discipline of study and to explore a topic of personal interest. Students are empowered to collect and analyze information with accuracy and precision in order to craft, communicate, and eventually defend their argument or their position.
Students develop and apply discrete skills identified in the learning objectives within the Big Idea 1: Question and Explore. (CR1a)
Students develop and apply discrete skills identified in the learning objectives within the Big Idea 2: Understand and Analyze. (CR1b)
Students develop and apply discrete skills identified in the learning objectives within the Big Idea 3: Evaluate Multiple Perspectives. (CR1c)
Students develop and apply discrete skills identified in the learning objectives within the Big Idea 4: Synthesize Ideas. (CR1d)
Students develop and apply collaboration skills identified in the learning objectives within the Big Idea 5: Team, Transform, and Transmit. (CR1e)
Students develop and apply reflection skills identified in the learning objectives within the Big Idea 5: Team, Transform, and Transmit. (CR1f)
Students develop and apply written and oral communication skills identified in the learning objectives within the Big Idea 5: Team, Transform, and Transmit. (CR1g)
Students develop an understanding of ethical research practices. (CR2a)
Students develop an understanding of the AP Capstone ™ Policy on Plagiarism and Falsification or Fabrication of Information. (CR2b)
Students develop and employ research and inquiry methods to develop, manage, and conduct an in-depth investigation of an area of personal interest, culminating in an academic paper of 4,000-5,000 words that includes the following elements:
Method, Process, or Approach
Results, Product, or Findings
Discussion, Analysis, and/or Evaluation
Conclusion and Future Directions
Students document their inquiry processes, communicate with their teachers and any expert advisors, and reflect on their thought processes. (CR4a)
Students actively participate in regular work-in-progress interviews with their teachers to review their progress and to receive feedback on their scholarly work as evidenced by the Process and Reflection Portfolios (PREP) (CR4b)
Students develop and deliver a presentation (using an appropriate medium) and an oral defense to a panel on their research processes, method, and findings. (CR5)
Process and Reflection Portfolio (PREP):
The primary purpose of the process and reflection portfolio (PREP) is to inspire, support, and document the students’ development throughout their research process. This portfolio will be reviewed throughout the year as a formative assessment component of the course and should be maintained by the student as evidence of participating in research to show to academic counselors, college admission officers, and faculty members.
Throughout the inquiry process, students will document their research and/or artistic processes and communications with their expert advisers, pose questions they want to explore, and reflect on the decisions made throughout the iterative research process. Students should also examine their strengths and weaknesses with regard to implementing such processes and developing their arguments or aesthetic rationales.
The combined group of questions and tasks in the PREP document will address all five big ideas in the curriculum framework (QUEST), with specific attention paid to the following:
Choice of the research question and interest in the subject matter
Directions in which the inquiry or project seemed to lead and changes to initial topic, question, assumptions, and research method
Research method, including resources used (documents, people, multimedia, measurement instruments etc.)
Compilation and analysis of evidence
Ways in which students have worked both on their own and as part of a larger scholarly community
Challenges and solutions encountered throughout the research process
The teacher will regularly engage students in individual discussions or interviews to help them reflect on and document their work, organize their time, and reach appropriate milestones. The PREP will be used to inform regular progress reviews throughout the year.
The final form of the PREP will have a clear organizational structure and include:
Annotated bibliography of any source important to the student’s work
A completed and approved Inquiry Proposal Form
Documentation of permission(s) and approval(s), if required — for example, permission(s) from an IRB or other agreements with individuals, institutions, or organizations that provide primary and private data such as interviews, surveys, or investigations
Documentation or log of the student’s interaction with expert adviser(s) and the role the expert adviser(s) played in the student’s learning and inquiry process
Feedback from peer and adult reviewers both in the initial stages and at key points in the research process; reflection on whether or not this feedback was accepted or rejected and why
Photographs, charts, spreadsheets, and/or links to videos or other relevant visual research/project artifacts
Draft versions of selected sections of the academic paper
Specific pieces of work selected by the student to represent what they consider to be the best showcase for their work
Notes taken in preparation for presentation and oral defense
Attestation signed by the student which states, “I hereby affirm that the work contained in this Process and Reflection Portfolio is my own and that I have read and understand the AP Capstone™ Policy on Plagiarism and Falsification or Fabrication of Information”
AP Research Assessment Task Guidelines
Academic Paper (AP)
The body of the academic paper must contain the elements listed in the following table. These elements should be presented in a style and structure appropriate to the discipline in which the topic resides (e.g., chemistry, biology, physics). Abstracts, if included, are not considered part of the body of the academic paper and are not assessed. The academic paper must be written for an educated, non-expert audience.
-Introduces research question/project goal and reviews previous work in the field.
-Synthesizes the varying perspectives in the scholarly literature to situate the research question/project goal within a gap in the current field of knowledge.
Method, Process, or
-Explains and provides justification for the chosen method, process, or approach and its alignment with the research question.
Results, Product, or
-Presents the findings, evidence, results, or performance/exhibit/product generated by the research method.
-Interprets the significance of the results, performance/exhibit/product, or findings; explores connections to original research question/project goal.
Conclusion and Future Directions
-Articulates the new understanding generated through the research process and the limitations of the conclusion or creative work.
-Discusses the implications to the community of practice.
-Identifies areas for future research.
-Provides a complete list of sources cited and consulted in the appropriate disciplinary style.
Presentation and Oral Defense (POD)
All students will develop a 15–20 minute presentation (using appropriate media) and deliver it to an oral defense panel of three evaluators. It is suggested that students’ oral presentation be no longer than 15 minutes to ensure at least 5 minutes for the oral defense. The presentation and oral defense should take no longer than 15–20 minutes total. Like the academic paper, the presentation provides an opportunity for students to showcase their research by communicating effectively and succinctly to an audience of educated, non-experts. Students whose academic paper is accompanied by an additional piece of scholarly work (e.g., performance, exhibit, product) must arrange for the teacher and panelists to view this work prior to the presentation and oral defense.
The presentation should distill the student’s argument by:
identifying the research question/project goal
describing and explaining initial assumptions and hypotheses/ideas and their relation to the student’s personal
providing the rationale for choices made during the research process (cite or attribute sources or evidence
explaining the research process/method, evidence generated, conclusions, and implications
engaging the audience through a dynamic use of design, delivery, and performance techniques
Following the presentation, an oral defense panel will ask three questions of the student. The panel must consist of the AP Research teacher and two additional adult panel members (expert advisers or discipline specific experts). This evaluative component is designed to assess a student’s articulation of the inquiry process, understanding of results and conclusions, and reflection on the research experience. Three of these questions must be chosen from the oral defense question list, which is provided to students in advance. The oral defense panel should ask one question pertaining to the student’s research or inquiry process, one question focused on the student’s depth of understanding, and one question about the student’s reflection throughout the inquiry process as evidenced in their process and reflection portfolio (PREP). The wording of the questions will be tailored to a student’s specific project. In addition, a fourth question is permitted to clarify one of the student’s answers to a previous question.
Scope and Sequence
Rubric and Evaluation of Papers: Apply assessment rubric components for the academic paper to sample student papers and identify the different levels of achievement evidenced in those samples.
Annotated Bibliography I: Topic of Inquiry Background Effectively search for and identify a broad range of perspectives and scholarly sources of information for the chosen field of study.
Focused Topic of Inquiry: Exhibit knowledge of the field of interest and develop a narrow, novel, researchable problem, topic, or idea.
Peer Review of Research Questions: Differentiate between well- and poorly formed research questions, and offer/receive feedback on research question drafts.
Finalization of Research Question and Purpose of Inquiry: Develop a clearly articulated research question that is capable of being researched at this level and clearly articulate the purpose/goals of the inquiry.
Annotated Bibliography II: DisciplineSpecific Style with Literature Review: Perform an in-depth literature review that outlines the scholarly source materials used and how the materials offer information and views relating to the question. Demonstrate comprehensiveness of the literature review as exhibited by breadth, relevance, currency, availability, and authority within chosen resources, using the discipline-specific style common to the field of study.
Annotated Bibliography III: Inquiry Methods of the Field of Study: Identify the research question, variables, measurements, and limitations within published quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research studies. Differentiate between the purpose and components of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods studies.
Poster Presentation of Research Proposal: Effectively articulate the focused topic of inquiry, research question, overview of the knowledge of the field, gap the chosen inquiry fills, and selected or designed method of inquiry to collect data to address research question or inquiry topic.
Inquiry Method Design: Describe procedures used for analysis in sufficient detail to permit understanding of how the data were analyzed and the processes and assumptions underlying specific techniques. Evaluate the fit between the purpose of the proposal, its research design, and its data collection strategy.
Biweekly Work in Progress Interview: Exhibit regular maintenance of a research portfolio to record revisions, amendments, and reflections during the inquiry process. Prepare and periodically update timetable or project plan that clearly outlines what activities must be accomplished and the deadlines by which the objectives of the course must be achieved.
Biweekly Peer Review: Review and revise the elements of the academic paper with attention paid to the purpose, research question, and research method to ensure clarity and alignment and to address peer, teacher, and expert adviser feedback.
Practice Presentations: Exhibit polished articulation and effective presentation of the inquiry performed.
Peer Panels: Exhibit depth of knowledge of topic of inquiry and articulation of choices made in design and interpretation/synthesis of evidence through the research project through responses to feedback and suggestions for revision.
Process and Reflection Portfolio: Exit Interview: Articulate moments of insight, challenge, and change in thought processes as exhibited by the curation of the inquiry process in the portfolio.
Arizona State Standards: Alignment
SCIENCEScience and Engineering Practices
The science and engineering practices describe a robust process for how scientists investigate and build models and theories of the natural world or how engineers design and build systems. Rather than a linear process from hypothesis to conclusion, these practices reflect science and engineering as they are practiced and experienced. As students conduct investigations, they engage in multiple practices as they gather information to solve problems, answer their questions, reason about how the data provide evidence to support their understanding, and then communicate their understanding of phenomena. These eight practices, identified in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council), are critical components of scientific literacy:
● ask questions and define problems
● develop and use models
● plan and carry out investigations
● analyze and interpret data
● use mathematics and computational thinking
● construct explanations and design solutions
● engage in argument from evidence
● obtain, evaluate, and communicate information
Specific content standards will depend upon the topic that the student chooses as a research topic.
Requested competency code:
- Lab Science
Approved competency code:
- 4 years of English