I am a 19 year old sophomore at a well-regarded state university. I currently have a double major in the arts/humanities and public policy, with a minor in linguistics. I just took the intro to PoliSci course, and I think I've done pretty well in it (practically guaranteed a 4.0).
Anyways, onto the question. So I emailed my professor (as it was an entirely online course), and sent this....
[insert some stuff about grades, course]
Lastly, are you aware of any research/volunteer opportunities in the PoliSci department at ---? I am aware of the [insert name of local policy network], but was wondering if you knew about any other interesting things going on. I'm really interested in public policy (my additional major is in it!), but the international relations section in the course also interested me. I'm particularly interested in humanitarian/human rights work. I haven't taken many PoliSci courses yet, but I would be interested in getting involved in the PoliSci Department in any capacity.
He responded a few days later with this:
[stuff about courses/grade]
In terms of research work, most professors are happy to work with students as both research assistants (i.e., you help a faculty member on their work) or as research advisors (i.e., you work on your own research project and a faculty member provides oversight). I'd recommend looking at our bios online and directly contacting anyone that who's work look interesting or related to what you're wanting to research on your own. If you need additional help, you can also ask me and I'll do my best to refer you to the most appropriate person (I can also send an email introduction to that faculty member to help grease the wheels)." [emphasis mine]
I haven't taken many PoliSci courses yet. The meat of my courses for this upcoming year will be my arts/humanities and linguistics courses, as that is how my degree is designed. The majority of my junior and senior level classes being PoliSci and upper level courses. So for the next year or so, I'm not going to have much formal polisci experience. I'll only be taking public policy analysis and a methods of analysis class (read: statistics for PoliSci students).
What I'm worried about is how I'll go about getting research experience without much of an academic background in it. I've had a passion/enthusiasm for politics for a long time, and the intro class was a breeze for me (barring a few theoretical concepts). I'm just afraid about how it will pan out if I take shots in the dark without having the proper background, so to speak. I'd love to get a jumpstart on research/volunteering/engagement if possible, but would it be more valuable for me to wait until junior year? And would that reduce my chance of a good recommendation from the professor?
I really am at a loss here. I haven't had any formal research experience before, and I'm working my first, true job this summer. I'm winging it the best I can, but I want to make sure I'm not totally shooting myself in the foot at the starting gate. Any suggestions/advice would be helpful!
tl;dr Is enthusiasm/willing to learn a good substitute for formal academic experience, or should I just hang tight for a year and wait to do some research?
Also, if this isn't an appropriate question for SE (I'm still pretty new here), let me know and I'll post elsewhere. Thanks!