Princeton Underground: A researcher’s guide to lesser-known resources

Princeton’s resource network, like Firestone Library under construction, is so big and complex you could spend hours inside it but only see a small part, never knowing what you’re missing. Here are 3½ of campus’ most under-the-radar resources, and a guide to using them.

The DSS Lab in Firestone: literally underground.

1a. Data and Statistical Services: Lab edition
What: The original inspiration for this post, the DSS Lab is literally underground. A well-lit room of big-screen PC’s, the lab is run by two incredibly friendly statistical consultants who can help you download, format, reshape, or analyze data.
Where: The A floor of Firestone – see this map.
How: The lab consultants’ schedule is available here. Walk-in hours are available from 2-5 p.m. on weekdays through December 16.
Underground tip: For brief, specific questions, send an email to the consultants at

1b. Data and Statistical Services: Online edition
What: The DSS consultants can help on independent work, but not homework, problem sets, or take-home exams. For more general advice, though, they offer an incredible array of online materials, from a catalog of data files to step-by-step tutorials.
Where: A catalog of online resources is listed here.
Underground tip: Check out specific resources for R and Stata, including annotated sample code for each program, online tutorials, and even a Princeton Coursera for R.

2. Ask a Librarian.
What: Princeton has a dedicated librarian in every academic field. They can help you find data, refine your literature search, and give one-on-one research consultations.
Where: The subject librarians are distributed in the different libraries around campus, but all are accessible online.
How: Fill out the brief request form here to meet with a librarian, or send an email to the specialist in your field.
Underground tip: For quick questions, ask a librarian via web chat or text.

3. Senior Thesis Boot Camps.
What: Free food, coffee, and positive peer pressure. Upcoming boot camps are offered over intersession and spring break. In the meantime, Rocky College hosts Senior Thesis Fridays every week from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Senior Thesis Boot Camp in Rocky over spring break last year.
Boot Camp in Rocky during spring break last year.

Where: Hosted by each of the residential colleges; seniors can attend any.
How: Watch out for emails from your residential college dean, or (if watching out for emails isn’t your thing), check the college websites.
Underground tip: Grad students also attend to offer advice and feedback.

Remember, your most valuable resources are people, not books. Princeton’s grad students, librarians, and DSS consultants are all experts in their fields, and, in my experience, they are friendly, interested, and happy to help. Besides potentially saving you many hours, connecting with these outstanding individuals to share your research and get their perspectives also makes the research process way more fun.

See you underground!

— Zoe Sims, Natural Sciences Correspondent