Some Important POPS Project Parameters
The first step to creating a scientific research project is to review and understand the Scientific Method (SM). SM is a flexible yet rigorous process of exploration. There are many steps and many redundancies within this process (see: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science-fair/steps-of-the-scientific-method). The basic steps of this method are:
1) Start with a Question: ponder a question that has personal interest for you – the more you internalize your education the more meaningful it will be to you.
2) Background Research: use the tools available to you (electronic, paper, people such as your lab and/or lecture professors) to gain knowledge that will allow you to learn about the subject you have chosen. You will not be prepared for step 3 if you do not take the time and effort on this step. Try starting with our library: https://libweb.slcc.edu/
3) Construct a Hypothesis: a hypothesis is a statement (not a question) about a subject that is backed by your background research and is capable of being physically tested. Multiple hypotheses are essential! Let’s say that your question has to do with how sleep affects resting heart rate (HR). Your null hypothesis (H0) would be that sleep does NOT affect HR and then your second hypothesis (H1) would be that sleep does affect HR. Obviously this example is lacking in details – HOW do you propose sleep affects HR? What does your background research tell you about how the two are correlated?
4) Design experiments to test your hypotheses. Robust use of the scientific method allows for designing experiments to disprove – not prove – your hypotheses. Do not fall into the popular trap of trying to prove yourself correct, this approach will lead to much greater bias! Speaking of bias, we are all biased and especially on this step we need to make sure to address the biases in a way to control them. These studies all need to be experimental rather than just observational – remember we are in a “hard” science – one of numbers rather than just recording observations which are much more prone to bias. You will need a control – an experimental group that does not change – so that you can begin to tease out whether your experiment really showed a significant difference or if that difference falls within the “normal” variations. Also, remember to keep in mind the time, and equipment that you will have to do these experiments!
5) Record and Analyze Data from the experiments. Data is wonderful but if you cannot organize your data in a coherent way then it will not help you form conclusions. Make sure to consider the data analysis you will be using BEFORE doing your experiments – you do not want to misuse statistics! Make sure to calibrate and test all equipment used for your experiments to make sure you are seeing real data rather than equipment artifacts.
6) Draw Conclusions from your Analysis and Communicate these for Peer Review. One of the most important steps of the scientific method is this last one. Remember, you need to try to control bias so beware of trying to make your conclusions back up your hypotheses. If they don’t then your hypothesis was incorrect – this is as important a conclusion as if your hypothesis was correct. Finally, you will need to organize your procedures, data, experiments and analyses in a way to be able to communicate your findings to an audience. Your audience will also have to have a way to communicate their thoughts, ideas and critiques to you – this is called peer review – which is essential to the process of science.
Please Be Aware of the following Guidelines for carrying out this project:
1) Groups should be no more that 5 and no less than 2. If students, as they drop from the course, are left with too few group members (as decided by the students themselves) they may solicit membership in other groups (and their acceptance will be left to the discretion of the membership of the receiving group). This change must be done no later than the last day to drop classes with 100% refund (for Spring semester 2020 this is February 3).
2) You are not trying to cure cancer or save the world. The purpose of this project is to deepen your understanding of human physiology through research on your own physiological parameters. If your sample size only includes your group members data (so n=2-5 people) that is just fine for the purpose of this study. You are, however, encouraged to supplement your group’s data with the data collected for all the labs each week. Your instructor will make the data from all sections of 2425 available for use to you and your group. You are not allowed to use this data for any other purpose than SLCC’s Biology 2425 POPS project.
3) You must statistically analyze your data. You cannot just present a graph of the raw data (in either your final draft or final presentation). Part of your midterm draft must be a statement of the statistical treatments that will be used to help understand the data you will be collecting. Please see the POPS Project Statistical Help document for help in reviewing basic statistical methods. Most of you have taken Statistics already – make sure to use the knowledge you gained in that course to help inform your research in this one
4) The labs are timed so that, if you use your time efficiently, you will have 15-30 minutes each week in lab to meet and work with your group members. Make sure to use your time wisely each week so that you can work during lab time to design, carry out, analyze, write and practice your presentation. Take advantage of your knowledgeable Professor during this time to ask question and seek guidance on your project.
POPS Written Submissions
You will have to submit a written report on your progress. This report should follow proper scientific writing format (https://technicalwritingatslcc.pressbooks.com/) and be no less than 3 pages, 12 point font, double spaced, 1 inch margins. It will be due in lab the week after Lab 6 (muscles). Each member of the group will upload the same group copy of the midterm progress report. This report will be worth 50 points and will be graded by your professor. In addition to this midterm draft, each of your group members will upload your final written draft of your POPS project to Canvas by the last day of lab – this final written work will also be worth another 50 points. Please see the Rubrics for these written works on your Course’s Canvas site to help you address the specifics needed for each written work.
1) We have writing tutors free of charge here at SLCC. Please take advantage of this opportunity both on your midterm draft and definitely before you submit your final draft. Check out the Writing Center Link: http://www.slcc.edu/swc/index.aspx
2) We have Science and Math tutors free of charge here at SLCC. These tutors can help deepen your understanding of human physiology and they can also be consulted to help you on your statistical analysis of your data. You can find their days/times at: http://www.slcc.edu/stem/student/index.aspx
3) Part of working as a group is reviewing the draft and the final paper. Each member of the group has her/his individual duty but all of you have the responsibility to review the entire document. Read for proper grammar, punctuation, proper scientific writing and just plain readability.
POPS Public Presentations
The last week of lab, each group will have to publicly present their research to the class. This presentation will be 15 minutes maximum with 5 minutes for questions – just like professional scientific conference talks. The presentations will be worth 70 points and will be graded by the professor and the other students of the course. Please see the Rubrics for this Assignment on your Course’s Canvas site.
1) Please do not belittle your research. Again, the purpose of this project is not to save the world but to deepen your own knowledge and skills. As a scientist you need to be aware of and address the limitations (and sometime even flaws) in your research, but data is data – no matter how little of it there is. Your data has meaning and can greatly impact your life if you really let it. Focus your presentation on the data not on your limitations and frustrations.
2) This is YOUR presentation, not someone else’s – you are not allowed to use any other persons/institutions videos and/or tutorials in your presentation unless you okay it with your lab instructor and get her/his written permission to include someone else’s media in your presentation. You can use all the tools you have to help you get ready – by all means watch YouTube videos and go to websites to learn about your subject. However, you cannot show anyone else’s work as part of your presentation. YOUR work is on display here not someone else’s. If you have extenuating circunmstances work with your lab instructor to discuss this in more detail.
3) Look at your audience as you address them. We know you are nervous – lots of us still get nervous after years of public presentations. The best thing to do is to be very well prepared – you and your group should know the most about your project, not anyone else. Feel free to use note cards to help you remember or even your computer with notes on each slide. However, make sure to face your audience when you are speaking and not orient your body towards the projector screen.
4) Speak loud and clear. Remember than our lab rooms can be quite noisy with the echoes off the walls and the fume hoods roaring. Make sure to speak slowly and clearly so that everyone – even the folks in the back of the classroom – can hear you clearly.