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What is Research?

Research Papers  |  Scientific Research  |  Proposals  |  Scientific Method & Experimental Design  |  Story

Definition

noun

1. diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.: recent research in medicine.

2. a particular instance or piece of research.

verb (used without object)

3. to make researches; investigate carefully.

verb (used with object)

4. to make an extensive investigation into: to research a matter thoroughly.

Research Papers

Research papers are papers written by students for a course they are taking. There are two types of research papers: argumentative and analytical.

Scientific Research

Scientific research is the planned and systematic collection, interpretation, and evaluation of data for the express purpose of contributing to the scientific body of knowledge. The data collected can be observational or experimental. The causality of the relationships can be descriptive or analytical. The interpretation and evaluation of the data from a scientific research project are published as articles in peer-reviewed journals. The raw data is often published as an addendum.

Scientific research requires a foundational understanding of the researcher's general science discipline and a detailed understanding of prior scientific research in their specific discipline. In this way, scientific research depends on the ability to write an analytical research paper which includes an exhaustive literature search.  The analytical research paper is the first stage of scientific research for a novice researcher. This type of paper can be developed into a research protocol/proposal as a student's foundational and applied skills advance.

General Outline of a Protocol/Proposal

  1. Title
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
    • Research question
    • Objective
    • Hypothesis and prediction
    • Rationale of the project  
  4. Review of literature
    • Literature search that presents:
      • Existing knowledge
      • Prior research similar to the proposed research
    • Innovation, novelty, creativity
    • Gaps the project is intended to fill
    • Discussion of major variables that will be measured
  5. Relevance/significance of the study
    • Intellectual merit - advance knowledge and understanding within the researcher's field or across different fields
    • Broader impact - benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes
  6. Plan of study & methodology
    • Experimental design
    • Sampling methods
    • How the accumulated data will be analyzed, evaluated, and interpreted
    • Expenses (financial and time)
  7. References

Scientific Method & Experimental Design

Biology is the science of life.  It is a field of study that addresses the extraordinary complexities of how individual organisms and species come into existence, perpetuate themselves, change, and interact with one-another other and their environment.   Science is both a system for acquiring knowledge and the cumulative body of knowledge acquired using that system.  

The scientific method is a hypothesis-prediction approach to acquiring scientific knowledge about the natural world.  The five key elements of this method are as follows:

  1. Make an observation.
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Form a hypothesis to answer the question.
  4. Make a prediction from the hypothesis.
  5. Design and conduct an experiment that will test the hypothesis.
Observation

An observation is a note, record, of an occurrence, or phenomenon. Typically observations are thought as having been made “with our own eyes,” in science, observations may be made directly (by seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting, or smelling) or indirectly using tools.  

Question

A question must address something that can ultimately be measured. This means that the question has to be answerable – one that can be used to propose a set of hypotheses that can be tested and a set of predictions against which one can compare the results from the study.

Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a tentative statement that proposes a possible explanation to the question and states a generalized relationship between two variables. Scientists use their knowledge of past events to develop a general principle or explanation to help predict future events. The general principle is called a hypothesis. The type of reasoning involved is called inductive reasoning (deriving a generalization from specific details). To be useful, a hypothesis must be...

  • Concrete: Based on defined variables.
  • Testable: Procedures must be available to test it.
  • Falsifiable: Able to be refuted.
Prediction

A prediction is a specific statement about what will occur (i.e. the outcome or pattern that will be observed) in a particular research investigation (e.g., an experiment). A prediction is what is expected if the hypothesis is true. If the hypothesis is true, then the data will show certain relationships. A prediction is created using deductive reasoning (generating a specific expectation from a generalization). It is the way the hypothesis will be accepted or rejected when compared with the collected data. Predictions should tell you the variables that you are going to measure and the type of relationship between those variables (positive, negative or neutral). Think about them in terms of the ultimate graph of the relationship that you hope to observe. If you write your predictions but you do not know what data you need to collect, it means that your predictions are not well proposed.

Scientific data consist of empirical observations (e.g., measurements) from variables. Data are observed and recorded for entities called experimental units (EUs) or sampling units. To acquire data concerning plant height (a variable) we measure the heights of individual plants (EUs). Human EUs are generally called subjects. An EU can be measured with respect to one or many variables, and can be measured at one or at many points in time.

When hypotheses and predictions are created the variables understudy need to be determined. A simplified description of variables is as follows;  predictor variable (causes or affects the response variable) and response variable (influenced by the predictor variable). As the name suggests, a predictor variable is the variable that serves as the basis on which the predictions are made.  Predictor variables are also known as explanatory or independent variables; are denoted by an X and are shown on the horizontal x-axis.  The response variable is the variable whose value we want to predict and whose variance we want to explain and account for.  Response variables are also known as dependent variables; are denoted by a Y and are shown on the vertical y-axis.   Both variables can be either categorical or quantitative. Categories have no numeric meaning; for example you can group individuals as male or female. Quantitative variables have numerical values with consistent intervals and they can be further divided into continuous (infinite number of values between two points) or discrete (a finite number of values between two given points).

The Many C's of Storytelling: How is conducting biological research similar to writing a story?

Exposition = Introduction
Where the character and setting of the story are introduced.

1. Characters = those involved in the story. The characters in research can be thought of as the predictor and response variables. They, like a character in a story, need to be clearly defined.

2. Concept & Context = an abstract idea and the circumstances that form the setting for the idea (or an event, statement) allowing the idea to be fully understood and assessed. This part of story is akin to what we think of as the first three steps in the scientific method. An observation leads to a question which leads to the construction of a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a tentative statement that proposes a possible explanation to the question and states a generalized relationship between two variables. Scientists use their knowledge of past events to develop a general principle or explanation to help predict future events. The general principle is called a hypothesis. The type of reasoning involved is called inductive reasoning (deriving a generalization from specific details). To be useful, a hypothesis must be.

  • Concrete: Based on defined variables.
  • Testable: Procedures must be available to test it.
  • Falsifiable: Able to be refuted.
Rising Action = Methods
Where the main character faces a series of conflicts.

3. Causality, Complications, & Conflict = the relationship between cause and effect presented by the concept/context as a foundation for the circumstances that complicates the characters' activities and may lead to conflict. To continue the story, we need to design an experiment to test the constructed hypothesis and we need to make a prediction of what the outcome of the experiment should be if our hypothesis is true. A prediction is a specific statement about what will occur (i.e. the outcome or pattern that will be observed) in a particular research investigation (e.g., an experiment). A prediction is what is expected if the hypothesis is true. If the hypothesis is true, then the data will show certain relationships. A prediction is created using deductive reasoning (generating a specific expectation from a generalization). It is the way the hypothesis will be accepted or rejected when compared with the collected data. Predictions should tell you the variables that you are going to measure and the type of relationship between those variables (positive, negative or neutral). If you write your predictions but you do not know what data you need to collect, it means that your predictions are not well proposed.

Climax = Results
The turning point of the story in which the value of the story is tested to its highest degree.
&
Falling Action & Denouement = Discussion & Conclustion
The events leading to the end of the story.

4. Consequence & Conclusion = resolve the complications and conflict by conducting the experiment and presenting the results. The results are the climax of our experiment. During the climax of a story we learn the outcome of the character’s activities. In research, we are able to see if our hypothesis was true and we can then discuss the outcome by connecting it to the background content we presented in the introduction. We also discuss new research questions that the experiment brought to light.