Scientific Method Research Project

What Is this project?

In chapter one you learned the basic parts and functioning of the scientific method. You also learned that scientists publish their work in peer-reviewed journals. In this project you will plan, conduct, and write up a research project just like professional biologist do when working at colleges or universities. The project will start in BIO 211 and be completed when you are in BIO 212. While in this class (BIO 211) you must complete the planning and literature review sections of the project and develop your research hypotheses. You will then design your experiment so it will be ready to perform while you are in BIO 212.

You will conduct a literature review to make sure you understand your chosen topicand know what work has already been conducted on this area of biology. From the information you find you will develop a problem statement that will allow you to identify hypotheses capable of being tested to answering your problem. In order to answer your problem statement you will develop both a testable research hypothesis and a null hypothesis.


You will conduct a literature review to make sure you understand your chosen topicand know what work has already been conducted on this area of biology. From the information you find you will develop a problem statement that will allow you to identify hypotheses capable of being tested to answering your problem. In order to answer your problem statement you will develop both a testable research hypothesis and a null hypothesis.

Topic:  This is the “big picture” so to speak that your question comes from.  Start big, then narrow it down to the main point you wish to explore. 

What do we know about it?  Find at least four sources that explore this topic.

Include the rationale for the study of your topic. Start with a description of the subject (in your own words), and then provide a historical perspective on the work already done. You should also include potential benefits, uses, and examples. You should include background information on the subjects you are using together with any information on their importance to this study. The introduction should not express your personal views or thoughts; instead it should summarize in your own words the work already done on this topic. You must use at least four primary references (peer-reviewed original articles). See the Works Cited section in the “How to write a lab report” document so that you cite your references correctly.

What is the main question/problem statement?

Describe the problem that your experiment is designed to answer. What is it that your work will tell us about? Your problem statement should be clear, insightful, and relevant to the study of biology.

What is a possible answer to the question?  Write this as a hypothesis.

Before generating your hypotheses make sure you read the “How To Write Hypotheses” document on the class web site. Use the information contained in that document to help you create your hypotheses. You may wish to create several hypotheses and then select the best one for testing.

Remember that your research does not have to lead to you accepting your H1 for you to earn a passing grade for this assignment. It is perfectly acceptable to create a hypothesis that with testing is shown to be false. The purpose of the experiment is to determine if the hypothesis is true or false, not to back up your initial thoughts.

Once you have created your hypothesis you should share it with me and get my approval before moving on to the next section. If your hypothesis is not approved you will have to redo this step!

HYPOTHESIS:  Submitted by 2nd week of BIO 211


You will provide a works cited list. These are the papers you have read and where the ideas in your introduction came from. You must cite these works to show where your information came from. Make sure to use the correct format to list all of the literature you used when writing your report. Information on how to do this is in the “How to write a lab report” document on the class web site.   You must still demonstrate your understanding of the topic and the research methods used to study it by reporting on, and citing, peer-reviewed scientific papers.


INTRODUCTION: Completed and submitted by 4th week of BIO 211


You would like to know if your hypothesis is true so you must design an experiment that can be conducted at home to test your hypothesis. Remember that you must identify and control all the variables involved in your experiment. You also need to consider the number of treatments, and replicates, needed to produce a data set that can be investigated using the appropriate statistics to determine whether to accept or reject your null hypothesis.

Lastly remember that you will have to run your experiment during Bio 212. That means that you have limited time to complete the experiment so plan accordingly. Do not design an experiment that takes 10 weeks to return any results as you have to complete the entire project (including the write-up) in only 8 weeks!

As you write up your report you should review the rubric posted on the class Moodle site. The rubric lists the criteria used to grade your project and will allow you to make sure you have covered all necessary items in your project.

Consider the following while planning your methods:

  • Describe the experiment/research possibility
  • What materials will you need for this experiment?
  • What are the variables you will be looking at?

                           1.  independent variables

                           2.  dependent variables

Statistical Analysis

A number of statistical tests are available for testing your data. As this is not a statistics course and we have limited time you will analyze your results using a t-test. This commonly used statistical test calculates the probability that the mean of one group is not different than the mean of a second group. Your experimental design should therefore fit the basic requirements of the t-test. We will have done work on t-test work in the class and an Excel spreadsheet for t-tests is available on the class Moodle website.

The following documents can also be found on the class web site and will be helpful when planning on how to conduct a t-test on your data.

“Descriptive Statistics, Graphing, Statistical Analysis” – Scroll down to the heading “Statistical Analysis” near the bottom.

“Some Examples of Statistical Analysis Using a t-test”

Once you have considered all of the above, you will need to write your Methods.  Remember, this section should ONLY describe the materials you use and the experiment you perform.  It should be written in first person and be thorough enough that someone else could exactly replicate your experiment.

FINAL DRAFT of Introduction, Methods, and Works Cited DUE BY THE END OF THE 7TH WEEK OF CLASS (BIO 211)

Your completed report will be submitted to Turnitin via the class Moodle web site by the date given on the class calendar.  This website compares your paper to other written works (even your own!) and provides a similarity index.  You want to make sure that nothing in your paper is a direct quote or is copied and pasted from another source.  Remember, aside from general knowledge (the type found in textbooks) you must cite the source of your information, even if you do not quote the source directly.  A good rule of thumb is:  If someone wants to double-check the accuracy of your information, what source would they go to?  Remember, excessive similarity and/or direct quoting, copy-pasting can result in an “F” for this assignment.

Turnitin will point out problems of similarity (plagiarism) and grammar so you should check this prior to the due date and make corrections as needed. You can review and revise any time before the due date. After that, you will have to deal with any repercussions. Failure to submit, review, revise and resubmit before the due date will result in a failing grade

Research Project Topics

The following are merely suggestions.  You are welcome to use one of these or to come up with another topic.


  1.  Choose a relatively “natural” or unaltered area and an area that is modified for recreational or agricultural use.  Stake out an equivalent area in each and identify/record both number of species of plants, insects, animals, etc) and the quantity of each.  Compare these two sites, and apply your findings to the relationship between habitat and biodiversity.
  2.  Examine the relationship between water availability and biodiversity in an ecosystem. 
  3. Examine the relationship between water quality and biodiversity in an ecosystem.
  4. Determine whether competitive exclusion is occurring in specific area.
  5. Examine the process of plant succession in a series of areas.

Feel free to discuss other ideas with your instructor!

Plant biology

  1.  Allelopathy
  2. Examine the effects of a pollutant OR temperature OR water availability on seed germination.
  3. Examine the effects of a pollutant OR temperature OR water availability on plant growth.
  4. Test whether certain plants are indicative of specific soil types.

Feel free to discuss other ideas with your instructor!

Animal Biology

Note:  You CANNOT use vertebrates in your study unless it is indirectly (observation in wild/legal habitat such as a zoo/through footprints or scat).  Vertebrates such as mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians are regulated and there are many ethical considerations. 

  1.  Evaluate biodiversity of insect larvae in soil OR aquatic system(s) OR decaying logs, etc.
  2. Identify and evaluate quantity and diversity of animal prints in various ecosystems.  What does this tell you about ecosystem characteristics and biodiversity?
  3. Look at correlation of fly larvae numbers and specific environmental conditions (dry, moist, wet, hot, cool, etc)

Feel free to discuss other ideas with your instructor!


NOTE:  Some fungi are poisonous or toxic.  Therefore, use gloves when handling mushrooms or other fungi in the wild.

  1.  Diversity of fungi in relation to different environmental conditions (moist wood, dry sand, moist sand, etc)
  2. Competitive exclusion amongst fungi and plants

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