AGR*4450 Research Project I

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2023 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

This course provides for the independent study of a current topic in agricultural or environmental science designed to encourage senior undergraduates to conduct research. The course includes participation in meetings organized by the coordinator and working with a faculty advisor to develop a research project, formulate hypotheses, and conduct a thorough literature search related to the proposed work. Students will carry out independent library research, potentially conduct preliminary research, prepare a written research proposal and make a presentation to other students on the research plan and preliminary results, if applicable. Students should make arrangements with both the faculty advisor and the course coordinator at least one semester before starting the course. The course will normally be followed by AGR*4460 to provide 2 semesters to complete the research project.
10.00 credits

Permission of the course coordinator (contingent on the availability and agreement of a faculty advisor). BSC.Agr or BSC or BBRM, 70% cumulative average


Teaching Assistant:


Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Fall
  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please consult WebAdvisor

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a practical understanding of the research process, including the design, development and implementation of an experimental protocol.
  2. Demonstrate effective time and project management strategies.
  3. Demonstrate appropriate record-keeping skills.\
  4. Formulate a specific research question, develop testable hypotheses to investigate the research question and propose an appropriate approach to testing their hypotheses.
  5. Understand and implement the basic elements of experimental design, including the use of controls, randomization and replication.
  6. Defend their choice of experimental methodology and statistical analysis based on relevant criteria.
  7. Analyze the potential limitations of their methodology and assess the impact of these limitations.
  8. Critically evaluate the context of their research project, including the relevant scientific literature.
  9. Design and produce a scientific poster suitable for presentation at a scientific conference or similar venue.
  10. Verbally present their proposal accurately, succinctly and compellingly using a poster as a visual aid.
  11. Prepare a formal written research proposal, including the correct use of bibliographic citation.
  12. Critically comment on their personal research experience through written self-reflection.
Additional Expectation

In addition it is expected that students will become familiar with the specific topic under investigation and the methodologies used to investigate this topic.

Lecture Content:

The first meeting will be an information session describing the components of AGR*4450 course. Each student will provide a brief, three to five (3-5) minute description of their intended project and share their plan for the semester.

The second meeting will provide students with the best practices involved in writing a scientific research proposal.

The third meeting will focus on how to conduct a literature review. There will also be a group discussion on the best practices in research, including citation styles.

The fourth meeting will introduce students to data analysis.

The fifth meeting will focus on the preparation of the final poster presentation. The marking scheme for the final poster presentation will also be discussed.

The sixth meeting will be an informal class poster session.

Labs & Seminars:


Course Assignments and Tests:

Course Assignments and Marking Scheme

The course instructor must receive a signed, printed copy of the marking scheme and project outline by no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2023 (Please use appended Form A). Late submission without a reasonable excuse will result in a 10% deduction from the final mark. The outline does not need to be longer than a title with a few descriptive words to a paragraph. The total length must not exceed one page.

The student and the research advisor must provide a list of the assignments or other gradable components the student will submit during the semester (Please use appended Form A). At least 20% of the final grade must be submitted to the student prior to the 40th day of class (March 10, 2022). The course instructor will review the outline and marking scheme and will email both the student and the advisor approval or a request for specific changes; changes will only be requested

There must be a minimum of FOUR (4) gradable components. Each component must be named, have a short description of its nature, a due date, and a credit value assigned. This document is to be signed and dated by both the advisor and the student.

The following THREE components are required for all projects:

1.  A formal research proposal (worth a minimum of 25% of the final mark; Marked by the Advisor). The research proposal should be a minimum of 1000 words in length, exclusive of references. The proposal must include the following content:

  • The objective of the research, including the research question to be addressed.
  • The rationale for the research proposed, including appropriate background information.
  • The hypotheses (propositions) to be tested and the reasoning upon which they are based.
  • The specific prediction(s) derived from the hypothesis.
  • A detailed description of the proposed experimental design and protocol, including data analysis.
  • A rationale for the proposed experimental design and procedures
  • A critical commentary on the potential sources of error and other limitations of the proposed method.

All sources must be cited. A list of references must be included. STUDENTS MUST DISCUSS THE DETAILED FORM AND CONTENT OF THE PROPOSAL WITH THEIR ADVISOR. A weighting of >25% is acceptable. Submission of a draft version for separate grading is acceptable.

2.   A WRITTEN REFLECTION ON THE RESEARCH EXPERIENCE (Worth 5% of final mark; Marked by the Instructor). A short (no more than 1000 words), informal report on the personal insights into the research process the student has gained during the semester. Discussion should include:

  • What has been learned about the process of research?
  • What problems have been solved and why was this significant?
  • What do you feel was your major accomplishment this semester and why?
  • What do you value most from the experience and why?
  • What was the most useful experience you gained through the experience and why?
  • What insights have you gained about the limitations of the research enterprise?

The assignment will be graded on clarity of presentation and organization and the effective use of evidence and examples. This assignment will be graded by the Course Instructor (Dr. Kalischuk) and must be submitted electronically as a WORD or PDF document by e-mail to prior to April 4, 2023 at 4:00 pm. Late submissions will not be accepted without medical or other appropriate supporting documentation.

3.  A final poster presentation (worth 30% of final mark; Marked by the Advisor; will be scheduled during final exam period). A formal presentation of the poster and project results will be scheduled individually with the student and his or her advisor at the end of each semester.

The poster must minimally include the following content:

  • Title
  • Student and Advisor Names and Affiliations
  • Collaborator Names and Affiliations (if appropriate)
  • The objective of the research including the research question to be addressed.
  • The rationale for the research proposed, including appropriate background information.
  • The hypotheses or predictions to be tested and the reasoning upon which they are based.
  • A detailed description of the proposed experimental design and protocol.
  • Acknowledgements (including sources of research support)
  • All sources must be cited on the poster. A list of references must be included.

The poster may present preliminary results. STUDENTS MUST DISCUSS THE DETAILED FORM AND CONTENT OF THE POSTER WITH THEIR ADVISOR. Each student will have 30-40 minutes to present their poster to the Course Instructor and Advisor and to answer questions concerning their poster and project. The size of the poster and method of poster production are left to the discretion of the student and her or his Advisor. No marks will be based on the method of poster production.

4.  Remainder of grade to be determined as per individual learning contract with faculty advisor (40% final mark).

  • Graded by the advisor

Final examination:


Course Resources:

Required Resources


Recommended Resources

Research Principles:

  • Is that a Fact? (2009) Mark Battersby. Broadview Press. ISBN: 978-1551115870.
  • Experimental Design for the Life Sciences. 3.ed. (2010) G. D. Ruxton & N. Colegrave. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN: 978-0199569120.
  • Field and Laboratory Investigations in Agroecology. (2006) Stephen R. Gliessman. CRC Press; 2. Edition. ISBN: 978-0849328466.
  • The Craft of Research. Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. University Of Chicago Press; 3. Edition (2008). ISBN: 978-0226065663.
  • How to Do Ecology: A Concise Handbook. (2006) R. Karban and M. Huntzinger. Princeton University Press. ISBN: 978-0691125770.

Some Useful Statistical References:

  • Statistics: A Very Short Introduction. (2008) David J. Hand. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN: 978-0199233564.
  • Introduction to Statistics for Biology. Trudy A. Watt, Robin H. McCleery, and Tom Hart. Chapman and Hall/CRC; 3. Edition (2007). ISBN: 978-1584886525.
  • Statistics at the Bench: A Step-by-Step Handbook for Biologists. Rebecca W. Doerge and Martina Bremer. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 1. Edition (2009). ISBN: 978-0879698577.
  • Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists. Gerry P. Quinn and Michael J. Keough. Cambridge University Press; 1. Edition (2002). ISBN: 978-0521009768.
  • Biometry: The Principles and Practices of Statistics in Biological Research. Robert Sokal and James Rohlf. W. H. Freeman; 3. Edition (1994). ISBN: 978-0716724117.

Scientific Writing and Publication:

  • From Research to Manuscript: A Guide to Scientific Writing . Michael Jay Katz. Springer; 2. Edition (2009). ISBN: 978-1402094668.
  • How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. Robert A. Day and Barbara Gastel. Greenwood; 6. Edition (2006). ISBN: 978-0313330407.
  • Successful Scientific Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide for the Biological and Medical Sciences. Janice R. Matthews and Robert W. Matthews. Cambridge University Press; 3. Edition (2007). ISBN: 978-0521699273.
  • The Craft of Scientific Writing. Michael Alley. Springer; 3. Edition (1996). ISBN: 978-0387947662.
  • Scientific Papers and Presentations: Navigating Scientific Communication in Today's World. Martha Davis. Academic Press; 2. Edition (2004). ISBN: 9780120884247.
  • Scientific English. Robert A. Day. Greenwood; 2. Edition (1995). ISBN: 978-0897749893.

Course Policies:

Gradable Components

Shortly after the due date of each gradable component, the advisor is to send the student a copy of the grade. This can be sent by e-mail. If the student does not receive a grade in a timely manner, the student should contact the instructor.

Failure of an advisor to supply the instructor with a grade or an explanation will result in a zero grade being assigned for that component (the student and advisor will be notified of this); that zero can be changed upon receipt of a valid grade accompanied by an explanation for why it is late. Alternatively (and preferably) the advisor can contact the instructor in advance of a due date, as soon as the advisor and student recognize a due date is unachievable – on receipt of such a notice, the instructor will discuss with the student and advisor what would be an acceptable alternate (date or assignment). However, the instructor may, upon the request of either the advisor or the student, insist upon meeting the original, agreed-upon criteria.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students  to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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