AGR*3450 Research Methods in Agricultural Science

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The following description is for the course offering in Fall 2019 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 students with an opportunity to enhance their understanding of the principles and processes of agricultural research. The course will provide students with a foundation in critical thinking, experimental design and data analysis that will be applicable to independent research projects and graduate studies. Students will also explore the practical requirements and limitations of scientific research. Laboratory and field safety, animal care, intellectual property and research ethics will be reviewed. Students will be required to practice both oral presentation and writing skills as core components of their evaluation.

Pre-Requisite(s): Completion of 7.50 credits including (1 of GEOG*2460, STAT*2040 , STAT*2060, STAT*2080)

Restriction(s): Enrollment in the BSC(AGR), BBRM, BSC.ABIO, BSC.PLSC or Minor in Agriculture.


Teaching Assistant:

Karen Francisco

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Fall

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to Web Advisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

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

  1. Describe the key components of scientific research, including the formulation of research questions, development of testable hypotheses and predictions, gathering and evaluating evidence and deriving and presenting conclusions.

  2. Define scientific inference and explain the use of inductive and deductive reasoning and the limitations of both.

  3. Differentiate between quantitative and qualitative observations and explain the concepts of reliability, accuracy and precision as they relate to measurement.

  4. Explain the consequences of variability and error with specific reference to Type I and Type II errors.

  5. Describe the principles underlying the design and implementation of experiments, including the function and use of controls, replication and randomization.

  6. Describe observer bias and the management of bias.

  7. Differentiate between field and laboratory experiments.

  8. Construct valid arguments and use evidence correctly and effectively to support their conclusions.

  9. Explain and apply appropriate methods of data presentation.

  10. Explain how scientific findings are formally communicated including the peer-review process and the key components of scientific papers and publications.

  11. Effectively and systematically access information from the scientific literature.

  12. Critically evaluate scientific communications, including publications and presentations.

  13. Describe how research is conducted in academic, government and industrial settings, including research funding and accountability.

Lecture Content:

Topics to be covered in lectures include:

  1. How We Know What We Know
  2. Understanding Research, The Scientific Method, and Hypothesis Development
  3. Reasoning
  4. Experimental Hypotheses and The Scientific Cycle
  5. Variation
  6. Variability and Sampling Bias
  7. Replication, Repetition, Observer Bias
  8. Type I and Type II Error Rates
  9. Controls and Randomization
  10. Experimental Design
  11. t-tests
  12. Introduction to ANOVA
  13. Means Separation
  14. Correlation and Regression
  15. Non-parametric Data
  16. Data Presentation
  17. Funding Sources for Research
  18. Scientific Writing – Organization and Style
  19. Scientific Writing – The Abstract
  20. Communicating Results to Non-Scientists
* Specific topics may change throughout the semester
Labs & Seminars:

Topics to be covered in labs include:

  • Data collection
  • Hypothesis hunt
  • Plan an experiment
  • Observer bias / randomization
  • ANOVA calculations
  • Regression analysis

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test
Contribution to Final Grade

In-Class Quizzes


Lab summaries


Group Experimental Plan




Analysis of a Scientific Paper


Group Research Paper


Final Exam




Final examination:

Please refer to Web Advisor for exam schedule and location.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:

There is no required text for the course.  All course materials will be provided via the CourseLink web site, as .pdf documents.  Students are encouraged to download and print lecture notes in advance of each lecture.  The web site will also be used to post announcements regarding lab schedules and assignments, and should be checked often.

Recommended Texts:

Additional suggested online resources will be indicated in the relevant notes for each lecture topic.

Students wishing to undertake additional reading are encouraged to examine the following:

  • Holmes, D., P. Moody and D. Dine.  2011.  Research Methods for the Life Sciences (Second Edition).  Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Battersby, M.  2010.  Is that a Fact?  Broadview Press, Peterborough.
  • Matthews, J.R. and R.W. Matthews.  1996.  Successful Scientific Writing – A Step-by-Step Guide for the Biological and Medical Sciences.  Cambridge University Press, New York.
  • Lee, J.A..  2000.  The Scientific Endeavour – A Primer on Scientific Principles and Practice.  Addison Wesley Longman, San Francisco.
  • Ruxton, G.D. and N. Colegrave.  2011.  Experimental Design for the Life Sciences (Third Edition).  Oxford University Press, New York.
Lab Manual:

All written materials for the labs will be provided via the CourseLink web site, as .pdf documents.

Other Resources:

Every student must have a scientific calculator for use during quizzes and exams.

Field Trips:


Additional Costs:


Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

Any assignment submitted late is assessed a late penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each day or part of a day that the assignment is overdue.  Assignments submitted online are automatically given a time stamp indicating the date and time of submission. Exceptions will be made where academic consideration has been granted.

Makeup quizzes are not administered, so students who miss quizzes for valid reasons will have their grade assessed based on the quizzes that they took.

Course Policy on Group Work: 

For the group laboratory assignments (Experimental Plan, Written Report, and Lab Presentation), all members of the group will be graded equally.  Students who have concerns about the level of participation of any of their group members should try to work these out amongst themselves.  Failing a resolution of the problem, these concerns should be brought to the attention of the instructor prior to the assignment being graded. 

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor.  When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

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The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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