AGR*4450 Research Project I

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This course was designed to be an intensive introduction to planning and conducting research for senior undergraduate students. Each course carries a 1.0 credit weighting denoting the level of effort the students should expect to expend. Students must expect and be willing to devote at least 20 hours/ week in order to successfully complete this project course.  Each individual project has its own needs, and a student must recognize and accept the demands of the work agreed upon with her or his advisor. Because individual projects differ so markedly, reflecting their discipline, the activities and evaluation methods may differ among projects. It is important that each student and advisor have clearly delineated the objectives and goals of the project. The student will have specific gradable components with specific due dates defined, which ordinarily will be developed with the advisor at the beginning of the semester. The advisor must have the opportunity to evaluate the student’s progress and performance during the semester.

 

Instructors:

Teaching Assistant:

TBA

Credit Weight:

1.0

Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture

Campus:

Guelph

Semester Offering:

  • 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.

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 (3) 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 provide a presentation 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 include a discussion of experimental design approaches and statistical 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:

n/a

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 14, 2022 (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 paragraph. It must not exceed one page, and must clearly state the overall objective of the student’s research program, and explain in general terms how the student expects to accomplish this.

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 11, 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 if it appears that the project or gradable components are unsuitable for this course.

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 1500 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 have you learnt about the process of research?
  • What problems have you 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 (M. Kalischuk) and must be submitted electronically as a WORD or PDF document by e-mail to mkalisch@uoguelph.ca prior to April 5, 2022 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 40-50 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:

n/a

Course Resources:

Recommended Reading Material

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: 978-0120884247.
  • Scientific English. Robert A. Day. Greenwood; 2. Edition (1995). ISBN: 978-0897749893.

Course Policies:

Other Course Information:

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.

Updated COVID-19 Notice

Students wishing to take AGR*4450 are strongly encouraged to focus on activities that can be done remotely and minimize physical presence on campus.  This course is normally limited to preparatory research, including literature reviews, preparation of a research proposal and presentations that do not involve the physical presence of students on campus.  Due to changing impacts of COVID-19 the continuity of access to lab facilities cannot be guaranteed for the entirety of the semester and students and faculty should take this into account in their plans and provide for alternatives if the situation changes.

In the case that students will engage in research activities in a lab on campus or in the field, advisors will need to submit a Research Management Plan (RMP) to their chairs for approval or revise their existing RMP to include the project student, outlining what the student would be doing, including safety protocols.  They will also need to ensure the student takes the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) COVID-19 training module through Courselink before coming onto campus for their research.  A confirmation of RMP approval must be sent from the advisor to the course instructor. 

 

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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For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email sas@uoguelph.ca or visit the Student Accessibility Services website: http://www.uoguelph.ca/csd/.

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