AGR*4460 Research Project II

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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. Each individual project has its own needs, and a student must recognize and accept the demands of the work agreed upon with the research 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 has the right to 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:

.0

Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture

Campus:

Guelph

Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

AGR*4460 has six scheduled class meetings during the W22 semester. Meetings will be AD-S Virtual and/or in-person on Tuesdays from 1:30 - 2:20 pm (classroom TBD). Meetings dates are: Jan. 11 (Introduction to the course), Feb. 1 (Writing a research report): Dates TBA (Library Research, Statistics, and Creating a Scientific Poster), and April 5 (Informal poster session).
 

Learning outcomes:

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

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 as well as the collection and analysis of data.
  2. Demonstrate and utilize effective time management strategies. 
  3. Demonstrate appropriate record-keeping skills.
  4. Analyse the potential limitations of their methodology and assess the impact of these limitations. 
  5. Analyse the potential sources of variability in their study and assess the impact of this variability.
  6. Understand and implement an appropriate method of statistical analysis. 
  7. Critically evaluate their research results in the context of the relevant scientific literature.
  8. Design and produce a scientific poster suitable for presentation at a scientific conference or similar venue.
  9. Verbally present their results and conclusions accurately, succinctly and compellingly using a poster as a visual aid.
  10. Prepare a formal research report, including the correct use of figures and tables, graphs and bibliographic citation.

Lecture Content:

The first meeting will be an information session describing the components of the AGR*4460 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 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 third meeting will provide students with the best practices involved in writing a scientific research report. The marking guideline for the final research report will also be discussed.

The fourth meeting will include a discussion of experimental design approaches and statistical analyses with Michelle Edwards, the OAC Statistician Consultant.

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:

The course instructor, Melanie Kalischuk, must receive a signed copy of the Marking Scheme (Form A) and project outline 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 percent 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 scientific advisor need to provide a list of the assignments or other gradable components that the student will submit during the semester (Please use appended Form A). At least one grading component worth a minimum of 20% must be submitted and graded prior to the 40th day of class (March 11, 2022). The course instructor, Melanie Kalischuk, will review the outline and marking scheme and email both the student and the advisor a letter of 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 specific due date, and a credit value assigned. This document is to be signed and dated by both the advisor and the student.

Assessment Details
Formal Research Report (graded by the advisor) (35%)
Due: Specify date on marking scheme Form A (i.e., a date at the end of semester/classes) The research report should be a minimum of 2000 words (8-10 pages, double spaced) in
length, exclusive of references.

The report must include the following content:

  • The objective of the research, including the research question that was 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 rationale for the proposed experimental design and procedures.
  • A detailed description of the experimental design and protocol, including data analysis.
  • The potential sources of error and other limitations of the proposed method.
  • Results, including appropriate measures of variability.
  • A Discussion of the results in terms of the initial hypotheses.
  • A discussion of the practical significance and reasonableness of your findings.
  • A discussion of the results in the context of existing information on the topic - how do your results compare - why do they differ?
  • A critical commentary on the limitations of the research: What are the possible sources of error? What couldn't you show? What would you like to do differently? What would you suggest as a next step in investigating the problem?

All sources (including methods) must be cited. A list of references must be included.

STUDENTS MUST DISCUSS THE DETAILED FORM AND CONTENT OF THE REPORT WITH THEIR ADVISOR. A weighting of >35% is acceptable. Submission of a draft version for separate grading is acceptable.

A Written Reflection on the Research Experience (Graded by the instructor) (5%)
Due:Tue, Apr 5, 2022, 4:00 PM
A short (minimum 1000 words; maximum 2000 words), informal report on the personal insights into the research process the student has gained during the semester. Your discussion should address the following questions: 

  1. What have you learnt about the process of research?
  2. What insights have you gained about the limitations of the research enterprise?
  3. What do you feel was your major accomplishment this semester and why?
  4. What was the most useful experience you gained through the experience and why? 
  5. What do you value most about the experience and why?
  6. What insights have you gained about your relationship to the research process? How did you come to this insight? 

The assignment will be graded on clarity of presentation and organization, and the effective use of evidence and specific examples.

This assignment will be graded by the course instructor (Melanie Kalischuk) and must be submitted electronically as a word or pdf document by e-mail to mkalisch@uoguelph.ca prior to the due date (April 5 at 4:00 pm). Late submissions will not be accepted without medical or other appropriate supporting documentation.

Final Poster Presentation (Graded by the advisor) (30%)
Date: Scheduled individually during exam period with the student and advisor, TBD: Virtual AD-S (MS Teams) or in-person

The poster presentation is worth 30 percent of final mark (10 percent for the poster; 20 percent for the presentation and discussion). A formal presentation of the poster and project results will be scheduled individually with the student and the 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)
  • Relevant background information.
  • The objective of the research and the hypothesis that was tested
  • A summary of the methods
  • The results (presented as tables or graphs, with appropriate statistical
    analysis)
  • A discussion of the implications, limitations and significance of the results
  • A summary of your conclusions
  • Acknowledgements (including sources of research support
  • All sources must be cited on the poster and must include a list of references.

The poster may present incomplete 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.

Remainder of grade to be determined as per individual learning contact with faculty advisor (30%)

Final examination:

N/A

Course Resources:

Recommended Resources

Research Principals (Textbook)
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 (Other)
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 (Lab Manual)
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.

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:

Updated COVID-19 Notice

Students wishing to take AGR*4460 are strongly encouraged to complete all activities that can be done remotely at home and minimize physical presence 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.

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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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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