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SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS
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Each time you carry out an investigation check the following points.

Planning

  • Have I written a short concise introduction?
  • Have I stated my aim or objective (research question)? Be precise.
  • If it is valid, have I written my hypothesis (a justified prediction)?

Method

  • Which variable will I change (the independent variable)?
  • Which variable will I measure/observe (dependent variable)?- How will I measure it and how often?
  • Which other variables do I need to control (which ones will affect the experiment)?
  • How many trials do I need to be sure of my results?
  • What equipment and materials will I need?
  • What safety factors should I bear in mind?

Results/Data

  • How accurate must I be?
  • How should I present them? (annotated drawings, tables, prose)
  • Where are the errors in my measurements/observations and how big are they likely to be?
  • Did I see anything else happen during the investigation that needs to be described?

Processing and Analysis of Results

  • Do I leave them as they are?
  • Do I calculate a change, a proportion/percentage, an average or other statistical value?
  • Do I present them as a table or graphically?
  • If graphically, what sort of graph is best? What are the conventions?
  • Do I need to analyse the graph to obtain a result?

Discussion of results

  • What do the results show? (Are there any trends?)
  • What can I interpret from the results? (Explain them in a systematic way.)
  • Are the results consistent with what I expected?
  • Can I explain any unexpected results?
  • Compare with literature values where appropriate
  • What are the sources of error: in my method, in the manipulation, in the analysis?
  • What improvements could be made?
  • Do I need to suggest a new hypothesis to account for the results?
  • How could I take the investigation further?

Style

  • Keep it impersonal (eg "The tubes were left for 10 minutes to incubate" instead of "I left the tubes for 10 minutes to incubate")
  • Use labelled or annotated diagrams, if necessary, to show the experimental set up.
  • Use subheadings to organise your report (Aim, Hypothesis, Method, Results etc)

Taken from Further Investigations in Biology (Vol. 1, 2, 3 and 4), Billiet, Casalis, Gaurenne & James, IBID Press.

 

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© Paul Billiet 2014