CONDUCTING A SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION

 

All scientific research originates because of either a curiosity or a need to solve a problem. After gradation, you may have the freedom to select your own problems to solve (such as in the world of academia) or you may be asked to solve a problem in the most expedient and cost efficient manner (such as in the world of industry). Both as a student and on the job, there are guidelines that can be followed to aid in conducting a research project. Below is a general outline that may help you with your project. Remember this is just a generalized outline and each project is different

 

A. Selecting a General Topic

  1. Select a topic that interests you.
  2. Read about the topic to discover areas that need further investigation.
  3. Narrow the topic to make it more manageable.
  4. Consider time, budget, and resource constraints when selecting a project.

B. Literature Review

  1. Survey the literature related to a general topic to familiarize yourself with problems or possible questions that need further investigation.

C. Problem Definition and Question Selection

  1. Based on the literature review, select a specific problem or question related to the general topic that you wish to study.

D. Statement of Hypothesis

  1. A hypothesis is a statement of the expected outcome of your investigation (an answer to your research question based upon personal observations, literature review, etc.).

E. Selecting a Research Plan

  1. Experimental Research (research in which variables are manipulated)
  2. a. Variables:

    Manipulated variable: the factor that is varied in an experiment.

     

    Responding variable: this is what happens in an experiment due to the factors that you change.

     

    Constant variable: all factors that are kept the same in the experiment so that it is valid.

     

    Control: a sample in which no variables are manipulated.

    b. Study Resources:

    Determine the kind of people, facilities, and materials to be applied to the study.

    c. Assumptions:

    Determine the major assumptions necessary for meaningful sampling, observations, and analysis of results.

    d. Definitions:

    Define the elements, components, and subtopics to be studied.

    e. Statistics:

    Determine the type of statistics to be used that will help in analysis of results.

    f. Sample size:

    The type of statistical analysis to be used will determine the type and amount of data needed to yield meaningful results. The sample size should be determined before data collection begins.

    g. Variance:

    The amount of variance and expected differences of means of populations (depending on the project) should be determined prior to data collection. This is based primarily on the literature review.

    h. Replication:

    If enough data is collected for valid interpretation of results, other people should be able to replicate your results under the same conditions that your project was conducted.

    i. Preliminary study:

    In some projects it is necessary to conduct preliminary experiments to determine if the project is feasible.

  3. Non-experimental Research: research in which no variables are manipulated. Follow steps (b.) through (i.) above.

F. Data Collection

  1. Log Book. In all research projects, a detailed log should be kept of all activities undertaken.

a. Date and Time:

Always record the date and times at which the work was conducted.

b. Activities:

Always record all steps and procedures used when working on a project.

c. Environment:

Always record environmental parameters when collecting data (record temperature and weather conditions when in the field; when in the laboratory, it might be useful to record room temperature as this may influence lab results).

d. Results:

Always record results obtained.

G. Data Reduction and Analysis

  1. Once data is collected, arrange it in such a manner that will help you interpret results.

H. Interpretation of Results

  1. State the implications that your results infer.
  2. Determine what other questions need to be investigated to better understand the problem at hand.
  3. If the results were not expected, what are some possible explanations?
  4. Always state conclusions in reference to the original hypotheses.