Generating Ideas for an Independent Project
Finding an idea
Tom Susman '04 collecting water samples for a project done with Emily Ruffing on the presence of antibiotic
resistance in Escherichia coli found in local streams
|Part of the the excitement embodied in science is based on a sense of discovery. Scientists are constantly revising
their ideas as new knowledge becomes available and old hypotheses are rejected in favor of new ones. But how do
scientists find questions to investigate? Where do new ideas come from?
Often new ideas grow out of a novel way of looking at the same system. Rapid advances in technology have made it
possible to look for patterns in new ways, but new ideas can also be generated by taking ideas from two different
areas of study and looking at them in combination.
Your challenge is to come up with an idea that can be developed into a five week independent project.
- find an area(s) of interest
- do you want to work at the molecular, cellular, organismal or ecological level?
- do you want to work in the field or the laboratory?
- explore potential organisms readily available at Kenyon
- explore topics suggested by instructors - topics list
- browse selected journals
- chose an experimental system that is relatively easy to work with and does not involve complex techniques with
a steep learning curve
- NOW click here to submit your ideas. In class you will continue to
develop your preliminary proposal.
- discuss your idea with your instructor or other faculty
- do some background reading to see what type of research has already been done - journal
- are the methods feasible for a five week project?
- does the author suggest future studies?
- what are the unanswered questions?
- think about how the ideas in several papers are related - can you design a novel project around them?
Once you have the area and organism narrowed down, choose a question that you think
you can answer.
- Define the null hypothesis and then try to list all the possible alternate hypotheses.
- Consider how to design the experiment so you can eliminate one or more of the alternate hypotheses.
- As you consider the design think about the type of data you would need to collect to support/refute your hypotheses.
- Determine what statistical test(s) would be appropriate.
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