Independent Project Phase 1: Project Development
THEME: Things I Always Wondered About Introduction: You are assigned the task of developing and implementing a project related to the theme listed above that incorporates use of the scientific method, as detailed in Chapter 1 of your textbook. Apart from being restricted to a “theme”, you will not be otherwise limited in terms of what you can study (except for safety or time issues), but you must develop your project on your own – in other words, no “cook-book” projects will be accepted. Below is some reading to get you started on your IP and embedded in the text are your goals for the development phase (called Phase 1) of your project. Understand that Phase 1 is solely devoted to planning and development of your project. YOU SHOULD NOT CARRY OUT YOUR ACTUAL EXPERIMENT UNTIL AFTER YOU’VE RECEIVED APPROVAL OF YOUR PROJECT BY THE INSTRUCTOR! Not only will the instructor give you advice on the project plan you turn in at the end of Phase 1, but they will also help insure that you don’t try something that won’t work and help make sure proper safety procedures are planned before you carry out your project.
Phase 1: How should I begin?!?!
I. Creating Awareness
Things worthy of scientific study are all around us – at home, at work, in our daily routines. The best place to start developing your project is to just have a greater awareness of your environment as you go through your typical day (and, yes, I’m serious, even though it sounds more like the beginning of a yoga class!). Look around your house or place of work and try to notice things you find odd, inexplicable, in need of improvement or generally worthy of finding more about.
For instance, as I sit here writing these directions, I am very aware that my dogs (who on a recent hike decided to bathe in an algae-filled pond) smell quite poorly. They also have turned a noticeable shade of green. And they also have transferred the smell onto the carpet. These observations are the seeds of potential science projects, as your observations will be as well! Be sure to make some observations related to the theme above.
II. Asking Questions
Now that you’ve become more aware of some specific things around you, try to turn those observations into questions. For instance, my dogs are smelly, which makes me wonder “Which types of shampoo might work best in removing the algae smell?” My dogs are green, so I’m curious to know “Which shampoos might be better able to reduce the green coloration on their fur?” Both of these questions could be developed into a do- able independent science project and both from having an awareness of the local world around me (as unavoidable as it was in the case of the stinky, green dogs).
III. Documenting your Observations/Questions
OK – now it’s your turn to write down some observations and develop them into questions. The more options you have, the more likely you’ll be able to choose a really good and do-able project. Write down at least 3 or 4 different observations and turn them into questions you think you might be able to answer through experimentation.
Phase 1, Part 1: In a separate word processor document, describe the 3 or 4 observations you’ve made and questions you thought of that you think you could answer through experimentation. Please use complete sentences. Also, note the emphasis on “3 or 4”. . . they don’t all have to be good ideas, just be sure to give yourself some options.
IV: Brainstorming About Possible Methods
Now that you have a few potential questions to choose from, the next
step is to think about general method of testing each your questions. There is good reason to brainstorm about methods for all of your ideas before picking “the one” for further development . . . you may find that some of your questions require nearly impossible methods to answer (which you won’t want to pursue), while others methods are simple and very do- able (which you will want to pursue).
When you are thinking of possible methods of testing, remember that in science the goal is to be able to change one aspect of a system and measure its effects on another part of the system. As an example, with my fur color question, my method of testing could be changing the brand of shampoo and monitoring the intensity of green leftover after my dogs are washed. For algae smell, I might change the brand of shampoo and measure the strength of algae odor emitted from my dogs after they are bathed. Try to think of similar methods for your 3 or 4 questions and document your thoughts.
Phase 1, Part 2: In your word processor document, describe the general methods you think you could use to answer each of the questions you came up with for Part 1 (so, I expect to read at least 3 or 4 methods, one for each of the 3 or 4 questions/observation). You need not be wildly specific here (a sentence or two for each will do), but you should have an overall idea of what you would vary in your experiment and what you would measure. Please use complete sentences.
V: Focusing in on One Idea
Now that you have a number of options for your project, the next step is to choose “the one.” This is where all the brain storming pays off! What you want in the end is an observation/question/method that seems to be the easiest and most effectively answered using the scientific method. Who wants to do something super-hard just for one little class, or spend hours doing something to find out it didn’t work? Not us!!!! You have options and can pick the idea that seems the easiest and the best!
“So how can I know which project will work best without actually
DOING anything?” you might ask. This is a great question, and just one of the many ironies of scientific study. You can’t always know what experiment will work best before you carry them out, but on the other hand, you don’t want to carry out a thousand experiments or put time into a project if you don’t think it will be easy or even work! So, using a little common sense is about the best you’ll be able (or expected) to use as you narrow down you list to one idea. And, luckily, we have all been blessed with a brain so astounding in its predictive powers that no human on earth can tell you how it really works! ☺
Continuing with the smelly, green dog line of reasoning, I could narrow down my possible projects by predicting that I might be better able to measure the intensity of green (perhaps by comparing to a green paint saturation chart from Home Depot that I’ve numbered to turned into a scale) than I could measure the amount of odor emitted from my dogs (they are kind of smelly most of the time, anyway!). Focus on the question you think you can most easily test and get results you can measure.
Phase 1, Part 3: Describe which of your ideas you plan to focus on for you independent project, and describe in a sentence or two why you chose that idea.
VI: Turning Your Question into a Testable Hypothesis
Now that you’ve committed yourself to a single, easily-tested question, the next step is to turn that question into a testable hypothesis. A hypothesis is not a question, but a statement of unknown validity that can be tested through experimentation. So, in other words, your hypothesis doesn’t have to be true or right, it just has to be something you can test through experimentation.
Sounds easy? Well, the hypothesis actually takes a little more thought then you might assume at first, and here’s why. Although your hypothesis doesn’t have to be true, it does need to be as clear and precise as you can make it because you are going to be using it as the guide for
the rest of your project! Your hypothesis is the “governing statement” of your whole entire independent project. The better your hypothesis, the easier your life will be when it comes to carrying out and writing up you experiment and results.
So how do you develop a hypothesis? The best way to explain is to talk about the green dogs again. To develop a hypothesis for my green dog/shampoo question, I might look at bottles of shampoo in a store to see if any companies claim to have created particularly stain-fighting shampoo (like the fur-whitening shampoos available for pets). I could then turn my general question about shampoo and stains into a hypothesis, such as “Shampoos made specifically to remove stains from pet hair are better at washing away algae stains from fur than other shampoos.” I don’t know if my hypothesis is true, but after I use a few types of shampoo on my dogs to test the hypothesis I should be able to say, that “yes, stain-fighting shampoos seem to clean algae stained-fur better ” or “no, stain-fighting shampoos have no noticeable impact.” With a clear and precise hypothesis, your experiment will be simple, your results easily assessed and your report will be much easier to write.
The best advice for writing a good hypothesis is to make sure your hypothesis leads to a project that contains two, and only two, variables. A variable is something that changes (or is expected to change) during the course of an experiment. The two variables you will want to use are known as the independent variable and dependent variable. An independent variable is a variable you have direct control over and can vary (change) in your experiment. When you cook food in an oven, you can change the temperature in the oven with a knob – when you cook, temperature is the independent variable. Back to the dogs, I can’t stop the algae from staining my dogs, but I can control the type of shampoo I wash my dogs with. The independent variable in my project would be the shampoo used. The dependent variable is what changes as a result of changes in the independent variable. When you cook food in the oven, you can change the temperature (the independent variable), but the cooking time also changes with temperature in a way that you can’t
directly control. So, cooking time is the dependent variable. For the dogs, the amount of staining in their fur is expected to change after washing, but in a way I can’t control directly – therefore the intensity of green algae stain is my dependent variable.
With all this in mind, try to turn the question you decided to focus on into a hypothesis – a testable statement of unknown validity. After you write down your hypothesis, be sure to specify what the independent and dependent variables for your project are below:
Phase 1, Part 4: In your word processor document, write down your hypothesis. Also, specify what you independent and dependent variables are by completing the following sentences and adding it in your proposal: “In my project, the independent variable is ________________. In my project, the dependent variable is ________________.”
VII: Propose a Specific Method
The last thing you need to do for Phase 1 of your IP is to come up with a specific plan for how you will carry out your experiment – you need to design your complete experimental method. You did the groundwork for this in Phase 1, Part 2, but now you need to be much more specific. This can be one of the tougher parts of Phase 1, so be sure to contact me if you need some advice.
Your experimental set up will obviously be project-specific, and should include:
• A control or reference situation (see Chapter 1).
• A step-by-step method by which you will change the independent variable
• A step-be-step method by which you will measure changes in the dependent variable. ���Be as specific with your method as possible, for instance detailing amounts of chemicals or products used,
times, temperatures – whatever details are appropriate for your project. If you need assistance or want to ask if you need to add more details, etc. just send me an email. ���Phase 1, Part 5: In your word processor document, type you experimental method, including all materials you plan to use, in either outline or step- wise form. Be as specific as you can in your descriptions. ���
VIII: Submit Your Document and Wait for Instructor Approval ���
Submit your word processor document with Parts 1-5 to the instructor by either writing in the textbox or attaching your word processor document. After you have submitted your write-up for Phase 1, you MUST wait until you receive approval from the instructor before carrying out your experiment. I reserve the right to require any changes or ask you to follow specific procedures to address any potential safety concerns. If you begin your experiment before you receive approval, you may be putting yourself at risk of having to repeat the experiment to incorporate suggestions made. My primary concern is your safety – I may be able to point out safety concerns you may not have considered. ���
Submit Your Word Processor Document containing Parts 1-5 in Canvas. Good Luck! ���
END OF PHASE 1