& Data Analysis
Protein gel analysis
Keeping a lab notebook
Writing research papers
Dimensions & units
Using figures (graphs)
Examples of graphs
Principles of microscopy
Solutions & dilutions
Fractionation & centrifugation
Radioisotopes and detection
Guide to the study
Lab part 1
Lab part 2
Flagella Regeneration – Data Analysis and Research Paper
You are not expected to write up your microscopic studies of biological models, conducted the first week. This paper will cover the experiments of the second week of the course. At least skim through this section as part of your preparation for the laboratory work, so that you are fully aware of the objectives of the study and what will be expected of you.
You are asked to write and submit this paper in parts, starting with the materials and methods and results sections. Shortly afterwards you will submit the discussion, abstract, and introduction. You will receive direct instructor feedback on all parts of your paper except for the results sections, which we will assess using Calibrated Peer Review. We provide explicit instructions for this first paper. For later papers you will increasingly be expected to apply the principles and practices that you learn through guidelines, examples, practice, and instructor comments on your previous work.
Honor code – giving/receiving/sharing information
Every part of every paper that you write for this course must be your own original work, including all text, all tables, and all figures. You may not consult a paper written by another student for this assignment in this or any previous semester. You absolutely may NOT copy written text from any source. Paraphrasing large sections of text also consitutes plagiarism.
On the other hand, you are encouraged to seek advice, share data files, share responsibilities for data analysis such as calculating means and standard errors, and to discuss findings and possible explanations with fellow students, provided that you share in such efforts and do not merely take it all in passively.
A major objective of the writing assignments is development of a professional approach to writing. These papers are not "lab reports." Your hypothetical role is that of an investigator, preparing a publishable manuscript on your original research. Your paper is to be read by other scientists working in the same field and/or other professionals and/or students who conduct scholarly research, such as a literature review. Your anticipated readership is well versed in basic biological science and experimental design.
A scientist does not introduce a paper with a broad generalization, such as the statement, "this study will advance our knowledge of cell biology," or "the purpose of a scientific investigation is to collect data to uncover truths about nature." Of course an investigator will not refer to a learning experience, instructor, classroom, the "lab manual," teams of students, etc. Play the role of scientist as you write your research papers.
A materials and methods section serves to document the methodology that was employed for a laboratory study. Our general guidelines advise that this documentation serves two major purposes.
What a materials and methods section does NOT do include the following.
For the first paper your materials and methods should include the following information, clearly and accurately described.
Some things that we do not include are the following.
The documentation must be written using normal prose and paragraph organization. Use complete sentences, including articles ("a," "the," etc.), but otherwise try to keep it succinct. Publishing costs are high and people do not have time to wade through a lot of verbiage, so we try to consolidate information while remaining clear and grammatically correct. Needless to say, we avoid redundancy. Even if you apply the same methodology to several treatment groups, for example, you only describe it once.
As you should have figured out by now, each section of a typical research paper serves a specific purpose, allowing an individual to read selectively. A results section serves to present the findings themselves. We use three elements to present findings in a results section. A text write-up is essential. The text should summarize and illustrate the findings. One or more tables serve to present information that would be tedious and cumbersome to report in text form, such as large amounts of quantitative information or even verbal material of a repetitive nature. One or more figures serve to present information that is best visualized rather than described verbally. A graph is the most common type of figure, used to illustrate important patterns, trends, or relationships. Figures can also be used for images such as cropped and labeled gel images.
Neither tables nor figures are essential elements in all write-ups, however for this first paper some of the findings are presented most effectively in the form of a graph (figure) and others are best presented in the form of a table. Our "rules for submitting manuscripts" call for figures (with captions) and tables to be submitted on one or more pages following your text, not to be incorporated into your text. Your results section is to include the following elements.
As with other sections of a paper, use normal prose, proper English grammar, and paragraph organization. Here are some more "rules" for writing an effective results section.
Criteria for evaluating your results sections
The following statements describe criteria that you and your peers will use to evaluate your papers. See the presentation on CPR criteria for more details.
Here is where you report what you think your findings mean, keeping the overall objectives of the research in mind. An obvious starting point is to address the question, "did the findings support the original hypothesis?". As you interpret the findings, refer to your data (in past tense), without dwelling on the data. You already presented the data in the results, so now need refer to the findings only when it is necessary in order to make a point.
It is important here to try to explain the findings, being as clear, accurate, and specific as you can. It is important to explain all of the findings, not just the major finding. Use a logical organization. A good approach is to address the most important conclusions and explanations first, then deal with interpretation that is less important and/or peripheral to the objectives of the study.
For a study of this sort it is absolutely critical that you discuss possible intracellular mechanisms that could explain your observations. Be confident when you offer an explanation. For example, one doesn't write, "it is possible that...," "maybe this is what happened...," or "the data seem to show..." Do be open to alternative explanations, though. We use phrases such as, "the data strongly suggest," or "the findings are consistent with the following explanation." Do not speculate wildly, but do offer less likely alternative explanations if they are reasonable.
Here are some specific suggestions for this particular discussion.
The BIGGEST MISTAKE that many students make in this particular paper (and to some extent in others) is to be vague when expressing concepts. If you explain an outcome, make it clear which treatment group you are discussing. When you explain theoretical basis for a finding, describe the concept explicitly, and make it clear what specific finding you are discussing.
An abstract is a concise summary of the findings, most often presented as a single paragraph. Our "rules" require that you write a single paragraph summary. It should summarize the major elements of the paper, focusing primarily on the findings. A reader should be able to read only the abstract and know your objectives, how you accomplished them, what findings you obtained, and what conclusions you drew.
Two of the biggest mistakes that students make are
Remember, the abstract is to be a concise summary. We avoid presenting rationale, detailed explanations, speculation, and excessive details on methodology. As a general rule for starting out, devote no more than a sentence or two to presenting the objective and the design of the experiment itself. Go quickly into a thorough summary of the quantitative and qualitative findings, omitting none of the major results. Finish with no more than a sentence or two, summarizing major conclusions.
An introduction should present the rationale behind the study. There are all sorts of ways in which to write a good introduction. Some authors write a manuscript page or more (that's four double spaced typed pages), while some limit the introduction to just a couple of paragraphs. For your introduction, simply make sure that all of the information you include is relevant to the goal of fully acquainting the reader with the reasoning behind your choices – overall research, specific hypothesis, experimental model, methods. Here are some elements of a good introduction, not necessarily to be presented in this order. The items in this list are neither exclusive nor absolutely necessary for every paper.
We don't generally describe the results in an introduction to a paper, although some authors will summarize the outcome. As for context, keep in mind that when you submit the introduction for publication, all of the work will have been completed. The study is in the past, and so any reference to the experiment, specific findings, decisions made, conclusions drawn, etc. should be made in past tense.