The course Scientific Research describes these activities from the point of view of a professional scientist. While this inside look should appeal to students of all ages, the lessons provide support, accessible ideas, and specific language that do not dumb down the content but rather guide students at their own pace through most of the steps, insights, and experiences they would eventually face if they continue through higher education toward a graduate degree. On the other hand, knowing the practical, everyday basics of scientific thinking and laboratory activity could also serve as a necessary first step to a career as a technician or a lab assistant. While these jobs are hands-on and technical, the intellectual and historical background covered in the course provides an awareness that is essential to working in such an atmosphere.
- Introduction to Scientific Research and Exploration: In this unit, students will study evidence vs. proof in science, the dynamic vs. static nature of science and scientific discovery, peer-review and “junk science,” scientific journals vs. popular press, and the work of Mendel, Harvey, Fleming, and Florey.
- The Scientific Method and Scientific Inquiry: Students will investigate the steps of the scientific method and learn how to apply them to answer questions they might have about their world.
- Designing and Conducting an Experiment: In this unit, students will go through a progressive analysis of converting a research question into an actual, feasible research design. While each major aspect they could encounter will be explained separately, the analysis throughout is focused on practical applications in exemplary situations.
- The Data: Evaluating Results and Drawing Conclusions: This unit looks at data: how data are collected, analyzed, and evaluated. There is an overview of statistical analysis and the related concept of statistical significance. Very basic statistical tests are covered, including the chi-square test, Student’s t-test, and the use of contingency tables.
- Reporting your Findings: This unit illustrates the fact that the entire scientific research process is always distilled into a publishable report of a very specific type.