I Have My Research Question, Now What? Writing Your Research Plan

A challenging aspect of scientific research is learning how to write like a scientist. One of the first steps in your path to the inaugural Bronx Science Fair is to write your research plan. This research plan will inform the director of the Bronx Science Fair, the judges, and the public of the scope and focus of your project.  Your research plan should be structured as follows:

Project Name:  What are you studying? Be SPECIFIC with your project name. You want to let the reader know not just the subject area you are researching, but the FOCUS of your research. Your Project Name should do this without being too "wordy", it should be short, to-the-point and descriptive

Examples:

  • "Bisphenol A and the Brain" (too vague!)
  • "Administering Bisphenol A to Rat Pups to Determine if Neurotransmitter Concentration and Turnover is Altered and Determine the Effects on Anxiety, Locomotor Activity and Spacial and Working Memory" (MUCH too long and detailed! This is not the place for your methods section!).  
  • "Neural and Physiological Effects of Perinatal Exposure to Bisphenol A" (Short, to-the-point, descriptive)

Goal:  What do you hope to accomplish with this research? What do you hope to learn or discover from this project?  You are, in essence, restating your science question! If your research question was well written, converting it to a goal statement should be simple.

Objectives:  This is taking your "Goal" and refining it. Your Objectives should state only what you hope to accomplish in this few months of study. What part of your research question will you be able to answer? Maybe it will only be a small goal. That is acceptable. Science is a process, you are focused on gaining knowledge in your field and research experience. A bulleted list is acceptable for your Objectives section.

Example:

  • To determine if acute exposure to Bisphenol A will affect birth weight of rat pups

Methods:  Tell your reader the HOW of your project. What types of experiments will you conduct? What type of cells/animals/model systems are you working with? Again, you can be brief.  When you write your paper, you can go into greater detail in your Methods section.

Practical Knowledge that students will gain:  What new skills and information will you have AFTER you have completed this project? Will you learn how to do cell cultures? High-Performance Liquid Chromatography? Will you learn about the way the brain processes signals, or how a fuel cell operates? This is where you can tell us!

Scientific Merit:  This is where you will tell us the significance, or the justification for why you should do this research. Scientists must always prove the scientific merit of a study in order to have it funded, or approved by Review Boards. Three of the things we consider before starting an experiment are Significance, Innovation, and Approach: Does the study try to solve an important problem? Is our concept, aim, or method of experiment novel? Is the way we have designed the experiment appropriate?

Tell us why you think this study needs to be done, what new information will be discovered, and why your methods are the best way to do this. This should be FOCUSED. Only tell us why your particular experiment is important, not the field of study itself.

Broad Impact:  This is the area where you are able to talk about how this area of research affects the world at large. This is probably the easiest section to write, because the broad impact is likely what made you interested in your topic.

If you are having difficulties with science writing (we ALL do, even scientists like your mentors!), please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Alexander-Street, or talk with your mentors. We are here to guide you through this new process. Below are some links to help you get you started.

From the Journal of Young Investigators: HERE

From Bates College, a resource that will help you with your Research Plan and paper: HERE

 





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