All students who choose to add the Thesis Option to their Biology, Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Genetic Engineering, Neuroscience, or Nuclear Medicine Technology major are required to conduct an independent senior research project. Planning for this project will begin during the fall of the student's junior year as she selects a research advisor and develops her project proposal. The project will be conducted for at least two semesters and conclude with a departmental seminar in which students will present their work in either a poster or seminar talk. The student will also write up her work in the format listed later in this document. Upon successful completion of the thesis option, students will have the title of their thesis printed on their transcripts and they will be awarded a thesis cord to wear at graduation.
The goals of this project are as follows:
- To emphasize skills in reading, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating scientific material as students review current literature to develop their research projects. Students will demonstrate proficiency in the pragmatic, legal, and ethical use of written material as they assimilate information from various sources into a coherent work.
- To enhance technical writing skills as students write both their project proposal and senior thesis. Both of these writings will require students to demonstrate their proficiency in the use of word processing packages, statistical software, spreadsheets, imaging software, and/or scientific analysis packages.
- To acquire oral presentation skills as students present their projects in scientific posters or seminar talks at the completion of their senior year. Students will use public speaking skills and audio-visual materials to properly deliver their project to an audience consisting of both faculty and peers.
- To prepare students for advanced study in graduate/professional programs, research positions in universities and industry, or careers in environmental and conservation governmental and non-governmental organizations through the practical application of course material. Students will develop the technical skills appropriate for their field, making them marketable as skilled scientists.
During the fall semester of the student's junior year, she will be asked to select a research advisor and develop her research project. All students pursuing an Honors diploma through the Cedar Crest College Honors Program should refer to the Honors Policy for additional requirements and deadlines.
Students have two options for their senior research project available to them. The laboratory/field project involves conducting experimental research in the student's area of interest. This research will be conducted at Cedar Crest College; research conducted as part of a summer internship will not count towards the thesis option. In consultation with her research advisor, the student will develop an original project, conduct experiments, and draw conclusions from the results.
The library research project involves developing a question of scientific or educational significance and conducting a significant literature review to answer the question and discuss its relevance to the scientific community. Primarily, the student's interests and those of the research advisor should guide the choice of the research question. A preliminary meeting should be made with librarians at the Cressman Library to learn the latest literature searching tools. The student should also work closely with her research advisor on becoming familiar with the range of literature sources that are available in the field (e.g., primary resources, secondary resources, important review papers, web-based information).
Selecting a Research Advisor
The research advisor should have compatible research interests and be willing to guide the student through the development and oversight of her research project. To help students learn about potential projects, departmental faculty will give research presentations as part of the Junior Colloquium Course (BIO 350). Students are not required to select an advisor from within their specific field, as interdisciplinary approaches are often beneficial to the advancement of science. In addition, students are not limited to the expertise of the departmental faculty, as students may conduct research with faculty outside of the department (e.g., in the Chemistry or Psychology Departments or with an advisor at another LVAIC institution), if it is acceptable to the professor you have selected. Please note that all students selecting research advisors from outside of the department must choose a second advisor, their departmental research advisor, from within the Department of Biological Sciences, as outlined below. Once the student has chosen a research advisor(s), they should meet to discuss potential research projects. A one page project summary that addresses the basic project and mentions the professor(s) with whom the student will be working will be submitted to the student's Junior Colloquium instructor as indicated on the course syllabus.
Writing a Proposal
While the advisor may assist the student in the development of her project proposal, this is an independent project and the student is responsible for doing most of the work. A literature review to gather pertinent background information to be incorporated into the proposal should be conducted. Once a foundation for the project has been established, the student should begin to develop her hypothesis and outline how she plans to investigate her particular research question. Finally, she should determine the supplies required for the project and develop a timeline for completion. This information should be assimilated into a coherent document (see Proposal Format section below) and be submitted to the student's research advisor for review.
The proposal should present the:
- Objectives: What questions will be asked and what answers are expected?
- Scientific or Educational Significance: How is the question related to the existing body of knowledge – is there more than one answer to this question?
- Critique: Your critique of the question, the current answers, and suggestions on future research directions that should be pursued to answer the question.
- Qualifications of the Investigator: Biographical sketch or resume
The proposal should have the following sections:
- Cover Page: Title of project, names of investigators, and approval signatures of advisor(s)
- Table of Contents
- Abstract: one-page summary of the question(s) and potential answer(s) with concluding 1-2 sentences of your critique/suggested future research directions for answering this/these question(s).
- Introduction and project summary: The Introduction should contain background information and how it relates to question(s) that you are pursuing. When providing background information, this section should contain citations to literature in your bibliography. Try to indicate how different scientists have pursued the answer(s) of this/these question(s). Do there seem to be several groups that have different opinions and procedures for answering these questions?
- Goals/Objectives (for library research papers only): This section of the proposal should state clearly and concisely the question(s), potential answer(s), brief overview of your critique of the answer(s). This section should literally stand out from the rest of the proposal, so that the reader can refer back to it easily, if he/she needs a reminder of the question(s) and potential answer(s). This section can be set up with italics, bold, numbered or bulleted sentences and phrases.
- Description of Answers and Critique (for library research papers only): Give an overview of the potential answers to the questions and how you will pursue your critique of the answers/suggestions on future research that might be done to answer this/these questions.
- Goals/Objectives (for laboratory/field research papers only): This section of the proposal should state clearly and concisely the scientific objectives, goals, or hypotheses to be tested. The context in which these goals are important should have been made clear in the Introduction and the means by which the goals will be achieved will come in the Experimental Methods section of the proposal. This section should literally stand out from the rest of the proposal, so that the reader can refer back to it easily if he needs a reminder of how something else in the proposal relates to the goals. This section can be set up with italics, bold, numbered, or bulleted sentences and phrases.
- Experimental Methods (for laboratory/field research papers only): Give a detailed explanation of the protocols to be used in the project. This part can be broken into smaller sections, if appropriate, each one labeled with what part of the question is being answered with that particular method (not to exceed five single-spaced pages or ten double-spaced pages).
- Significance of the project: Remind the reader one more time of how this question relates to the 'bigger picture' in science. If this is still a bit unclear, your research sponsor should be able to guide you through this.
- Literature Cited: Includes all works cited in the proposal.
- Biographical sketch of the principal investigator (student resume)
Proposals for Research Conducted within the Department of Biological Sciences
A draft of the written proposal should be given to the student's research advisor by mid-November, as indicated on the Junior Colloquium syllabus. The research advisor, who will review the proposal, and the student, should make any necessary revisions. Once both the student and research advisor agree upon the proposal, the advisor should acknowledge approval (signature on cover page). The proposal (with signature) will then be submitted as part of the Junior Colloquium course by the date indicated on the course syllabus.
Proposals for Research Conducted within other CCC or LVAIC Departments
The student should satisfy the policy as written above for students conducting research within the Department of Biological Sciences; however, the student must obtain a departmental research advisor of her choice who reviews the proposal and determines whether it meets the departmental standards for senior research. The departmental research advisor then has the option of 1) approving the project as proposed, 2) approving the project pending minor revisions, or 3) rejecting the project. If the departmental research advisor deems the project unacceptable, the student has the option of developing a new project with the same faculty member or selecting a new research advisor and developing a new proposal.
Modifications to the Proposal
In the event that a student's initial proposal is rejected, it is the student's responsibility to submit a second proposal to her research advisor(s). This second proposal is subject to review as outlined above. In order to ensure that the thesis is completed in time for graduation, she must have an approved proposal by April 1 of her junior year. It is the student's responsibility to make sure that this deadline is met. Regardless of the status of a proposal, all students must submit a proposal in Junior Colloquium (BIO 350). Any student who fails to do so will not receive credit for BIO 350, and will not be eligible to enroll in Science, Ethics, and Society (BIO 360).
By the beginning of the fall semester of her senior year, the student will be expected to begin her research project. The research project will culminate in both a written thesis and a presentation (a poster or seminar talk) at the Biology Research Symposium. All students pursuing an Honors diploma should refer to the Honors Policy for additional requirements and deadlines.
Thesis Format for Laboratory/Field Research Projects
The thesis should include the following sections or conform to the guidelines of a specific scientific journal:
- Abstract: Gives a concise summary of the project including a brief description of results, conclusions, and future directions. This section should be no more than 250 words in length.
- Introduction: Gives a basic framework for the project, establishes a hypothesis, and describes how it relates to existing knowledge.
- Methods: Describes the methods and materials that were used to investigate the research question. The methods should be clear enough for another researcher to replicate the experiments.
- Results: Indicates data collected in paragraph form. May include figures and tables with captions.
- Conclusions and Future Directions: Relates data back to existing knowledge and suggests implications of the results. Indicates new questions and studies that will result from the conclusion of this study.
- Literature Cited: Includes all works cited in this thesis.
Thesis Format for Library Research Projects
The thesis should include the following sections:
- Cover Page: Title of project, names of investigators
- Table of Contents
- Abstract: one-page summary of the question(s) and potential answer(s) with concluding 1-2 sentences of your critique/suggested future directions for answering this/these question(s).
- Introduction: The Introduction should clearly state the nature of the problem and the purpose of the study. It should include a review of relevant background information and the significance of the study. Finally, it should state the question(s) that you will be answering.
- Results and Discussion: Here is where you will propose each answer that scientists have given for the question that you have been researching. Give a solid (literature cited) description of each answer. Then discuss your opinion of the answer(s) and how other researchers have critiqued these answers. Include a suggested future direction for research of this question and/or an actual experiment that could be done to further pursue this question. Finally, remind the reader one more time of how this question relates to the 'bigger picture' in science.
- Literature Cited: Includes all works cited in the thesis. (You should plan on having at least 20-30 references)
- Biographical sketch of the principal investigator (resume)
Research Conducted within the Department of Biological Sciences
Within the final three semesters of a student's college career, the student should register for a minimum of four credits (two semesters) of BIO 353 under her research advisor's section number. (Exception: Honors students will register for HON 350, 351, as detailed in the Biology department's policy for Honors students). In addition, she should register for BIO 354 during her final semester of research. The student's research director will monitor satisfactory progress during her senior year. A student who does not demonstrate a dedication to her research project will not earn creditor receive an acceptable grade, and thus prevent her from completing the Thesis Option. The student will be required to submit a progress report to her research advisor at the end of the first semester of independent research. This should detail both the progress made thus far and her plans for the following semester. During her final semester of independent research, the student should begin to write her preliminary sections (e.g., introduction, methods and materials, results, etc.) of her thesis and submit all drafts to her research advisor. Towards the end of the final semester of research, the student should complete her research and submit the first draft of her thesis to her research advisor. The research advisor will review the thesis and suggest points for revision. Two copies of the final thesis are due to her research advisor by the last day of classes. One copy will be given to the BIO 354 instructor. The student should prepare her presentation either by developing a PowerPoint presentation or a poster. The research will then be presented in the Biology Research Symposium, usually held during the first week of May (spring graduation) or December (fall graduation).
Research Conducted within Other CCC or LVAIC Departments
The student should satisfy the policies as written above for students conducting research within the Department of Biological Sciences with these modifications. 1) Within the final three semesters of a student's college career, the student should register for a minimum of four credits of the appropriate capstone course under her research advisor's section number (e.g., CHE 391). A minimum of two semesters of research is required. These courses will be considered the equivalent of BIO 353 to satisfy program requirements. 2) The student will be required to submit a copy of her progress report to her departmental research advisor by December 1. The departmental research advisor will discuss any concerns regarding the progress report with both the student and the research advisor. Modifications to spring semester plans may be required. 3) The final copy of the student's thesis is subject to approval from her departmental research advisor. Note: even though the student did not conduct research in the Department of Biological Sciences, she will be required to participate in the Biology Research Symposium as described above.