BIO 425

Introduction to Research


Syllabus for Fall 2008

1 credit hour

Prerequisite:  Junior standing and 20 hours toward a biology major and a minimum biology GPA of 2.0




Dr. Andrew Madison

Office:  134 in White Hall

Phone:  661-5127

Email: (BUT, I prefer that you email me through BlackBoard)

Web site:


Office hours:

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday — 9:00 – 10:00 AM

Tuesday & Thursday — 9:30 – 10:30 AM


These are the hours that I am guaranteed to be in my office, excepting specially called meetings or off-campus activities.  Please note:  I may also be in WH 103 setting up for a lab.  FEEL FREE to drop by at other times.  If I am in my office or in the lab, I’ll be happy to speak with you.


Course Objectives:

This course is designed to provide the conceptual and practical foundation needed to develop and implement a scientific research project.  You will be building the necessary skills to assist you in the implementation of the research (BIO 426) and the presentation of the research (BIO 427).  The course focuses on: 1) Exploring research idea options, determining the strengths and weaknesses of various research project ideas, 2) Examining different experimental designs and general methodology for conducting research, 3) Developing a written research proposal, 4) Developing a presentation of your research.  While there are no exams or quizzes in this class, you WILL be expected to remember and implement what you have learned in BIO 426 and BIO 427.  You are expected to attend BIO 427 presentations.



Method of Instruction:

The class will meet together for one hour a week. During these we will discuss many aspects of accomplishing successful research. Topics to be discussed are included in the course outline.



The remainder of the course will involve the development of a research proposal for the independent work to be carried out in BIO 426 (Research Experience).  Each student is expected to meet with me or another professor with whom you would like to work with to discuss progress on the research proposal.  Students will also be expected to attend all research presentations made by BIO 427 (Research Presentation) students made that semester.


There may be opportunities to work with research scientists at other institutions, state agencies, or federal agencies.  In order for an off-campus project to be acceptable it must be biological in nature, involve hands-on experience on the part of the student, and address a biological question.  Prior approval of the project must be obtained from me before this option can be considered.  Since many of these research projects are conducted during the summer, it may be necessary to “play it by ear” in terms of fulfilling your research requirements for this class and BIO 426 and BIO 427. 


Required Textbook:

A Handbook of Biological Investigation, 6th edition, by H. W. Ambrose, K. P. Ambrose, D. J. Emlen, and K. L. Bright.  Hunter Textbooks, Inc.



You have been provided with a BlackBoard account for this class.  It is password protected and will provide access to course information and provide a medium to track progress in the course.  I will be posting grades and instigating occasional online discussions.  BlackBoard can be accessed from ANY computer with an internet connection.  This is NOT an online class, but is more properly referred to as a “web enhanced” course.  We will be meeting weekly for our one hour sessions.


Method of Evaluation:

Research Proposal


A > 90%



B = 80–89%



C = 70–79%



D = 60–69%



F < 60%





Research Proposal —


I will be posting guidelines for the format and composition of the research proposal on BlackBoard.  It is extremely important that you carefully follow these guidelines; failure to adhere to the proper format or lack of inclusion of required components will result in a significant deduction in your grade. 



IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you turn assignments in on time.  You will be HEAVILY PENALIZED for turning in your draft and final research proposals late.  One letter grade will be taken off each day it is late.


You are permitted to write as many rough drafts as you desire.  I will edit and re-edit your drafts all the way up to when the final proposal is due.



Participation —


This is a necessarily more subjective assessment towards the determination of your grade.  It will be based on regular attendance of weekly meetings, attending BIO 427 presentations, and participation in any online components of the course.  In addition, you should note that a grade will not be given for this course until all borrowed materials (books, papers, etc.) have been returned to their proper faculty member.




I expect you to be at every weekly session.  If you know that you are going to miss a session, I expect the professional courtesy of a phone call or email informing me IN ADVANCE of your absence (non-emergency absences will NOT BE EXCUSED after the fact, even for legitimate reasons).  Legitimate and excusable absences include (but are not limited to): 1) personal illness (must be verified by a nurse/doctor excuse), 2) Union University sponsored functions (I normally receive a notice concerning your participation in these functions, but double-checking with me is always a good idea), 3) death in the family or extreme family problems, and 4) civic responsibilities (jury duty, military responsibilities, etc.). 


Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class.  I expect you to be on time.  If you have more than 3 unexcused absences from the weekly sessions, it will result in automatic failure of the course.


Cheating and Plagiarism:

I encourage you to work with others in this class.  Bounce research project ideas off of them, talk with students in BIO 426 or BIO 427 about their research projects, talk with other Department of Biology faculty.  Just don’t copy from each other’s work!  If reports or research proposals (even from previous semesters) have identical wording, all offending parties will receive a zero for the assignment, regardless of who copied whom.


Plagiarism, intentional or unintentional, is prohibited.  Webster defines plagiarism as “the stealing and passing off of the ideas or words of another as one’s own”.  Further, the MLA Handbook states, “Plagiarism may take the form of repeating another’s sentences as your own, adopting a particularly apt phrase as your own, or even presenting someone else’s line of thinking in the development of a thesis as though it were your own.”  In other words:  do your own work. 


If you are caught plagiarizing sources in your proposal, you will receive an automatic failing grade for this course and the incident will be reported to the Dean of Arts and Sciences for further reprobation.


Last day to drop:

If you know that excessive absences will interfere with progress in this class, you should consider taking another semester.  You can drop this course before October 13, 2008 without penalty. After this date you will receive a failing grade, even if you drop the class (except for extenuating circumstances).


General Course Outline:















We will be covering the following topics in this course:


Choosing a Research Question

Writing a Proposal

Writing a Scientific Paper

Designing and Conducting a Scientific Experiment

Analyzing Data

Statistics in Research

Presenting Results in Oral Presentations


However, the lecture topics and the order of presentation are subject to change.


Important dates:


Sep 17 – Meet the Faculty Luncheon (lunch provided)

Sep 24 – Tentative research idea needed

Oct 8 – Final research idea needed

Nov 5 – Draft research proposal due

Nov 25 – Final research proposal due

Dec 3, 10 – PowerPoint presentation due