Are you a science student thinking about research? Jessica Reynold offers her 5 tips to a successful research project in this guest blog post.
Science, either you love it or you don’t. Whether your class is for another few core credits or a senior thesis, odds are you will have to some type of research project down the road.
The thing about research projects is that your information or topics don’t really have to be all that interesting. Research projects are more often than not, about presenting of already documented information. Therefore, a lot of the success depends simply finding credible, relevant information and communicating it a professional and effective manner.
Here are 5 tips to pulling off a successful research project whether it’s an oral and visual presentation or simply a paper:
Usually your professor will want you to cite a certain amount of sources. Whatever your topic may be, the important thing is to as many sources with different perspectives as you can. For example, if you are researching how fossils are preserved by today’s archaeologists you should look at one source of what technology is used, what is a main cause of contamination or damage, and how is this different than practices were 10 years ago. These are 3 sources about 1 topic, all from different perspectives. Your professor will love this.
2. Get a Little Personal
If you have some experience with the topic or know someone who has, include those thoughts feelings on it. If you’re doing a project on Ducks going extinct and your father is a man who hunts, cite his behavior as something a hunter (person of interest to the project) who do or say when faced with legal or moral liabilities when it comes to killing ducks. This helps make the research relevant to real-life situations and all the more real to the person grading you.
3. Quotes and Pictures
In the case of a paper it is usually more applicable to use a quote from an expert on the topic but sometimes pictures or charts/graphs can be implemented as well. For a visual presentation, relevant pictures are a must. A research poster can have all the information in the world but without relevant images it’s like staring at an oversized book page. Clearly label relevant pictures with subjects in bold, descriptions lighter and slightly smaller font, and mix up how you cite single ideas. (Don’t get crazy with bullet points, use hyphens, numbers, etc)
4. Proper Title and Intro
As I stated before it doesn’t matter how uninteresting or crappy your topic may be. Just pick a topic and stick with it. If you’re researching “Quality of Fossil Care in South America”, simply state that as your title. Don’t try and get creative and call it “Low-Quality Preservation of Historical Objects in South America”. Believe it or not titles can betray us by making people think you are arguing for a cause instead of doing research and any claims made in your title will be expected to be followed up on or proven in the paper or presentation. For argument essays this is good, but for research just stick to the most notable facts.
This is actually easier with a poster or PowerPoint for most than it is with a paper. In a paper state what you are talking about and just stay on task. Don’t veer off into another area of research in that paragraph, you’ll get to it later. While your professor might not be an English teacher, proper writing is still a big part of any presentation so if nothing else, just show your reader you are organized even if your grammar or wording is awkward. Same thing for visuals, organize ideas, associate with pictures; place them where they are distinguishable.
Jessica Reynolds is a recreational writer that graduated with a degree in Anthropology from Boise State University. To help other students smoothly make their way to being a college graduate she writes for http://www.postersession.com/, site that specializes in research science projects for students.