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Written Assignment 1: Trace the Scientific Method in a Primary Research Scientific Article

 Addresses course outcomes 1-4 

         -recognize and explain how the scientific method is used to solve problems

  • make observations and discriminate between scientific and pseudoscientific explanations
  • weigh evidence and make decisions based on strengths and limitations of scientific knowledge and the scientific method
  • use knowledge of biological principles and the scientific method to ask relevant questions, develop hypotheses, design and conduct experiments, interpret results, and draw conclusions

 Before attempting this assignment, you might want to revisit the Scientific Method Tutorial in the Science Learning Center under the Course Content area. 

While living on the former US Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland in 2002 (and teaching for UMUC), I began ecology experiments on growing trees in the barren landscape in collaboration with Iceland Forest Research.  Results of these experiments were published in a paper by Riege & Sigurgeirsson in the Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research in 2009.  I believe this paper serves well for your general biology assignment to trace and critique the scientific method in a primary research article.

 Please do not worry that I take offense at any criticism of the article. When these manuscripts are first submitted to journals, the reviewers rake the authors through the coals and usually require major revisions before the journal will accept the article for publication.  So scientists have thick skin about heavy criticism – the good news is that the critique and revision makes the final product much stronger.

Please read and study the original paper, assigned in Week 3, then submit a 2 page review of the article that answers the following questions:

For one of the experiments in Riege & Sigurgeirsson –

  1. What was the hypothesis of this experiment? (Reminder: Hypothesis is a statement.) What question(s) was (were) the investigator asking?

 2. Which is the control group? Why?

 3. Which is the treatment group? Why?

 4. Did the researchers follow the scientific method in their experimental design?  Explain. 

5. Do you think that there may be any possible biases or other problems in this experiment?  Explain.

6. Based on the data, was the hypothesis supported, and what can you conclude from this experiment?


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