Final Project Overview

Throughout the semester, we will work on a research project. Several steps for the project will connect to discussions and pre-assignments, so by the time you submit your paper, it will be a shining example of your work in this course. You need to start thinking about your topic right now. It is okay to change the specific research question as you do more research, but you have to start somewhere. First you will choose a topic relevant to one of the module outcomes we address this semester. Read the learning outcomes below and consider where we are heading. Choose a learning outcome that interests you and start exploring. Then, through a series of assignments, you will write citations, an annotated bibliography, an outline, a first draft, and then a final draft. You will present your topic in the final discussion of the course. This is a research paper. It is not an experiment. Use the skills you have gained in your respective majors to write a paper about biology. It’s a “project” because you will make multiple submissions to complete the assignment. 

I hope you have read the entire course and therefore, the commencement of our final project work comes as no surprise to you. As you have surely noticed, each unit’s activities are driven by the learning outcomes for that unit. 

It is quite a powerful thing to be guaranteed knowledge attainment through higher education. My deep commitment to these learning outcomes makes me feel accountable to you and to the system of higher education for which I teach. 

The final project is an authentic assessment that provides you with two huge opportunities:

1. In your final project, you can explore any topic of personal and/or professional interest within the learning outcomes of the course. 

2. Throughout the process, I will mentor you in a research and writing process that is the foundation for successful written communication. This can be applied to any discipline. 

To give you some ideas, students in past courses have written about:

  • Student’s own ballet school in Aspen, exploring the integrated science of ballet including floor materials science, textile science, the physiology of ballet training and effects of nutrition on muscle development (for SCI155-156)
  • Student’s own professional experience as a wildland firefighter who sustained severe burns; used his own photos to explain the healing process (for BIO106, an EMT in training)
  • an exploration of how dental health is related to several organ systems in the body (a dental professional in training)
  • the physiological effects of altitude sickness (a student who was a mountain guide)
  • all sorts of topics related to pregnancy and childbirth (because lots of pregnant people take courses online, including me once upon a time. 🙂
  • an exploration of popular nutrition trends (because we all eat)

This list could be virtually endless because the possibilities are endless… as long as the general framework is driven from a learning outcome of the course. 

Course Learning Outcomes

Any learning outcome from any module can drive your research topic. Choose one:

Unit 1: The Cellular Foundation of Life.

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • articulate the process of science
  • apply concepts from physical sciences that provide a framework within which comprehend biological processes
  • describe the structures, functions, and processes of the most basic unit of life: the cell.

Unit 2: Cell Division and Genetics.

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • identify the stages of cellular reproduction
  • apply basics laws of genetics to scenarios presented
  • articulate the laws of inheritance

Unit 3: Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • recognize the molecular components of DNA, protein synthesis, and gene regulation
  • debate current applications of biotechnology and genomics

Unit 4: Evolution and the Diversity of Life.

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • articulate the core concepts of evolution
  • provide examples of evolutionary processes 
  • organize the diversity of life 
  • appreciate emerging phylogenetic relationships between and among bacteria, protist kingdoms, fungi, plants, and animals

Unit 5: Ecology.

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Define ecology
  • Identify abiotic and biotic components of an ecosystem
  • Decipher land management strategies employed to promote conservation vs. preservation
  • Make and argument for biodiversity conservation

Unit 6: Animal Structure and Function.

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • List the characteristics that are unique to the animal kingdom
  • Describe how form facilitates biological function
  • Utilize a basic understanding  of human anatomy and physiology to make decisions that arise in everyday life

Citations Assignment

Learning Outcomes

[Student inserts 1-3 related module outcomes]- depends on your topic

The course learning outcomes are noted all over the course, but aggregated in the syllabus and in the Final Projects page.

Citations Assignment Instructions

I often start research by simply copying phrases from assignment instructions into Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com/). For this module’s project effort, copy one of the learning outcomes in the table into your library literature search or into Google Scholar. See what you find!

Choose three articles and write APA citations for them. Remember to include the  DOI orURL if you find the article on the Internet so you can access the article when you work on this project again in the next module.

Save your document with your chosen learning outcome and three citations as a .doc or .pdf file. Submit it to the appropriate dropbox by the posted deadline. 

A complete citation looks like this:

Gaddis, M. 2019. Final Projects (20%). BIOL1000 final project wikipage. Vol (Issue). DOI or URL

The key components are:

Author, date. Title with only the first word capitalized. Publishing Organization. URL or Publisher City or DOI. 

NOTE: the point of this assignment is to practice preliminary research and referencing. Don’t feel paralyzed if you have no idea about your final topic. Just pick the learning outcomes that sound most interesting and see what comes up. This will help you choose a topic in the next unit.

Citations Assignment Rubric

Citations (10 pts)Proficient (90-100%) Topic:
1) addresses a specified learning outcome copied into the outline document/
3 citations are:
1) academic, with at least 2 being peer-reviewed literature,
AND
2) written in complete APA formatting. 
Competent (75-80%)   1 criterion is missing. Novice (less than 75%)   More than 1 criteria is missing.

NOTE: You must complete this assignment before submitting subsequent assignments related to the final project. 

Annotated Bibliography Assignment

Learning Outcomes

[Student inserts 1-3 related module outcomes]- depends on your topic

The course learning outcomes are noted all over the course, but aggregated in the syllabus and in the Final Projects page.

Annotated Bibliography Assignment Instructions

Find five articles relevant to that topic and read them. Prepare an annotated bibliography for three of the references. Each annotation should begin with the APA citation followed by no more than 10 sentences summarizing the main concept, methods, findings, and the article’s usefulness to your research. Write citations for two more references at the end of the document. These fourth and fifth citations do not have to be annotated unless you feel motivated to keep going on your project. The next step will be to write the outline. Your final paper will require at least five academics references total. What you write here will likely guide the body paragraphs of your paper. 

An annotated reference looks like this:

Gaddis, M. 2019. Final Projects (20%): Annotated bibliography. BIOL1000 final project wikipage. Vol (Issue). DOI or URL

Gaddis discusses the components of an annotated bibliography in this course assignment. An annotated bibliography is list of references. After each reference, a paragraph summarizes the contents of the article. This provides a road map for how student authors will incorporate the references into their own writing.  Although only three annotations are needed at this time, the students are encouraged to maintain this practice of annotation as they plan their papers. 

–end example–

Annotated Bibliography Assignment Rubric

Annotated bibliography  (20 pts) Proficient (90-100%) 1) 5 peer-reviewed articles are cited, 
2) in APA formatting, 
AND 
3) 3 of the 5 citations include an annotation that
4) is no more than 10 sentences long, 
AND 
5) summarizes the main concept, methods, findings and the article’s usefulness to your research. 
Competent (75-80%)   1 criterion is missing. Novice (less than 75%)   More than 1 criteria is missing.

NOTE: You must complete this assignment before submitting subsequent assignments related to the final project. 

Outline Assignment

Learning Outcomes

[Student inserts 1-3 related module outcomes]- depends on your topic and should not change after you submit this assignment.

The course learning outcomes are noted all over the course, but aggregated in the syllabus and in Final Projects page.

Outline Assignment Instructions

Your outline can take many forms. At the very least, it should include the titles of each section of the paper. At the most, it could include topic sentences for each paragraph of the paper. The level of detail you present here will relate to your overall progress and interest in the topic you chose. If you begrudge writing the outline, think about how miserable you will be writing the paper! Make sure you have a topic that really interests you. This is your last chance to make topical changes.

Your outline is a document that should help you. Don’t get too caught up in the specific formatting. Think about it as a resource document for you. You might note where you will use the references you have already found. You might write notes about what sections need the most work, or what chapters will facilitate your understanding of each section. Write this for you, not me. You get full credit if you have outlined at least five bullets of information. Email me if you want to discuss topic ideas. 

Outline has at least 3 sections:

1. an introduction ending with a thesis statement

2. 3-6 main concepts outlined; this is the evidence (information) presented in the paper to support the thesis

3. a conclusion that summarizes the paper

The outline can be in any format. I urge you to write the topic sentences for each paragraph, but at a minimum, write a phrase that describes the topic of the paragraph.

NOTE: You must complete this assignment before submitting subsequent assignments related to the final project. 

Outline Assignment Rubric

Outline (20 pts)Outline has at least 3 sections: 1. an introduction ending with a thesis statement 2. 3-6 main concepts outlined; this is the evidence (information) presented in the paper to support the thesis 3. a conclusion that summarizes the paper The outline can be in any format. I urge you to write the topic sentences for each paragraph, but at a minimum, write a phrase that describes the topic of the paragraph.Less than 5 sections are identified, 
OR 
there are fewer than 3 concepts outlined per section. 
Less than 5 sections are identified, 
AND
there are fewer than 3 concepts outlined per section. 

First Draft Assignment

Learning Outcomes

[Student inserts 1-3 related module outcomes]- should be the same learning outcomes chosen for the outline assignment

The course learning outcomes are noted all over the course, but aggregated in the syllabus and in Final Projects page.

First Draft Assignment Instructions

Writing a First Draft

There are several techniques one could try to make this part of the assignment move forward with ease.

Here are a few of my recommendations; the one you choose will likely be the result of your preparedness to date and your personality.

  1. Review your outline and figure out how many sections you have in your paper. Free-write on one section each day for 10-15 minutes. This, of course, requires you to plan ahead. Don’t worry about the references in this draft. You have already read the papers and you have prepared annotations for some of them. You will be surprised by how much you already know about your topic without having to consult notes and papers while preparing your first draft.
  2. Review your outline. Compose the topic sentences for each section of your paper. Again, stay away from the literature here if you can help it. You should have read enough by now to know what the main points will be even if you don’t know how to describe each point in detail.
  3. Review your outline and collect all of the references you have. Read the abstracts of each reference. Write a few brief notes about the articles or chapters you plan to use. Think about where you will use each one. Number them according to their appearance in your paper based on the outline you have created.

Once you get started using one of these methods, or one you devise on your own, you will find the task of writing less daunting. In the end, your final project will be much more refined because you followed an intentional process with plenty of time to enact, reflect, and then polish your own writing. In the first draft, I will improve your grammar, but I will not deduct points for sloppy writing. This stage is about ideas and organization. 

Here is an article to offer you more guidance on this process:

Tagg, J. 2000. Writing a first draft. Discovering Ideas Handbook. Palomar College. https://www2.palomar.edu/users/jtagg/handbook/firstdraft.htm

First Draft Submission Requirements

1. Open your outline document. Start writing. Your outline must appear in this submission. 

2. Ideally, you would submit a whole paper that needs editing and referencing. Minimally, you need to have your topic sentences written so I can assess the progress of your project idea. 

3. Often times, students miss this deadline because they are not done with the first draft. Don’t do this. Submit whatever you have. This will be an automatic reduction in your final score and you will miss the mentoring opportunity. 

DON’T MISS THIS DEADLINE

First Draft Assignment Rubric

First draft (30 pts)Proficient (90-100%) First draft is:
1) at least 1 page of writing with
2) the outline headings retained (although you might remove them before the final submission). 
Note your references, but the formatting of the citations will not be critiqued. 
Be sure to review the final submission rubric and do your best to work towards these criteria in your first draft. 
Competent (75-80%)   There is less than 1 page of writing
OR
there is no evidence of where the references will be used. 
Novice (less than 75%)   There is less than 1 page of writing
AND
there is no evidence of where the references will be used. 

Final Draft Assignment

Learning Outcomes

[Student inserts 1-3 related module outcomes]- should be the same learning outcomes chosen for the outline assignment

The course learning outcomes are noted all over the course, but aggregated in the syllabus and in Final Projects page.

Final Draft Assignment Instructions

As this point, we are ready to share our science learning through publication. This is how the process of science works. Science communication is the most important opportunity in our society today. How people think about the world around them should follow the scientific process of observation, inquiry, trial and error, and newly informed observations as a result. 

Here are some examples:

1. You are a classroom teacher. You can’t seem to control your student right after lunch and recess. What do you do? Well, the fact that you notice the difficulty in that time of day is the observation! Then you take action, trying different strategies, reflecting on their effectiveness, and trying again the next day. This is the scientific process. 

2. You are a parent. Your child gets periodic stomach aches. You worry. What can you do? Many parent try food elimination, ie reduce the sugar intake, reduce the dairy intake, the gluten, etc. This is the scientific process. 

3. You are a hunter. Sometimes the hunt is successful and sometimes it is not. You think to yourself as you track the animals- where are they? You use all of your senses to gather clues about where the animals are and where they are going. You use this sensory information to devise a strategy for the hunt. You hunt (the experiment). The result informs your next effort and even if you may not have succeeded in your goal, you learned more about how animals behave. And that’s important for making your next experiment happen. 

When scientists take an unbiased approach through well-planned observation or experimentation, they report their results no matter what happens because all information gathering is knowledge gain for all humankind. 

As this point in your journey, you are ready to report your results just as any scientist or education researcher does. You will share your final paper with your peers in the final discussion of the course. You will offer and receive feedback and then you can make your final submission on the last day of the course. 

Final Paper Assignment Rubric

Final paper (60 pts)Proficient (90-100%) Final submission:
1) is at least 1000 words (approx. 2 pages), 
2) has a well-articulated introduction that ends with a topic/thesis statement, 
3) 3-6 body paragraphs* addressing various components of the topic, and
4) a conclusion that summarizes the paper and presents ideas for future consideration.
5) At least 5 citations are noted at the end of the document in a references section, 4 of which are peer-reviewed literature, and all are academic. 
6) In-text citations  indicate where the references were used in your paper.  *a paragraph has 3-6 sentences. The first sentence should explain what the paragraph is about such that a reading of the topic sentences alone would constitute an abstract of the whole paper. 
Competent (75-80%)   2 criteria are missing or are inadequate. 
For example, references are not academic, 
OR 
there are fewer than 8 references, 
OR 
there are no in-text  citations, 
OR 
writing is incomplete or poorly organized. 
Novice (less than 75%)   3 or more criteria are missing or are inadequate

Final Project Master Rubric

This rubric addresses the entire term paper project including each module assignment Proficient (90-100%)Competent (75-80%)Novice (less than 75%)
Citations (10 pts)Topic:
1) addresses a specified learning outcome copied into the outline document/
3 citations are:
1) academic, with at least 2 being peer-reviewed literature,
AND
2) written in complete APA formatting. 
1 criterion is missing. More than 1 criteria is missing.
Annotated bibliography  (20 pts) 1) 5 peer-reviewed articles are cited, 
2) in APA formatting, 
AND 
3) 3 of the 5 citations include an annotation that
4) is no more than 10 sentences long, 
AND 
5) summarizes the main concept, methods, findings and the article’s usefulness to your research. 
1 criterion is missing. More than 1 criteria is missing.
Outline (20 pts)Outline has at least 3 sections: 1. an introduction ending with a thesis statement 2. 3-6 main concepts outlined; this is the evidence (information) presented in the paper to support the thesis 3. a conclusion that summarizes the paper The outline can be in any format. I urge you to write the topic sentences for each paragraph, but at a minimum, write a phrase that describes the topic of the paragraph.Less than 5 sections are identified, 
OR 
there are fewer than 3 concepts outlined per section. 
Less than 5 sections are identified, 
AND
there are fewer than 3 concepts outlined per section. 
First draft (30 pts)First draft is:
1) at least 1 page of writing with
2) the outline headings retained (although you might remove them before the final submission). 
Note your references, but the formatting of the citations will not be critiqued. 
Be sure to review the final submission rubric and do your best to work towards these criteria in your first draft. 
There is less than 1 page of writing
OR
there is no evidence of where the references will be used. 
There is less than 1 page of writing
AND
there is no evidence of where the references will be used. 
Final paper (60 pts)Final submission:
1) is at least 1000 words (approx. 2 pages), 
2) has a well-articulated introduction that ends with a topic/thesis statement, 
3) 3-6 body paragraphs* addressing various components of the topic, and
4) a conclusion that summarizes the paper and presents ideas for future consideration.
5) At least 5 citations are noted at the end of the document in a references section, 4 of which are peer-reviewed literature, and all are academic. 
6) In-text citations  indicate where the references were used in your paper.  *a paragraph has 3-6 sentences. The first sentence should explain what the paragraph is about such that a reading of the topic sentences alone would constitute an abstract of the whole paper. 
2 criteria are missing or are inadequate. 
For example, references are not academic, 
OR 
there are fewer than 8 references, 
OR 
there are no in-text  citations, 
OR 
writing is incomplete or poorly organized. 
3 or more criteria are missing or are inadequate