How to Science: Teaching the Scientific Research Article
Science is a subject of observation; its laws are determined by constant research performed by experts devoted to solving the mysteries of nature and physics. This research is recorded as articles to introduce a community of scholars and experts in the field to these new findings. These publications follow a general format that properly organizes methods and conclusions. This format seems to be introduced at the college level when students have chosen their fields of focus, but an earlier introduction could lead to a greater grasp of what science offers. It is for this reason that – as a high school science teacher – it is important to implement the scientific research article into your curriculum, as it would lead to a higher understanding of the scientific process.
The Importance of Early Introduction
Early introduction of this format can both aid future science majors in their endeavors and provide an insight regarding whether they are interested in science. By introducing scientific research articles to students, science can be presented as a subject of discovery instead of one of fact. For those who become interested in performing experiments and research, constant research article writing can help perfect the craft itself, preparing future scientists for what is to come.
Teaching the Standard Format
A generic format is typically followed in the science community regarding how scientific findings are recorded and presented. As science educators, this format is most likely engrained in your minds. However, it is important to discuss the overall format to determine how to properly educate high-school students. This guarantees proper instruction of each section of this arrangement.
This provides an initial summary of what the research entails, giving a brief description of the results and organization of consequent experiments. The abstract is a one-paragraph portrayal of the contents of subsequent sections of the article. Through this, the reader can determine whether the findings would potentially pique certain interests.
This may be the easiest portion of the format to teach because it holds a similar structure to something with which most high-school students are familiar: the conclusion paragraph. In the typical five-paragraph essay, a conclusion paragraph presents all the material mentioned within the paper, organizes it into one final summary, and connects those points to a general thesis. In a similar sense, the abstract briefly presents the methods used during experimentation and the resulting observations, organizes them into a theory, and connects them to the hypothesis.
A collection of explanations, questions, and reasons, the introduction typically spans the length of a single page and brings about the concepts behind the research. This section provides a history of the topic, what is currently known, why the research was conducted, and the expected result.
Similar to how the abstract could be compared to the conclusion paragraph of the five-paragraph essay, the introduction section can be compared to the introduction paragraph. Just as how the introduction paragraph of a language-based essay introduces the reader to the overall topic of the essay and what is to be discussed in subsequent paragraphs, the introduction section of a research article introduces the overall reason behind the research and what is to be tested in subsequent sections.
Materials and Methods
A depiction of the experiment format takes shape here. Materials are described in exact measurements, discussing how many instruments were needed and how much of a certain product or resource were used. The process of the experiments is described in detail without describing the results. This section should provide the reader with a schematic that allows for near-perfect recreation of the conducted research.
To introduce this section to high-school students, relate it to a story version of an instruction manual. An effortless way would be for students to rewrite cooking instructions. Below is the first step for cooking Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo, according to a recipe found on AllRecipes.com:
“Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.”
This step is introduced as an instructional command, informing the cook that pasta must be cooked in a pot of lightly-salted boiling water until ready before the water is drained. The recipe used one pound of fettuccini pasta with no indication of the exact measurements of water or salt. Adding generic measurements to the water and salt used, this could be rewritten as more of a descriptive step than a brief instruction, looking like:
“Five cups of water were then mixed with three teaspoons of salt and heated in a pot until boiling occurred. One pound of fettuccini pasta was then added to this mixture. The pasta was then allowed to cook for approximately ten minutes until it was al dente. The cooked pasta was then separated from the water-salt mixture by a strainer.
As most people are familiar with following instructions, rewording instructions should prove to be an easy task for high-school students.
The findings of the conducted experiments are organized into words, charts, and tables. The results from the research are represented in a convenient and readable manner. However, no interpretations of these results are made; just a statement of what was recorded. Along with a description of the findings, figures can be presented to better display these results. These figures should be titled by its type – table, chart, or graph – along with a brief description of its contents.
To demonstrate this to students, examples of figures and descriptions can be given. For example, fake research conducted on thirty imaginary middle-school students regarding favorite school subjects suggests that half the students find science to be the most interesting. The following table displays this information compared to responses for other subjects.
|Favorite subject||Number of students|
Table 1: Responses by Thirty Students Regarding Favorite School Subjects
As can be seen by this example, only the results themselves were discussed: half of the students liked science more than other subjects.
This truly acts as a discussion for what the collected results entail. This section allows the author to determine what the findings suggest about certain relationships between the measured variables. These discoveries are also compared to previous research by other researchers to determine if said findings lose credibility or support the results for this current research.
This can easily be taught to high-school students by providing more examples. Utilizing the “Favorite School Subject” example, science is the preferred subject between those students. However, according to research performed on this same sample group a year prior, the preferred subject was once English. It can also be noted that the English teacher at the time is the current science teacher. Therefore, it can be determined that the teacher is the reason why these middle-school students currently prefer science over other subjects.
Works Cited and Appendices
The contents of any research article are based on previous knowledge of the topic and results obtained during experimentation. The works cited page provides the sources for the prior knowledge and supports any citations listed in the paper itself. The appendices provide any raw data prior to interpretation. Had the results of a Western blot been deciphered in the results section of the paper, the Western blot itself could be included in an appendix. As these sections are just collections of sources, students only need to be taught to include all sources of information.
“5 Paragraph Essay Structure.” Writing Research and Technology Zone – College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
Mamatiff. “Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo Recipe.” Allrecipes. N.p., 19 May 2005. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://allrecipes.com/recipe/23979/shrimp-fettuccine-alfredo/>.
“WRITING A SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ARTICLE.” Columbia University in the City of New York. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <http://www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/ug/research/paper.html>.
“Writing a Scientific Research Paper.” (n.d.): n. pag. Micromechanics Group – Research Laboratory of Electronics – Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web. 24 Apr. 2017. <http://umech.mit.edu/freeman/6.021J/2000/writing.pdf>.