Standards for the NSS Research Communication Senior Thesis.

From Research Design Handbook by Dr. Lou Weber

Required sections of both the talk and the manuscript:


Abstract -

·should be all one paragraph.
·there should be no citations.

·each of the four main sections of the talk should be summarized, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion.  Two or three sentences should be used to summarize each section but this should be written as a cohesive paragraph without separate headings.

·the objective should be included and written clearly as an if, why, or whether question.  It does not need to be stated as a hypothesis.

·the summary of the results should be very detailed and include P values, correlation coefficients, Chi-square values, and means.

·the final line should be a strong conclusion statement that summarizes the entire project.

·the biggest mistake students have made in the past is failure to summarize the Discussion or to indicate what the implications of the results are to the wider world.


Introduction -

·should answer the question, why did the author undertake this study?

·should answer the question, what is the existing state of knowledge about the topic?  The author needs to complete a thorough literature search, but needs to be careful about restricting the background material to only what is pertinent.  Often students include too much natural history information about their subject.  The Introduction should be as short as it can be, but still give all necessary background to explain the objective.

·every fact that is stated should include a citation using the name-year method of citation preferably at the end of the sentence, like this (Smith 1999).

·whole paragraphs should NEVER be cited just once at the end of a paragraph to attribute the whole paragraph to a single source.

·footnotes should never be used in science writing especially as a form of citation, with one exception.  Occasionally, footnotes are used in tables.

·generally a hypothesis or prediction of the results is not included because it biases the results.  Instead, a statement of objective is imperative for the Yarbrough Grant Application, the Abstract, the NSS presentation, and the final paper.  It usually comes at the end of the Introduction and should include -

·an if, why, or whether question,

·the full species or chemical name that will be investigated,

·the location or geographic area that will be studied,

·the attribute of the species or chemical that will be studied (e.g., size, density, cover).

·it should generally not be in the form of a prediction or null hypothesis.

In association with the objective, statements in the Introduction sometimes include

·a measurable quantity or status that determines a change,

·a time frame,

·a phrase listing how the objective will be accomplished,

·a phrase listing why the objective is being undertaken.


Methods - (should not be called Materials and Methods)


·should list enough information so that someone could repeat the research without having to contact the author.

·should be in paragraph, narrative form and not be written in the style of a recipe.

·should not include a list of materials.  Materials should be described within the narrative.

·should describe the statistical procedures used to analyze the results.  When describing the statistical procedures, it is okay to write the null hypothesis that will be tested.


Results - 


·should not include implications, speculation, management recommendations, or interpretations.

·should be in narrative form and not simply a collection of figures and tables.

·any graphs, figures, maps, or tables should be referred to within the text like this (Fig. 3) or this (Table 1).

·tables and figures should not duplicate each other. They should be prepared according to the format shown in the J. of Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society or another journal,

·in the final paper, tables and figures should be placed on pages separate from the text, one table or figure per page.

·each figure should have a caption or legend that gives enough information so that it can be understood by itself without further reference to the text. 

·each table should have a caption above it and separated from the table by a line.


Discussion -


·should interpret the data in relation to the original objective.

·should compare conclusions to those of others.

·should suggest management implications if appropriate.

·should relate the interpretations to the present state of knowledge and future needs of research.

·should end with a firm take-home message or conclusion statement.

·there is no requirement for a Future Research section and in fact too much emphasis on suggestions for future research make it sound like the author was negligent in the first place.  If the author has all these great ideas for future research, why didnít he or she do it in the first place?

·the biggest mistakes young authors make in Discussion is that they simply rehash results rather than interpret them.  A second tendency is to dismiss the results because of errors and inadequacies in the methods.  While it might be appropriate to suggest improvement of technique, most students are too quick to dismiss their results entirely.  No one has ever done a perfect study.  If they were all dismissed because of weaknesses, we would have no science literature.


Acknowledgments -

·should give credit to those who contributed equipment, transportation, housing, grants, internship funding, major ideas, work, technical assistance, statistical advice, computer advice, permissions, access to study sites, or help with preparation of the manuscript.  Any faculty member who helped, beyond the major advisor should be acknowledged. 

·the NSS is not the Academy Awards.  Keep private jokes, personal thanks, and gushy emotions to a minimum. Authors should include only professional acknowledgments.  Personal references (Elvis, God, Mom, pets) should be thanked in some other way.

·acknowledgment does not have to mean the same thing as gratitude.  Occasionally, hard feelings develop between a major contributor and the author.  The writer does not have to say thanks to this person, but he or she should be acknowledged. 


Literature Cited -Required for the final paper.  A bibliography is required for the presentation on the back of the piece of paper that has the abstract.


·Literature Cited is not the same thing as a bibliography which lists every literature source consulted during any phase of the project.

·Literature Cited should include only those sources actually cited in the manuscript and should include literature only and not personal interviews.  Citations for web sites should be kept to a minimum or not used at all.  Peer reviewed literature should be what is cited.

·in both Literature Cited and the bibliography, the citations should be in alphabetical order by the first authorís last name. 

·should be in the form of a science journal and not in APA or the form used by other social sciences or humanities.  Suggested form can be found on the following page.


Format for Citations in Literature Cited and Bibliographies:



Sachar, D.B.  1994.  Budesonide for inflammatory bowel disease:  is it a

            magic bullet?  New England Journal of Medicine 331:873-874.


Lee, T.D. and F.A. Bazzaz.  1982.  Regulation of fruit and seed production in 

            an annual legume, Cassia fasciculata.  Ecology 63:1363-1373.


Auerbach, S., F.C. Zhou, B.L. Jacobs, and E. Azmitia.  1985.  Serotonin 

            turnover in raphe nuerons transplanted into rat hippocampus. 

            Neuroscience Letters 61:147-152.


Sokal, R.R. and F.J. Rohlf.  1981.  Biometry:  the principles and practice of 

statistics in biological research.  2nd ed.  WH Freeman, San Francisco, 

CA, U.S.A. 859 p.


Petter, J.J. 1965.  The lemurs of Madagascar.  In:  DeVore, M.  (ed.).  Primate

            behavior of monkeys and apes.  Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, New 

York, NY, U.S.A.  p. 292-319.


Sachar, D.B.  1994a.  Budesonide for inflammatory bowel disease:  is it a

            magic bullet?  New England Journal of Medicine 331:873-874.

Sachar, D.B.  1994b.  Inflammatory towel disease as a result of magic bullets.          Journal of the American Medical Association 435:192-339.


Carriveau, K.L.  1995.  Review of the book Environmental hazards:  marine 

pollution.  Electronic Green Journal [online] vol. 2, 3 paragraphs.  Available:Gopher:// gopher/pogher/library/egj03/carriv01.html [1995, June 21]