Research Considerations Steven A. Jones Biomedical Engineering Louisiana Tech University Created for Louisiana Tech’s NSF-Sponsored Undergraduate Research Experiences in Micro/Nano Engineering Program
Jones’ Rules of Research • First, have a question. • If it doesn’t work, try plugging it in. • Look at your data. • When presenting your work, have a point. • Cite references – Nobody cares what your opinion is. • Prepare questions before you go to the literature. You will never find what you are looking for unless you know what you are looking for. • Before you take data, make sure something is happening. • Do not try to curve fit a goat into a camel. • If your results differ from theory by an order of magnitude, you might want to check into it. • Use your brain. It is the most valuable piece of equipment you will ever have.
Jones’ Rules of Research • If your range of interest is 0 to 100 mm Hg, calibrate instruments within the range of 0 to 100 mm Hg. • Know what you want to measure. • If you need to find B – A, know what A is (offset). • Use a positive control. • Use a negative control.
Jones’ Axioms of Research • The most interesting part of your work will never be directly related to the question you set out to answer. • If you discover a new phenomenon, it will be immediately criticized on the grounds that (a) it is physically impossible and (b) it was already demonstrated definitively 100 years ago. • If a curve fit of your data looks wrong, it is wrong. • A good mathematical model will always be more useful than you initially thought it would. • A mathematical model is useful only to the extent that it is useful. • Regardless of the cost of your equipment, you will still need to hold something together with duct tape.
Components of an Experiment • Question • General Hypothesis • Null Hypothesis • Alternative Hypothesis • Dependent Variables • Independent Variables • Calibration(s) • Positive Control • Negative Control • Experimental Setup • Experimental Protocol • Data Analysis • Statistical Testing • Interpretation of Results
Elements of a GoodResearch Question • Specific: Not a “fishing expedition” • Measurable: Testable (statistically) • Attainable: Something that “you” can do • You have the expertise • You have the equipment and resources • Realistic: • Based on some sort of rational physics • Can be done in a reasonable time frame • Timely: • Novel • Preferably based in new technologies (has a past). • Important to current concerns (has a present). • Can lead to new directions – i.e. is not an endpoint in itself (has a future). • Unbiased: Meaningful whether the answer is “Yes” or “No.”
Contents of a Laboratory Notebook • The date of the entry, along with your signature. • A record of daily activities on the project • Summaries of important information you have learned through the literature, contacts, or other sources • Your own ideas and thoughts • Photographs and drawings of prototypes and experimental setups. • Calculations that are related to your work • A description of any experiments that you are doing, including protocols, instrumentation and materials used. • Data that you have collected, including calibrations, tests of your setup (positive controls) and experimental data. • Make liberal log entries. You never know what information you will need to look up at a later time. Use your log book as a tool. Log books that are merely diary entries are not sufficient.
Contents of a Laboratory Notebook • Each of these elements is important for two reasons. 1) It provides a single place where this information can be readily found (for the sake of writing up reports, re-creating experimental protocols, etc.) and 2) It serves as proof of intellectual property. • You should make sure that an independent person signs and dates each page of your laboratory notebook periodically (e.g. once a week) as a certification that this is your work. • Log entries must be in ink. Errors should be crossed out with a single line, not erased. • Do not leave any pages blank. Draw a line through each blank page or portion thereof. • Do not tear out any pages.
Advice onLaboratory Notebooks • Make liberal log entries. You never know what information you will need to look up at a later time. • Use your log book as a tool. • A log book is more than a diary.