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AZ 375: Animal Behavior: Research Proposal

This guide provides resources for your assignments and research in AZ375.

Identifying Keywords

Use your research question to identify keywords and related terms for your topic.

Example of research paper topic: 

Investigating whether orangutans demonstrate the ability to understand the intentions of conspecifics contributes to the larger issue of theory of mind in primates

Keywords:

Concepts Related Terms
Orangutans primates
"intentions of conspecifics" species
"theory of mind" understand*, "mental states"

 

Strategies to Improve Search Results

1) Use keywords instead of long sentences

2) Use the Advanced Search

Using the Advanced Search will allow you to build a stronger search query.  The advanced search can be found below the main search box on the Library homepage:

3) Use Boolean Operators and Drop Down Menu

  • AND - Limits your search (fewer results)
  • OR - Expands your search (more results)
  • NOT - Limits your search (fewer results)
  • Use drop down menus when you are searching for a specific author, title, publication, or subject heading for more precise searching.

4) Phrase searching

  • Add "quotation marks" around specific phrases
  • Creates unique search term
  • Focuses your search (fewer results)

5) Truncation/Wildcards

  • Use wildcard (*) to truncate word so that more variations of word are found.  Truncation symbols vary by database but may include *, !, ?, or #. 

6) Search Limiters

Use Search Limiters to further narrow your search by date, format, and other aspects of a publication.  Search limiters are located along the left side of the search window.

Search limiters

  • narrow to Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals
  • narrow by Publication Date (e.g. 2009 - 2020)
  • narrow by Resource Type (book, ebook, article, etc.)
  • narrow by Publication Type (publication name)
  • narrow by Content Provider (database)

 

Spotting Bad Science

Additional Resource for Research Proposals

Written Research Proposal Details

This proposal should be 8-10 double-spaced pages with 1-inch margins, using a 12- point font comparable to Times New Roman. Please put your name, course section number, date, and the title of your research project at the top of the first page and number all pages. Please save
documents uploaded to Moodle by your first initial, last name, and assignment title (e.g., EFrick_ResearchProposalDraft).

**When you submit your final paper, you will need to also include a cover letter that addresses the edits and changes you made to your rough draft. Your References section will appear at the end of the proposal, starting on a separate page, and your
references do NOT count toward your total page number.


Sources: You must use at least 10 sources for this paper.  For this assignment, popular magazine or newspaper articles are not considered appropriate.


Format: Just like a standard scientific research article, your research proposal must be divided into sections using headings (in bold). The four main sections of your research proposal are described below along with the different page limits for each section:


Background (3-4 pgs.): This section should accomplish two major goals:

  1. Discuss important findings from previous studies that are relevant to your project so that your reader can gauge the current understanding of the topic, and
  2. Present your study’s major objectives and detailed hypothesis.

To successfully accomplish these goals, you must:

  • Provide sufficient background information to explain the topic you are investigating and define all key terms/concepts.
  • Give common and scientific (Latin) names for all species you refer to (Latin names areonly necessary at the first mention of the species, then common names suffice).
  • Demonstrate that you have a good knowledge of prior literature relevant to your topic-this requires doing your research so you don’t exclude important studies!
  • Be explicit in showing how your research expands on previous findings
  • Go beyond summarizing other studies- clearly demonstrate how your study builds on existing scholarship by pointing out key aspects of the design and/or results of previous research as it relates to your project.
  • Formulate a research question that is narrowly focused on one aspect of your topic. For example - in one study you won’t be able to resolve whether all primates have theory of mind. Instead, concentrate on collecting data on one piece of the puzzle. Investigating whether orangutans demonstrate the ability to understand the intentions of conspecifics contributes to the larger issue of theory of mind in primates, but is a manageable research question based on a testable hypothesis.

Methods (2-3 pgs.): This section should lay out what data you will need to collect to answer your research question and how you will go about collecting these data (the “who, what, when, where, how” of your project). You may also use subheadings (in italics) to further divide this
section if you find it useful (e.g., Study Group, Experimental Protocol). This section should be written in future tense since you have not conducted the study yet. A successful methods section will include:

  • Information about the sample size and group composition (i.e., how many males, females, adults, infants, etc.)
  • Key details about the location of the study (e.g., Brookfield Zoo, The Duke Lemur Center, South Africa, Kruger National Park, Chimp Life Sancutary, etc.). Determining where to conduct your research will involve researching different facilities or field sites that contain the animal you wish to study in an environment suitable for your project.
  • A detailed description of what data you will collect and how you will collect these data. Be as specific as possible so that someone could replicate your study just by reading this section. (i.e., How many days a week will you collect data? At what time? What will your experimental apparatus look like? How many trials will you conduct? What variables are you controlling for and how?)
  • Visual aids of your experimental design or a map of the study site to make sure your reader understands the study conditions (you can take these directly from research articles or other sources as long as you properly cite them or you can create your own).

Statistical Analysis Plan (1-2 pages): In this section, you must describe how you plan to analyze your data. A successful statistical analysis plan will include the following:

  • Discuss the variables that are being measured, are they co-variates or unilaterally analyzed?
  • Will your dataset violate any assumptions? Are you using parametric or nonparametric tests?
  • Introduce the proposed statistical test(s) – realistically, there will be more than 1 test needed or used. Explain why this statistical test is appropriate for the data that you will collect. Also explain what kind of information you will learn from this test.

Broader Implications (1-2 pgs.): In this section, you must make a case for what contribution your project makes to the discipline and how the results of your study will help answer the unresolved question you are investigating. A successful Broader Implications section will:

  • Emphasize the contribution of the proposed research not only to the specific area of research being addressed but also to the broader field of your topic. (i.e., Why does this project matter in the grand scheme of it all?)
  • Offer potential future directions of this research. Your project contributes one piece of the larger puzzle, but what other pieces are missing? What other information is needed before this research question can fully be answered?

References: List all sources you refer to in your proposal in APA style (a minimum of 10). Remember that only academic sources are  acceptable for this assignment (articles from peer-reviewed journals or book chapters from edited volumes like your textbook). Refer to the APA
Quick Reference Guide if you have questions about in-text citing or formatting sources for this section. Remember to take time to proofread your work, paying special attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation.