In its basic form, the scientific method is a series of steps scientists use to answer questions and to solve problems. The goal is to come up with reliable answers and solutions to the questions. While honey bees are one of the most studied insects, there is still a lot to learn. The Master Level student takes on the role of scientist in this requirement.
By exploring the scientific method a Master Level student will gain insight into how scientists answer new questions. The process provides the student with a methodology to respond to his/her own questions and a means to understand papers written by scientists and evaluate the validity of findings in those papers.
As an experienced beekeeper, a Master Level participant has, over the years, made observations on honey bees and has asked questions about what has been observed, even if only to him or herself. This requirement asks the student to pick two questions and apply the scientific method as described below.
Consider your two questions for this component of the Master Level. First, you will do a thorough literature review to understand what work has been done on your topics and develop a hypothesis for each topic. The hypothesis you choose should be one for which you feel you can develop experimentation to support.
You will design experiments that will test the validity of the chosen hypothesis.
The next step in the scientific method is to test whether or not the hypothesis is correct. In a perfect situation, only one variable in the test is manipulated (treatments) while all other variables remain constant. This is referred to as the “fair test”. While this works best under laboratory conditions (and even that is difficult with honey bees, because they do not adapt well to laboratory situations), there are some things you can do to develop a “fair test”:
- ensure equal populations in test colonies
- similar placement of colonies
- replicate at same time
Note: Due to cost, time, and other factors, Master Level students are not expected to perform experiments. Create a hypothetical situation in which you perform your experiment and either prove or disprove your hypothesis. Write up your findings per the instructions below.
Instructions for the Master Level research projects using the scientific method:
- Submit a scientific research proposal to your advisor for each topic (2) that describes observations and resulting hypotheses that will be explored. Include references used during background research.
- For each approved topic, submit documentation of the steps taken following the scientific method. The document should be size 12 font, double-spaced; at least 1500 words with header or footer containing contact information.
The document should follow the format of a scientific paper:
- Abstract: Brief statements of the purpose, methods, results, and conclusion.
- Introduction: Provide background on the topic and state the hypothesis.
- Materials and Methods: Describe experimental design: treatments and controls, sample size, equipment, conditions under which the experiment will take place (location, time of year). Describe experimental procedure.
- Results: Report the data without interpretation. May include graphs and/or tables.
- Discussion: Describe what was observed, interpret results, describe unexpected variables that may have affected outcome, relate results to other studies, suggest further studies.