Warren G. Gold
Overview of the scientific method, emphasizing the development of testable hypotheses, scientific writing and analysis.
Winter 2011: This course is an exploration of the breadth of the scientific process - from the core methods of scientific inquiry to a broader examination of how science actually works in academic and applied settings. Guest speakers will illustrate the diversity of scientific practices that occur in different settings. We will focus on honing our natural scientific instincts and curiosities in an inquiry-based framework. The course will also examine and practice using selected quantitative tools in science to foster students' abilities in critical analysis of scientific information and construction of evidence-based arguments. This course is an introduction to the scientific process for students interested in natural and social sciences and the thoughtful application of scientific information in policy, planning, and other public arenas. A link to the Autumn 2008 course is provided below for a general perspective, though the 2009 course may differ in some significant details.
Student learning goals
Students will learn to identify and employ the methods of scientific inquiry, particularly focusing on the development of good scientific questions and hypotheses.
Students will learn to critically analyze quantitative scientific information using statistical methods and drawing evidence-based conclusions.
Students will learn effective methods of oral and written communication in the natural sciences.
Students will learn strategies for reading scientific literature and extracting important information.
Students will learn how peer review works in the scientific process and its value
General method of instruction
Lecture and small group interaction over projects
This course is appropriate for any student interested in a thoughtful introduction to what science is and how to practice some critical elements. We will be practicing various aspects of the scientific process. You should be familiar and comfortable with basic quantitative methods in handling data (calculating means, variation, etc.) and with graphical illustration of data. A basic background in statistics and probability is very helpful as is some prior college-level science course(s). Familiarity with Microsoft Excel, as a statistical and graphical platform is helpful.
Class assignments and grading
The largest assignment will likely be a summative annotated bibliography on some literature topic in environmental science. There will also be shorter written assignments in data presentation, hypothesis development, and reviewing some guest speakers from environmental science inside and outside of academia. There may be one short oral presentation on your literature review.
Grades will be assigned based upon assessment of the assignments (outlined above) and (likely two) in-class exams.