How to Choose and Do a Project
You probably already have at least a general idea of what you would like to do. Don't take on too ambitious a project at first. Something simple that won't take more than one growing season will be best. One of my very simple projects was to investigate which of a variety of markers would work best for me on plant labels without fading or washing off before the end of the season. It was useful to know for my future work so was a good one to start with.
The Research Report and a Suggested Format
The final step is to write a report. Even if you do not intend to publish your results, a report is valuable because it will help you formally draw conclusions and critique your experiments. It need not be elaborate, but you may be surprised at how writing down the information will help you clarify your thoughts about what was accomplished. For those living in colder climates it will provide you with a fine horticultural project for cold winter evenings. The report complements your notebook. Following a standard format will make it more intelligible to others who may wish to read it including yourself when you wish to review your earlier work in the future. It is a reorganization and interpretation of your notebooks. The advent of personal computers makes this step much easier than it was in the past. A sample research report format follows. It was adapted from Levitan, 1983:
Title - Make it interesting, have a little fun and don't take yourself too seriously!
Purpose of the Experiment - Your goals and the reason you did this work.
Hypotheses - A statement of what you expect to prove.
Literature Review - Published or unpublished sources on which you may have based ideas or assumptions
Methods- Experimental design. The type and number of replications, how and where it was laid out, details on material or procedures used, variables assessed, number of sample units and how they were chosen, charts of raw data.
Results- A tabulation of data graphs, statistical tests and any nontabulated observations.
Discussion- Critique all the above points; in other words, discuss whether the design was suitable, whether you collected the right data at the right time, what you should have done differently, and what worked well. Don't be afraid to admit the weaknesses and possible errors that you may have made. Be honest and state your position fairly and without bias.
Conclusion- The conclusion should contain only a concise statement which can be drawn from the data of your experiment.
If you have written a report on a project you've done yourself and would like to share it with others, contact me. I would like to start an on-line archive of amateur gardening research and we may be able to post your report here.
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Last edited on 16 Mar 2000 ©2000 by Dan Sorensen