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How to structure research projects

This site presents questions and their empirical investigation according to an approximation of standard scientific publications. To some this is familiar, and if so, great. To others it may not be familiar, or even seem strange and intimidating. Many people in the arts do not think of themselves as scientifically competent. Not so!

The first thing to realize is that the most important thing that distinguishes science from non-science is to simply keep notes on what you do and what you observe. If all you do in your project is just to write down these notes on your main project page, that would be enough. It would accomplish the great majority of the goal here, which is to try things that are not otherwise clear and to report back on what you find, so that others — and yourself! — can proceed, knowing the outcome without having to repeat the work. Consistently carrying out this simple strategy (and disclosing what you write) is what has enabled science to discover so much about the world and make possible all the advanced technology that we enjoy.

The organization of scientific research and the papers that describe it is effectively an international standard. It arose because it works as a way to structuring and presenting knowledge, so that it can be shared and form the foundation for further experiments, becoming a building block in an ever expanding web of knowledge. This is the primary mechanism which has made science so effective in discovering the intricacies of the world around us. We artists and filmmakers and lovers of the photochemical ought to avail ourselves of this effective strategy and make it our own.

Participants are asked to follow this structure at least in spirit, however much as it relates to their work and inclinations. Don't be discouraged if this seems intimidating or excessive; the point is not to be nit-picky, but to maintain the readability and coherence that will make this site effective.

Essentially, it is as follows. How closely to follow standard practice — and just what exactly standard practice is — is less important than presenting what you do clearly, with enough information about the materials you use and the procedure you follow that someone else could accurately reproduce what you did. Not all of these sections are necessarily relevant to any particular experiment or way of working, so pick and choose as appropriate. Look at other projects on this site, and you'll get some idea of how this structure is being used.

  • Title
    • The name of your experiment, descriptive enough to give a reader an idea of what it's about. This is really just your project name, which should be the title of your project page.
  • Authors
    • Name who did the work.
  • Introduction
    • A description of what you set out to instigate, and how you thought to go about it. Describe the specific hypothesis that you're testing.
  • Background Discussion
    • What is the thinking that led you to create the experiment in the particular way that you did?
  • Materials
    • Describe the nature and origins of the materials that you used in the experiment: what brand of chemicals (and maybe in what condition!), what was your water source, what kind of film base, what kind of tools. It's important to describe this stuff because it has such a great effect on the outcome. The experiment may turn out to be less a test of your hypothesis than a test of a particular material!
  • Methods/Procedure
    • How you did the experiment. Provide details the techniques you used. This is also important, because this is what will make your results repeatable, and it is often the source of serendipitous discovery — after the fact you may find that you didn't get what you expected, but someone else may notice that you used ten times the amount of one of the chemicals than you meant to, but you wrote it down, so the next experiment can either get it right or carry on a new path.
  • Results
    • What happened. This is both words and the place to put images of what you got.
  • Discussion
    • What you make of it all. Did your hypothesis get confirmed? How did the experiment accord with background information? Is it beautiful? Is it a successful process? Does it suggest further experiments? This is where you give your thoughts about the whole thing.

Here is a Full Research Paper section list to look at.

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Created by Robert Schaller. Last Modification: Thursday 19 of April, 2012 03:44:12 UTC by Robert Schaller.