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Writing an Ecological Research Proposal

This is a writing assignment that is broken up into steps that emulate the process of developing a novel scientific question and creating a research proposal to answer the question. The assignment is loosely based on the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program proposal and consists of all of the same pieces except for Broader Impacts. This assignment was developed for a course in plant ecology, but is applicable to many of the biological and environmental science fields. First, students are encouraged to explore the primary literature and the natural world around them to develop a question in plant ecology. Topics are bounded by the themes and ideas covered in course lecture material and the field of plant ecology. The instructor/TAs provide feedback on the question based on feasibility, scientific merit and potential for a two-page proposal. The question development is followed by two different rounds of peer review and eventually a final proposal is submitted for a grade.
Associated files
Primary or BEN resource type
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords Research Proposal, Scientific writing, research question, peer review, literature review, student-centered learning
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Category
Pedagogical Use Description Instructors can adapt this writing assignment to any field of science that writes research proposals similar to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Proposal. It was built to be a course-long assignment with several checkpoints throughout the course to ensure student comprehension and development.
Uniqueness It is a unique means of breaking down a writing assignment for students and allowing for student creativity to facilitate the development of their own scientific question. By choosing their own question, students are able to learn on their own about a course topic in much more depth than is possible with a lecture-style course.
Aggregation Level
Full Name of Primary Author Nathan Emery
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation University of California, Santa Barbara
Primary Author email
Added By Id
  • Nemery
Rights Nathan Emery
Review type
Drought and Water Ecosystem Services Collection Off
Conservation Targets Under Global Change Collection Off
Big Data Collection Off
Editors Choice No
Resource Status
Date Of Record Submission 2016-03-30
I Agree to EcoEdDL's Copyright Policy & Terms of Use No
Date Of Record Release 2016-04-22 06:53:00
Last Modified By Id
  • tmourad
Date Last Modified 2016-04-22 06:53:00
Release Flag Published

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