Independent Study BIOL492 Syllabus

PLEASE NOTE: To register for this class you must request an override using the form below. Overrides will not be released until after May 1st for Summer and Fall registration and Dec 1st for Spring semester studies. Mentor confirmation must have been received for the overrides to be issued.

Course Expectations for Students: Independent study in the Biological sciences requires the investigation of a biological problem through literature search and laboratory and/or field experimentation.

Registration for BIOL492 is by override only.
Students are required to find their own research mentors and secure a position in their research group to conduct their study prior to registration. It is suggested that this relationship is fostered in the semester preceding registration as it often takes a week or so for the student and mentor to agree and the Dept. of Biology to issue the overrides.

Once a mentor is secured students must complete the online Independent Study Registration Form. In addition, mentors must provide their approval by email to Dr. Golding segolding@vcu.edu.

Applications for Independent study approval will be given priority before May 1st for Summer and Fall registration and Dec 1st for Spring semester studies. BIOL492 may count as a senior capstone course, students must co-register for BIOL477 Capstone Experience.

Course Goals: Students will leave this course having acquired knowledge and comprehension of the research process. They will have seen how to apply their knowledge to a scientific problem. 

Course Expectations for Mentors:

It is expected that mentors ensure that students achieve the following learning outcomes:

To enable the student to demonstrate an ability to;

  • Search the literature relevant to the topic
  • Differentiate between primary, secondary and tertiary sources of information
  • Produce a critical review of the literature relevant to the topic to be studied
  • Carry out the investigations
  • Collect, collate and analyze data from their investigations
  • Draw valid conclusions from the analysis of the data
  • Discuss the relevance of the conclusions in the context of the literature relating to that topic
  • Report the findings of the investigation in writing
  • Display professional behavior at all times
  • Communicate clearly with mentors and larger lab group
  • Work well in a team
  • Display independence
  • Respond well to critique

Mentors are required to edit and proofread all assignments before submission to Dr. Golding. Dr. Golding will issue the final grades to e-services after receiving feedback from mentors. If mentors have any worries regarding the quality and quantity of work their mentees are producing they should contact Dr. Golding

Course Coordinator:

Sarah Golding                    email: segolding@vcu.edu                Office: LFSCB 314

Enrollment: By override after approval by the Department of Biology. Please direct all questions to Dr. Golding.

The Department Chairman generally will not authorize the direction of more than nine credits of independent study by a faculty member during any one semester. This nine credits also includes directed study and/or research and thesis credits.

If you are a senior and would like to use this course to fulfill your senior capstone requirement, you will need to be co-registered for BIOL 477. Registration for BIOL 477 requires that you first receive an override from the biology department and then register for the course via e-services using the provided CRN. Please select this option on the registration request form. You will receive an e-mail notification once you are able to add BIOL 477 to your schedule. You must register for BIOL 477 prior to the end of add/drop to receive capstone credit. Credit cannot be awarded after the fact.

Prerequisites: Prerequisite a minimum grade of C in BIOZ151, BIOZ152, permission of the Department of Biology and research mentor.

Textbook:           No textbook is used in the class
Grading:              A-F/Incomplete Please note: this is a change for Spring 2016. Grading feedback for BIOL492 Independent Study (for student viewing only).

To receive a passing grade in this course students must dedicate 3-4 hrs per credit hour per week to hands-on data gathering and experimentation.  This time will be monitored by the research mentor. Students must also work with their mentors to complete all required assignments and learning outcomes outlined in the syllabus. Students must ensure that mentors have read and approved the final product before submission to Dr. Golding.

PLEASE NOTE: Students can not be paid for the hours they work in the lab while registered in this class. If students are being paid to work they must work additional unpaid hours to receive credit for this class.

At the end of each semester, mentor feedback will be solicited. Dr. Golding will review the grade in comparison to other submissions. Any grade disagreements will be resolved in a Biology faculty meeting. At any time should a mentor feel that a student’s contribution is insufficient they must contact Dr. Golding as soon as possible.

A grade of “incomplete” should only be given on the students request and after consultation with the student/mentor and Dr. Golding. All incomplete work must be completed within 30 days of the next semester.

Responsible Conduct of Research Requirement:
All students registering for this class must complete responsible conduct of research training (RCR). LFSC301 completes this requirement. Students who have not completed LFSC301 must take an online course hosted by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) and can be found at www.citiprogram.org. At this site, Select “Create an Account” , enter your organization (VCU), create an account, and then select ‘general RCR training’. Training is free but requires a vcu.edu account.  Students must take a screen shot to confirm they have completed this requirement and upload to the Blackboard page for this class. If you have previously completed the CITI RCR training for another class you do not need to repeat it but you must provide proof. The CITI Human Subjects training can not be substituted.

Assignments:
ALL assignments must be proofread, edited and approved by the supervising faculty member prior to submission to Dr. Golding via Blackboard.


Research plan/proposal:

Due dates: Feb 5th for Spring semester, June 5th for Summer semester, and September 5th for Fall semester.

This deadline is enforced by your mentor. Dr. Golding will offer an automatic 10 day grace period. Any student who has not submitted a research plan to Blackboard by Feb 15th, June 15th or Sept 15th can be administratively removed from the course.

Research plan will include:
– A title
– An overview of background behind your research topic
– A hypothesis or research question
– A brief timeline of proposed study
– at least 3 in text citations

Final research report:
Due dates:  May 1st for spring semester, July 20th for Summer semester, and December 1st for fall semester.

This deadline is enforced by your mentor. Dr. Golding offers an automatic 10 day grace period. Any student who has not submitted a final paper to Blackboard by May 10th, Aug 1st, or Dec 10th  will receive a grade of “F”. Mentors will be responsible for filing the paperwork to remove the “F” grade. A grade of “Incomplete, I” can only be issued on the students request with approval from the mentor and Dr. Golding.

Written in the style of a journal article from the research field of study the research report must include:

  • A title, authors, affiliations
  • Abstract
  • Background
  • Hypothesis
  • Methods
  • Results (using appropriate graphs and statistics for that field of study)
  • Conclusions/Discussion/Future Directions
  • In-text citations (at least 8).

Writing guidelines/expectations: Please follow the writing guidelines posted to blackboard under course documents. All assignments must be typed. Primary literature and full citations in the style of a journal of the field will be expected for all assignments.
Research Report Guidelines. If you can not find information on citation style from your mentor follow these guidelines. Citation guidelines

We are aware that much of the work will be preliminary in nature. But we still require that students share their findings in the format of a research paper. If the student has encountered significant technical difficulties and the data generated is weak or questionable, the student is advised to focus on the cause of the technical difficulties in the results section and suggest strategies to overcome these issues in the discussion section of the paper.

Assignment Submission: To reduce the chance of plagiarism all assignments for BIOL492 must be submitted via the safe assign database in Bb. Please see the BIOL492 Bb page for instructions on how to submit.

Please note seniors: If during the duration of your biology degree you have registered for more than 6 credits of Directed Study, Independent Study, or Research and Thesis degree works may not slot your credits correctly. Please bring this up with your biology advisor.

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