Sciences & Mathematics Project Guidelines

Typical Length

This is obviously going to vary with the subject matter, but in general the following guidelines should apply. A concisely written and well-focused scientific paper should consist of several sections. The introduction is the background and scope of the subject, including pertinent major literature and the purposes and goals of current work. The length could range from a couple of paragraphs to several pages, depending on the subject. This section should be written last so the writer knows what is being introduced. The materials and methods section needs to be concise and to the point. The student should refer to reference(s) describing standard methodology in more detail. Some students can mistakenly make this part the bulk of the paper. The results section is mainly a description of patterns, trend, irregularities, etc. in data presented in tables, graphs, figures, photographs, ect. Material in this section could potentially be half the length of the paper, especially if graphs or tables take up one page each. Smaller figures or tables can be incorporated in the text of the paper. The discussion should be an explanation and possibly conclusions about the results described in the previous section and an integration of the student's results in light of previous work, citing and discussing pertinent literature.

A good paper should cite numerous primary references from the professional literature, not just popular review articles or commentaries. A paper on a subject in an active field should have dozens or works whose content can be incorporated in the discussion and introduction sections. Abstracts are common in the science literature and could also serve a useful purpose as concise summaries of student papers. These are probably less than one-half page.

The overall length of a Science/Math paper might thus include at least a page for Introduction (possibly more), three or four (and up to dozens of pages for work with extensive data) for Results, two to five for Discussion, and one or two for Literature Cited. This adds up to a bare minimum of around seven pages for a concise, narrowly-focused paper. Ten to twelve pages or more would be better.

Style Manual

The standard manual for biology is the CBE (Council of Biology Editors) Style Manual, 5th edition, but students could use any quality journal as a standard to follow to keep their work closer to the subject matter of their study. Formats vary from one journal to another, so there is no one format that is standard or best. As long as students present an organized paper with a consistent method of literature citation, there should be no problems.

"Original Research" Expectations

Elements of original research should be a part of any honors paper in science, but because of time limitations, expectations should be minimal. Even with students who do 10-week summer internships in professional labs, there are cases where experiments have not worked out or been finished in the time allotted, or the expected results have not been achieved. Students need to compensate for these deficiencies by doing more literature analysis and summary as part of their paper.

Statistical Information

This will depend on the level of statistical experience of the student and her/his advisor. High expectations are fine but probably unrealistic. Student who have had basic statistics should probably be advised to perform simple statistical tests, as appropriate.

Facilities and Faculty

Science is particularly limited in both. There are currently no facilities in Martin Hall for student research projects where they could have set-ups and on-going work. The Plymouth Bluff center might provide a site for field studies. Our solution for the better students is for them to have summer internships at larger universities and to use that work for their honors projects. usually, these experiences are fully appropriate in providing the requisite experience for the students and satisfying the requirements of the Honors Program.

Mathematics students who would need computer access have a divisional computer lab, the MUW data center, and possible access to the U. Miss. supercomputer. The divisional computer lab has been set up with printers for student work.

Most divisional faculty have teaching overloads already, and some may already have divisional students doing Special Problems projects which parallel the honors program. undoubtedly, there are other faculty who are willing and able to direct honors projects during some semesters. A faculty member with a 12-16 hour teaching load would probably be well advised to have no more that two students doing special problems or honors research.