Final Project Guidelines
You may choose to do a project on any topic that interests you
that involves chance or statistical analysis. Some examples of
possible projects follow:
- You may analyze some of the results of the online survey
taken by the class at midsemester to answer questions of your
- Or, you might gather new data, analyze it, and write up the
results. That data might be the result of your observations
-- say, counting people who go into the Coop at certain hours
or timing TV commercials -- or from some sort of test you
conduct (if it is on people, you will need to get permission
Review Board before conducting your experiment).
- Or, you might find data that other researchers have collected
and perform your own statistical analysis on it,
again writing up the results, and comparing your analysis to theirs.
Sports data is available on the web, but projects based on such data
must be real scientific questions (e.g., "Does the use of artificial
turf cause more football injuries?", not "Are the 1997 Phillies the
best baseball team ever?"). Projects may be completed individually or by
a small group (2-3 students, but a group of three is discouraged unless
the project requires many hands).
A one-page initial project proposal is due near the middle of the term.
This proposal must address the following questions:
- What is the topic of your project?
- What specific questions will your project address?
- What are your plans for gathering data? Are you planning to
use data already collected and available through some resource,
or will you be collecting your own data?
- If you are gathering data from individuals and your method of
data collection might allow you to determine which individuals are
the source of your data, you must at this point turn in the form
you intend to use, for approval by Colgate's Institutional
Review Board on Research on Human Subjects, along with a short
form requesting IRB approval.
A few weeks before the end of the term you will submit a 2-4 page
Your progress report must include and expand on your original
discussing background material and previous studies as well
as again answering (more completely) the questions for the
proposal above. In addition, you should describe your progress
in collecting data and your analysis plan. Specifically:
In either case, describe the statistical tests you plan to use
to analyze your data. If you feel that you must propose a
different project, this is the point at which to do so.
- If you have already found the data, which was collected by
others, describe precisely the data to be used, where it came
from and how you plan to use it.
- If you are planning to gather your own data, please describe
your data-gathering plan, including a sample size and the
variables to be measured.
You can think of this as a draft of the first three sections of
your final project.
Project report format
Your report should be 6 to 10 pages in length, double-spaced,
and use a 10- or 12-point font size for the main text.
(Group papers must be proportionally longer, so a project by
2 students must have a write-up 12-20 pages long, and one by
3 students must be at least 18 pages long.)
Your report should include the following components:
- Statement of the Problem : The purpose of your
What question(s) did you set out to investigate? What were the key
- Background : The context for your analysis.
What type of background information is there on this topic?
What information did you
use in order to form a better context for your question(s) and/or
design a better method for gathering data? What problems did you
encounter in the process, and how did you decide how to handle them?
- Method : What you decided to do and how you
Describe how your data was collected, and why you chose to use those
variables/measures. Describe any reservations about the data
that you may have.
Describe and justify any manipulation of raw data performed to
prepare your data for your analysis. Describe and justify the
statistical analyses applied to the data as well as any reservations
you have about the techniques used. (Note that the actual results
come later; this section justifies why you did what you did.)
- Results : The presentation of the
data gathered and the results of the analysis.
This may include tables, graphs, and/or verbal summaries. Any
results of correlation, regression, probability calculations, and
tests of significance must be concisely presented.
(Extended analyses or calculations should appear in the appendix
along with the raw data.)
It is traditional that this section be kept as objective as possible,
saving any discussion of the implications of the results for the
- Discussion/Conclusions : What you learned about the
question(s) you set out to address.
Discuss the implications of the results of your analysis.
In particular, how do they impact your main topic?
Are there implications for other questions?
What, if any, reasons are there to be suspicious of these results
as presented? What have
you learned about issues related to your problem? What should be
studied further, if anything? (These last three questions are among
the most important in the project; be sure to discuss them
- Self-Critique : What you learned about
the process of doing a project.
What went wrong? What would you do differently next time? What
advice would you give future students in this class?
- Bibliography : Include any of
the resources included in your background reading and URLs and
the dates at which they were visited (because websites can change
so quickly) for all data sources on the Internet.
- Appendix : (not
included in the basic 6-10 pages) A list of
your actual data, a copy of the survey form and/or data recording
form (if you used the one from the web), and any detailed calculations.
The last may be neatly handwritten, because it is difficult
to type mathematical computations.
Evaluation criteria for final written reports
- Were the project abstract and progress report complete and
turned in on time?
- Does the final paper include each of the components
listed above, with each clearly labeled?
- Does each component include the appropriate material?
- Is the paper clear and easy to read? Does it contain the
correct usage of statistical terms?
- Are appropriate statistical concepts used correctly to analyze
and/or discuss the data? If methods are used that were not
introduced in our course, are they clearly explained? (I.e., could
a reader who has taken our course
reproduce the results based on what is given in the paper?)
- Is the presentation of the results appropriate and complete?
- Is the analysis fair and thorough? Has sufficient
consideration been given to possible sources of error or bias
(in the data, the study or the analysis), to possible alternative
methods of studying the question and/or of extending the present