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:

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).

Project Proposal

A one-page initial project proposal is due near the middle of the term. This proposal must address the following questions:
  1. What is the topic of your project?
  2. What specific questions will your project address?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.

Progress Report

A few weeks before the end of the term you will submit a 2-4 page progress report. Your progress report must include and expand on your original proposal by 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.

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:

  1. Statement of the Problem : The purpose of your project.
    What question(s) did you set out to investigate? What were the key issues raised?
  2. 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?
  3. Method : What you decided to do and how you did it.
    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.)
  4. 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 conclusion section.
  5. 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 carefully.)
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. 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

  1. Were the project abstract and progress report complete and turned in on time?
  2. Does the final paper include each of the components listed above, with each clearly labeled?
  3. Does each component include the appropriate material?
  4. Is the paper clear and easy to read? Does it contain the correct usage of statistical terms?
  5. 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?)
  6. Is the presentation of the results appropriate and complete?
  7. 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 study?