Independent Research Project

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Arthur C. Clarke

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Summary of the IRP

The Independent Research Project (IRP) is an opportunity for students to undertake a scientific investigation of their own design during their tenure at Franklin.  The project must be completed by the end of the 11th-grade year to satisfy the graduation requirement,  but students have  control over how the project actually takes form.  They may opt to complete the project during their 9th-, 10th-, or 11th-grade year, and they are encouraged to carefully consider their course load and extracurricular responsibilities in choosing the best time for them to undertake the project.

 

Projects usually begin with a simple question, which can be any topic in the sciences the student wants to learn more about.  After her topic is approved, the student drafts and executes an original research plan.  Throughout this process, students will have access to a faculty mentor, who will provide feedback at various checkpoints during the year.  It is important to note that the IRP is not a class; many students’ faculty mentors will not be the their current science teacher.  Students are welcome and encouraged to consult their mentors often, but since mentees and advisors do not usually have scheduled class time together, students are encouraged to be proactive in communicating with their mentor.

 

Students will receive a detailed summary of the project’s components and deadlines during the first week of school.

Rationale for the IRP

Perhaps more than ever before, the current generation is growing up in a time when truth itself appears to be under attack.  The conclusions of scientific investigations have increasingly been reduced to matters of opinion, including some facts that once seemed safely indisputable.

 

The ultimate goal of the IRP is to help students further develop science literacy. Each researcher, with the guidance of a faculty mentor, will learn firsthand the process of designing, executing, and analyzing an original scientific investigation, from start to finish.  Students will examine scientific writing and come to understand the peer review process.  They will become versed in basic statistical analysis methods and discover the role of uncertainty in the reporting of results.  In some cases, students will even assist local scientists and other professionals with research.  We hope the IRP experience helps students understand the scientific process on a deeper level -- from the excitement of identifying an interesting idea, to the rigor of drafting a detailed and reproducible research plan, to the thrill of discovering something new about our universe, to the careful vetting that conclusions must undergo before being accepted by the scientific community.  Ideally, students will finish their IRPs more scientifically literate, and we hope they will carry this experience with them as they become the next generation of leaders and policymakers in our city, state, nation, and world.

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The plural of anecdote is not data.

Dr. David Helfan

Emeritus Chair of Astronomy, Columbia University

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Science in America

Neil deGrasse Tyson

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