Group research projects
This page provides a description of the team project, as well as guidelines, steps and instructions and deadlines.
In the group research project, your team, with guidance and feedback from the instructors, will learn how to make evidence-based assessments and recommendations regarding dilemmas in food systems, sustainability, and climate change. A key to making this a useful and successful learning experience for you, is that you be passionate and fully engaged in the process, and willing to push your conventional ideas of what you are supposed to do in a university class. In the first part of the class, we are using an organic versus confinement milk production system as a way to model what we expect you to do with your team members in the second half of the class. Below is a list of examples of project topics:
- Continuing with the instructors case study, now examine whether confinement or organic dairies in Wisconsin are more resilient to future climate change (adaptation).
- In Dane County WI, are farmers markets more sustainable than supermarkets with respect to climate change? What about in Santa Fe County NM?
- Is it more sustainable for Milwaukee residents to eat hydroponic lettuce produced in local urban greenhouses or lettuce imported from Monterey County, CA?
- Is a vegetarian diet or a meat-based diet more sustainable with respect to climate change?
- Which systems of soil amendments are more sustainable w.r.t. climate change: compost, manure, fertilizer, or cover crops?
- Is it more sustainable for a family living in Eagle Heights to grow their own vegetables in the community garden for year round consumption or buy them in a supermarket or farmers market?
- A catered lunch on the UW-Madison Campus compared to a home-prepared "brown bag" lunch
- Milk production in California, Mexico, Costa Rica (or wherever) compared to milk production in Wisconsin
- Apple from South Africa compared with Apple from the State of Washington that you buy in your local grocery store
- Carbon foot print of a UW-Madison related facility (The Dairy Cattle center, the Greenhouse gases of the agronomy departments, Babcock Ice cream, or any meal services on the campus)
Please see course schedule and material pages for project-related deadlines. Below is a description of the main steps of the project, part of which will be conducted in class and part of which will be conducted by you and your team members out-of-class.
- During the first part of the semester, blog your own project ideas here (see deadline on here). Team formation will be based in part on common interest.
- Each team member will learn some basic aspects of HTML and web page design .
- Each team member will learn some basic aspects of library search database .
- Each team member will learn about planning, executing and evaluating effort from each team member.
Each of you will briefly pitch your project idea in class. To prepare, read the instructions below and then complete the Project Idea Google Doc (see link below). Scenarios should be less than 200 words. After class, you will have the opportunity to rank your top 5 projects, so we can match you to a project you like. (see deadline on Schedule and Materials page). Instructions: on how to proceed follows:
- Identify a food-related product you want to learn more about (in our model case study, it was "Milk"). Your product could be soy, teff, mangos, etc.
- Identify an alternative to the food-product you want to focus on to provide a basis of comparison (in our model case study it was organic pasture versus confinement production systems)
- Identify the relevant climate change sustainability question in regard to contribution (how much GHG is produced), mitigation (how can GHG emissions be reduced), and adaptation (how must food systems respond to more variability and changing future weather), or to social aspects of climate change sustainability. (In our model case study, it was whether organic pasture dairies or large confinement dairies contribute more GHG emissions)
- Develop a case-study scenario to provide a framework to help focus your efforts (in our model case study, we were to write a report to the Secretary of Agriculture of the State of Wisconsin)
- Who is the protagonist? (e.g., an Ethiopian teff farmer or an FAO secretary, etc.)
- What decision does the protagonist have to make? (What does she need to do, decide, or resolve? Provide recommendations? Develop an action plan? Make a policy?)
- What are her goals/purpose?
- What is the context?
- Who is the target audience for the decision and for your final report?
- Where will you draw the boundaries of your system?
- Please feel free to be creative! If you are confused, you can use our dairy case study as an example.
Once our initial case study is completed and after the mid term, we will organize two html workshops during two consecutive classes. The goal is to introduce you to the kbAdmin, a web page editor that you will use to design your own case study web page. Please go the schedule and material page for pre-class assignments. Below is a series of addition resources where you can learn more about HTML codes: WCS Recommendation | HTML Living Standard | www.webplatform.org | Mozilla Developer Network HTML Reference . By the end of the workshop will have learned basic aspect of designing a web page which include how to:
- Access the web editor and your own web page,
- Edit (add, delete, move) and format headings and text,
- Upload a figure/ photo / ion to display on a page and format the figure / photo / icon,
- Create and format a Table,
- Save and "publish" your page so it is available on the internet.
Library Database Search Workshop:
During these two class sessions, librarians will come to teach us how to effectively find relevant literature for our team projects. The goal is to introduce you to the various databases. The workshop will include basic skills in:
- Searching for scientific literature, non-scientific (trade) literature (trade magazines, news papers, etc.) and for photo and images,
- Using citation databases (e.g., Endnotes) to keep track of reference materials,
- Awareness of proper citation, copyright-related issues and fair use rules, as you "borrow"materials from various sources to create your own web page.
Web resources related to Copyrights and Fairy Use can be found here: The Ultimate Guide to Copyright | US Copyright Office | James Madison University: Can I Use This Song, Video, or Image on my Class Site? | Copyright and Fair Use in the UMUC Online or Face-to-Face Classroom.
Student-Led Journal Club:
The goal of these sessions is to help you share an article you have found in the literature that is central to your project and relevant to the class. Your job will be to facilitate a 20-25 min. class discussion. Instructions: on how to proceed follows:
- Identify the date that your team will be leading the Journal Club in the Table above
- With your team members decide on which article you believe is of high relevance to your project and should be of interest to rest of the class.
- Post a pdf of your paper on your web page no less than 48 hours prior to the date your team will be leading the discussion.
- Prepare a "plan of action" on how you would like to structure the discussion: What will be the leading question(s)? Do you plan to engage the class in small group activities? What are the important message(s) you would like the class to think about?
Team-lead Project Discussion/Partial Report:
Presentations should be timed to last 15 minutes. Then, we will have 20 minutes of class discussion where you can field your classmates' and instructors' questions. We suggest basing your presentation in your website instead of using ppt. This ensures that you start populating your website and avoids unnecessary time wasted creating slides that don’t have a further use.
- Your current scenario and research question (if relevant, describe how your question or thinking has evolved and why),
- Description of your methodology,
- Two or more figures and/or tables of data (either created by your or, less likely, taken from publications, with proper citation) to describe your findings,
- Summary of your current conclusions,
- Summary of your remaining tasks, timeline, and questions you are grappling with.
For non-presenting students, As you listen to the presentations, write down two questions you have for the group. Put these in the Google doc found here, following the example question written for groups A and B. These questions, along with instructor’s questions, will form the base of our discussion after the presentation, and will hopefully guide the teams. Please write good questions that you think will help the projects.
Peer-Review Style Paper (Initial and Final Paper):
In contrast to your web page, which is to be a "popularized" version of your findings, the peer-review article is where you need to document the actual scientific literature with a thorough analysis of experimental objectives, methodologies, major findings, and limitations of the work. Please follow these instructions:
- Follow the Instructions for Authors guidelines for submitting a journal article to the journal “Climatic Change,” including guidelines for headings, figures, tables, citations, etc.
- The only exception to these guidelines is the length. For teams that include at least one graduate student we expect 4,000 (minimum) to 6,000 (maximum) words. For teams that include undergraduate students only, we expect 2,500 (minimum) to 4,000 (maximum) words.
- The reference section is not included in the word count.
The paper is due as a Word document (no pdf!) in the course website Dropbox by the deadlines listed on the Material and Schedule page. See the syllabus page for the contribution of the paper to your final grade.
Your paper should clearly bound the question you are asking, explicitly answer this question, and address your stakeholders' information needs. To do this, you must draw on a sufficient quantity of research that is of a sufficient quality. You also must integrate this research in a cohesive and informative way, using arguments with clear logic. Your writing needs to convey clear ideas, that are thoughtfully formatted. Connections between ideas must be clearly established. The main statements and arguments must be supported by cited material. Independent analysis must be provided in the form of qualitative and (when/if available) quantitative evidence. In all, your paper needs to present a good balance between being a “summary,” an “analysis,” and a “commentary."
- Papers will be graded based on:
- Following instructions for authors as described above,
- Originality of ideas, logic and arguments,
- Qualitative and/or quantitative evidences in support of arguments,
- Clarity of expression,
- Writing style and technical aspects (grammar, spelling, citation format, etc.)
- Late papers will be penalized (5% per day for up to three days).
Presentations should be timed to last 15 minutes. Then, we will have 10 minutes of questions and answers. Presentations should be given as if you were presenting the results of commissioned research to your clients or stakeholders. You can use whatever format you think will be most effective in conveying your question, how you bounded the question, your approach to answering the question, your data collection strategy, your data analysis/synthesis strategy, and your reflections/conclusions/recommendations. You may want to highlight also the limitation of your study (and/or the limitation of current scientific knowledge). The goal is to engage your audience (not just reading a web page or a ppt). To this effect, please use visuals (figures and tables) to highlight main points Avoid reading text to your audience during the presentation.
You are not expected to go over all the details of your research. The details of your research will be evaluated as your instructors will grade your paper and your web page. Your oral presentation should encapsulate your project work in a compelling way. It will be evaluated based on:
- The quality of the oral presentation (unprepared, normal, engaging),
- The enthusiasm of the presenters (little, as expected, contagious), and
- The credibility of your arguments (flawed, consistent, trustworthy).