In this report you will be expected to interpret and graphically present data that was collected in the field by previous MSc students, and to comment on the scope for improving the study design and information collected based on your examination of the data. The report is worth 45% of the module grade. There will be three datasets available and you will focus on ONE of these. These are detailed in Session 6. A sign-up sheet will be released on 20th April with a maximum of 12 places available for each dataset. The three datasets relate to:
- Changes in forest understory vegetation in relation to habitat for Capercaillie
- Changes in tree-based lichens as indicators of forest fragmentation
- Elevational changes in montane vegetation over an exposure gradient
This is an individual assignment. However, to assist in preparing your practical reports we will hold a Q&A session on 5 May at which you will be invited to present ideas about how to interpret the data and get feedback on these. The points listed separately in the information about each dataset are hints about things that should be considered as part of your analyses and should feature in the presentation of your results or discussion. Please read them carefully but these are merely for guidance – please use a continuous format rather than providing separate answers to each question individually.
The report must be presented as a series of headings as follows. The numbers in brackets indicate the weight given to each section. Report length is 2000 words. This excludes references and text within figures (e.g. legends and axis labels) but includes all other text (including table and figure captions).
Introduction (10% of mark) – Please provide a brief introductory paragraph citing a few examples of literature that is relevant to the investigation.
Methods (5%) – Summarise succinctly how the data was collected. Do not simply repeat what was written in the supporting information given to you.
Results (45%) –You can use 5 figures (i.e. graphs of any type) and 1 table. A figure may include several smaller graphs nested together provided they are closely related to each other. Figures must be accompanied by some supporting narrative that highlights to the reader what they are expected to take away from the figure. Please refer to the example for what a suitably organised and formatted results section should look like.
Discussion (25%) – discuss the patterns that you have observed within the context of the data that was collected relative to what has been observed and reported previously in the literature. Do not simply repeat the description of the results. You should focus on methodological aspects, limitations and scope for improving the sampling protocol or efficiency of the exercise.
Conclusion (10%) – in a maximum of 4 bullet-points what are the take home messages and methodological implications arising from the analysis of your data
References (5%) – 5-10 correctly formatted references relevant to the topic or associated methodology that you have cited directly in your report.
Note: all graphs must be suitably labelled and MUST illustrate levels of variation in the data. Be judicious about your choice of graphs in terms of style and numbers of graphs. A detailed statistical treatment of the data is not required but you are expected, for example, to include trend lines with r2 values on scatter plots and to show averaged data with error bars where appropriate and to comment on the meaning of these. The primary requirement is a critical interpretation of the data collected and a demonstration of the implications for refining survey protocols.
When submitting your work can I please draw your attention to the rules and penalties around plagiarism and academic work set out in the video below, just in case you are unclear about anything