Negative and Suboptimal Research Findings

Course Description

This course is targeted towards students at any stage of research in conservation, wildlife forensics and veterinary programs. It has also been developed for students wanting to know more about fundamental, potentially disruptive challenges, that can arise during various stages of research. The course highlights the value and limitations of ‘non-findings’ and small or singular sample sizes in research. The focus is on giving participants tools with which to formulate meaningful research conclusions while accurately conveying the quality or scope of evidence gathered. Through weekly lessons and readings, students will be exposed to a range of case studies which they will methodically pick apart to further their understanding. As the course progresses, students will dissect the concept of non-findings/negative findings and small or singular sample sizes, in relation to their own professional endeavors or research whenever relevant. They will have an opportunity to exchange with their classmates on what they learned during a final online ‘round robin’ discussion.

**This course is highly recommended for those taking or planning to take WIS6509 Supervised Research

Course Objectives

Through the weekly assignments, test, final ‘round robin’ discussion and final exam, students will demonstrate their understanding providing examples and discussing their value and limitations in research and forensic investigation, by providing examples and discussing their value and limitations in research and forensic investigation, of:

  • Define what constitute a non-finding/negative finding
  • Critically appraise non-findings/negative findings and formulate viable dissemination messages to highlight their relevance within research and forensic investigations
  • Identify avenues of research or investigation that were abandoned or deviated from due to a non-finding or suboptimal sample size
  • Assess and convey the value of suboptimal sample sizes relative to different research questions, forensic lines of inquiry, or a general narrative
  • Critique scientific perceptions of negative findings, non-findings and suboptimal sizes
  • Differentiate between ‘sample’, ‘evidence’, outlier versus potential trend, biological significance and statistical significance
  • Apply the principles from the course to their own research and lines of investigation.