Developing A Research Question: A Case Study

The ability to develop research questions and hypotheses are not intuitive skills! It requires practice. The following case study will give you an example of going through the following steps to help you develop a question and a research approach

Thermal stress and coral bleaching

Coral bleaching is a major ecological threat to coral reef ecosystems. Bleaching refers to the loss of symbiotic algae from the coral. It occurs when corals are exposed to environmental conditions that are suboptimal, especially high water temperatures. The bleaching response is a catastrophic failure of the symbiosis. In this case study, you will
  1. read papers to learn about how corals respond to environmental stressors
  2. think about which genes might play a role in this response to stressors
  3. think about what bioinformatic strategies will help you identify genes from Aiptasia that might be involved in the stress response
  4. think about an experiment where you could examine the role of these genes
To help you get started, here are examples of links to websites that would help me develop the question, hypothesis, and prediction for the case study. You should be searching the web AND the literature databases to find papers that address the question that you think you are interested in addressing.
1. Coral Reef Information System

1. Coral Symbiosis and Bleaching

2. Bleached vs. unbleached corals living side-by-side

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Coral Bleaching - Stress Causes Collapse (Acrobat (PDF) 342kB May12 09)
Cellular Stress Response (Acrobat (PDF) 398kB Oct27 09)

Case Study: Developing a Research Question on the Topic of Coral Bleaching
1. DEVELOP A QUESTION about the larger biological phenomenon of coral bleaching:
Based on my understanding of previous research, the larger biological phenomenon or question that I am interested in understanding is...?

2.DEVELOP A HYPOTHESIS that links the cellular-level research with coral biology (A hypothesis is a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon).
What is one cellular-level explanation for the observable phenomenon called "coral bleaching"?

3.DEVELOP A PREDICTION for the results of a bioinformatic study of coral genes:
Based on my understanding of the cellular stress response, I might predict that

Write an introductory paragraph linking coral bleaching to stress response genes. Include a well formulated hypothesis and a prediction for a bioinformatic study.
Introduction to the research question