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Experimental Design for Biologists

Subject Area(s):  Cell BiologyGenetics and Genome ScienceMolecular BiologyMicrobiologyDevelopmental BiologyLaboratory Manuals/HandbooksPlant BiologyNeurobiology

By David J. Glass, M.D., Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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© 2007 • 206 pp., illus., index
Hardcover • $37.00 • ISBN  978-087969735-8


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The effective design of scientific experiments is critical to success, yet graduate students receive very little formal training in how to do it. Based on a well–received course taught by the author, Experimental Design for Biologists fills this gap.

Experimental Design for Biologists explains how to establish the framework for an experimental project, how to set up a system, design experiments within that system, and how to determine and use the correct set of controls. Separate chapters are devoted to negative controls, positive controls, and other categories of controls that are perhaps less recognized, such as “assumption controls,” and “experimentalist controls.”  Furthermore, there are sections on establishing the experimental system, which include performing critical “system controls.”

Should all experimental plans be hypothesis–driven? Is a question/answer approach more appropriate? What was the hypothesis behind the Human Genome Project? What color is the sky? How does one get to Carnegie Hall? The answers to these kinds of questions can be found in Experimental Design for Biologists. Written in an engaging manner, the book provides compelling lessons in framing an experimental question, establishing a validated system to answer the question, and deriving verifiable models from experimental data. Experimental Design for Biologists is an essential source of theory and practical guidance in designing a research plan.



review:  “[David Glass] has written an extraordinarily concise, highly instructive book based on a course he developed. It guides potential and practicing researchers through scientific epistemology and sound research design. The author uses extensive application examples, especially biological ones. Early chapters focus on philosophical constructs related to research issues, especially critical rationalism. The volume presents effective framing of both testing a hypothesis and a question/answer format.”

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1. Defining the Experimental Program
2. The Hypothesis as a Framework for Scientific Projects: Is Critical Rationalism Critical?
3. Scientific Settings Where a Hypothesis is Not Practical
4. The Problem/Question as a Framework for Scientific Projects: An Invitation for Inductive Reasoning
5. What Constitutes an Acceptable Answer to an Experimental Question?
6. How Experimental Conclusions are Used to Represent Reality: Model Building
7. Establishing a System for Experimentation
8. Designing the Experiment: Definitions, Time Courses, and Experimental Repeats
9. Validating a Model: The Ability to Predict the Future
10. Designing the Experimental Project: A Biological Example
11. Experimental Repetition: The Process of Acquiring Data to Model Future Outcomes
12. The Requirement for the Negative Control
13. The Requirement for the Positive Control
14. Method and Reagent Controls
15. Subject Controls
16. Assumption Controls
17. Experimentalist Controls: Establishing a Claim to an Objective Perspective
18. A Description of Biological Empiricism
19. A Short Synopsis

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