The AAAS Vision and Change report (2011) recommends incorporating student research experiences into the biology curriculum at the undergraduate level. This article describes, in detail, how Zea mays (corn) cultivars were used as a model for a hypothesis-driven short-term research project in an introductory biology course at a small Midwestern university. During the course of this project, student groups generated a research question and hypothesis, designed an experiment, collected data, and reported their findings in a paper modeled after the primary literature. Throughout the project, students experienced first hand the obstacles and accomplishments associated with the process of scientific research and gained a greater understanding of plant biology. By demonstrating biology as a dynamic field centered around hypothesis generation and experimentation, the authors observed an increase in student dedication, interest, and enthusiasm for the course.
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Vol. 76 • No. 5