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Effects of using structured templates for recalling chemistry experiments.

Willoughby C, Logothetis TA, Frey JG - J Cheminform (2016)

Bottom Line: In this paper we report on the results of a set of studies investigating the effects of different template designs on the recording of experiments by undergraduate students and academic researchers.The results indicate that using structured templates to write up experiments does make a significant difference to the information that is recalled and recorded.Our results showed that using structured templates can improve the completeness of the experiment context information captured but can also cause a loss of personal elements of the experiment experience when compared with allowing the researcher to structure their own record.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ UK.

ABSTRACT

Background: The way that we recall information is dependent upon both the knowledge in our memories and the conditions under which we recall the information. Electronic Laboratory Notebooks can provide a structured interface for the capture of experiment records through the use of forms and templates. These templates can be useful by providing cues to help researchers to remember to record particular aspects of their experiment, but they may also constrain the information that is recorded by encouraging them to record only what is asked for. It is therefore unknown whether using structured templates for capturing experiment records will have positive or negative effects on the quality and usefulness of the records for assessment and future use. In this paper we report on the results of a set of studies investigating the effects of different template designs on the recording of experiments by undergraduate students and academic researchers.

Results: The results indicate that using structured templates to write up experiments does make a significant difference to the information that is recalled and recorded. These differences have both positive and negative effects, with templates prompting the capture of specific information that is otherwise forgotten, but also apparently losing some of the personal elements of the experiment experience such as observations and explanations. Other unexpected effects were seen with templates that can change the information that is captured, but also interfere with the way an experiment is conducted.

Conclusions: Our results showed that using structured templates can improve the completeness of the experiment context information captured but can also cause a loss of personal elements of the experiment experience when compared with allowing the researcher to structure their own record. The results suggest that interfaces for recording information about chemistry experiments, whether paper-based questionnaires or templates in Electronic Laboratory Notebooks, can be an effective way to improve the quality of experiment write-ups, but that care needs to be taken to ensure that the correct cues are provided.Graphical abstractScientists have traditionally recorded their research in paper notebooks, a format that provides great flexibility for capturing information. In contrast, Electronic Laboratory Notebooks frequently make use of forms or structured templates for capturing experiment records. Structured templates can provide cues that can improve record quality by increasing the amount of information captured and encouraging consistency. However, using the wrong cues can lead to a loss of personal elements of the experiment experience and frustrate users. This image shows two participants from one of our studies recording their experiment using a computer-based template.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Comparison of elements recorded in the two conditions for Study 1. These box plots show a comparison of the range and means of other elements that were recorded in the experiment by each student (excluding Aims, Reaction Schemes, Relative Molecular Masses, and Results). The top box plot shows the elements that were recorded in the No Template condition (typically a detailed procedure of the experiment together observations and explanations for what was done). The bottom box plot shows the comparison for the Template condition. Elements coloured in red show a decrease in the mean and elements coloured in green show an increase in the mean compared to the No Template condition. Of particular note are the decrease in the mean for Observations (from 4.25 to 2.55) and Explanations (from 1.80 and 0.85)
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Fig4: Comparison of elements recorded in the two conditions for Study 1. These box plots show a comparison of the range and means of other elements that were recorded in the experiment by each student (excluding Aims, Reaction Schemes, Relative Molecular Masses, and Results). The top box plot shows the elements that were recorded in the No Template condition (typically a detailed procedure of the experiment together observations and explanations for what was done). The bottom box plot shows the comparison for the Template condition. Elements coloured in red show a decrease in the mean and elements coloured in green show an increase in the mean compared to the No Template condition. Of particular note are the decrease in the mean for Observations (from 4.25 to 2.55) and Explanations (from 1.80 and 0.85)

Mentions: Almost all of the students included materials, equipment, and actions in their report reflecting the fact that the ‘procedure’ of the experiment was the dominant information recorded in the write-ups, including observations made and explanations about particular actions, as shown in Fig. 4. The steps of the experiment, including collecting analysis information, were always recorded in the correct chronological order, even if steps were missing or the amount of detail was high or low. Although the average numbers of most of the elements recorded in each report are similar in both conditions there are some differences observed as discussed below.Fig. 4


Effects of using structured templates for recalling chemistry experiments.

Willoughby C, Logothetis TA, Frey JG - J Cheminform (2016)

Comparison of elements recorded in the two conditions for Study 1. These box plots show a comparison of the range and means of other elements that were recorded in the experiment by each student (excluding Aims, Reaction Schemes, Relative Molecular Masses, and Results). The top box plot shows the elements that were recorded in the No Template condition (typically a detailed procedure of the experiment together observations and explanations for what was done). The bottom box plot shows the comparison for the Template condition. Elements coloured in red show a decrease in the mean and elements coloured in green show an increase in the mean compared to the No Template condition. Of particular note are the decrease in the mean for Observations (from 4.25 to 2.55) and Explanations (from 1.80 and 0.85)
© Copyright Policy - OpenAccess
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4759737&req=5

Fig4: Comparison of elements recorded in the two conditions for Study 1. These box plots show a comparison of the range and means of other elements that were recorded in the experiment by each student (excluding Aims, Reaction Schemes, Relative Molecular Masses, and Results). The top box plot shows the elements that were recorded in the No Template condition (typically a detailed procedure of the experiment together observations and explanations for what was done). The bottom box plot shows the comparison for the Template condition. Elements coloured in red show a decrease in the mean and elements coloured in green show an increase in the mean compared to the No Template condition. Of particular note are the decrease in the mean for Observations (from 4.25 to 2.55) and Explanations (from 1.80 and 0.85)
Mentions: Almost all of the students included materials, equipment, and actions in their report reflecting the fact that the ‘procedure’ of the experiment was the dominant information recorded in the write-ups, including observations made and explanations about particular actions, as shown in Fig. 4. The steps of the experiment, including collecting analysis information, were always recorded in the correct chronological order, even if steps were missing or the amount of detail was high or low. Although the average numbers of most of the elements recorded in each report are similar in both conditions there are some differences observed as discussed below.Fig. 4

Bottom Line: In this paper we report on the results of a set of studies investigating the effects of different template designs on the recording of experiments by undergraduate students and academic researchers.The results indicate that using structured templates to write up experiments does make a significant difference to the information that is recalled and recorded.Our results showed that using structured templates can improve the completeness of the experiment context information captured but can also cause a loss of personal elements of the experiment experience when compared with allowing the researcher to structure their own record.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ UK.

ABSTRACT

Background: The way that we recall information is dependent upon both the knowledge in our memories and the conditions under which we recall the information. Electronic Laboratory Notebooks can provide a structured interface for the capture of experiment records through the use of forms and templates. These templates can be useful by providing cues to help researchers to remember to record particular aspects of their experiment, but they may also constrain the information that is recorded by encouraging them to record only what is asked for. It is therefore unknown whether using structured templates for capturing experiment records will have positive or negative effects on the quality and usefulness of the records for assessment and future use. In this paper we report on the results of a set of studies investigating the effects of different template designs on the recording of experiments by undergraduate students and academic researchers.

Results: The results indicate that using structured templates to write up experiments does make a significant difference to the information that is recalled and recorded. These differences have both positive and negative effects, with templates prompting the capture of specific information that is otherwise forgotten, but also apparently losing some of the personal elements of the experiment experience such as observations and explanations. Other unexpected effects were seen with templates that can change the information that is captured, but also interfere with the way an experiment is conducted.

Conclusions: Our results showed that using structured templates can improve the completeness of the experiment context information captured but can also cause a loss of personal elements of the experiment experience when compared with allowing the researcher to structure their own record. The results suggest that interfaces for recording information about chemistry experiments, whether paper-based questionnaires or templates in Electronic Laboratory Notebooks, can be an effective way to improve the quality of experiment write-ups, but that care needs to be taken to ensure that the correct cues are provided.Graphical abstractScientists have traditionally recorded their research in paper notebooks, a format that provides great flexibility for capturing information. In contrast, Electronic Laboratory Notebooks frequently make use of forms or structured templates for capturing experiment records. Structured templates can provide cues that can improve record quality by increasing the amount of information captured and encouraging consistency. However, using the wrong cues can lead to a loss of personal elements of the experiment experience and frustrate users. This image shows two participants from one of our studies recording their experiment using a computer-based template.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus