Experiments shape the human experience. Experiments are a critical component of all living natural systems encompassing evolution to community dynamics. Experiments in science are creative, iterative, & source critical thinking. We naturally experiment in art, science, and life. Here, we hone these skills through principles and practice. The principles are here, and the practice is in the form a lab manual entitled Designcraft for experiments.

Course outline

If you are electing to engage with this learning opportunity formally, please see the official course outline for specific details. There are two summative assessments to the lecture principles (again also see lab manual for the work associated with that component of the formal course offering if you are doing for credit).

  1. Test (on content of the book and critical design thinking for science).
  2. Grant proposal (for experiment and idea you care about).

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand the core concepts of experimental design for any natural science experiment.
  2. Understand key terminology, semantics, and experimental design philosophies.
  3. Critically assess experiments.
  4. Provide visual heuristics and workflows for experiments.
  5. Be able to design & execute an effective experiment.
  6. Be able to clearly write a well-structured manuscript suitable for publication in a journal.
  7. Be able to write a competitive grant proposal appropriate for a Master’s application.

Steps to design success

Module 1.

  • Read a very accessible book on experimental design.
  • Take a test to demonstrate mastery of content and creative design for science experiments.

Module 2.

  • Select a science topic that you care deeply about it and do research on this opportunity.
  • Write a one-page grant proposal appropriate for a graduate-school funding application.


Experiments are a powerful tool to understand, manage, and explore the world around us. This course will provide you with the terminology and concepts you need to be competitive and effective in research and employment. The lectures include exploration of the key terminology and ideas you need to process experiments. You will also practice design experiments in the labs.

Lectures (or independent but facilitated student learning) include three mental processes.

Read. Think. Create.

In the first module (i.e., a total of 6 weeks allocated but please work at your own pace), we read a book together. This component of the lectures provides you with the critical elements, ideas, tools, and terminology you need to design better experiments. The extent that you develop your knowledge and design skills are evaluated using a test, provided in advance, that you complete on your own time. Lectures with decks are provided and they are the principles that emerged, for me, from reading the book.

In the second module (i.e., a total of 4 weeks blocked), you design an experiment for graduate-level research and prepare an NSERC grant proposal (very short, see guidelines). The primary purpose of this component of the lectures is to provide you with the opportunity to generate a novel, useful research proposal on a topic of your choice. Key readings and discussion are provided to support your development and exploration of a topic that further hone your skills.


This is the recommended timing for completing work. Deadlines are firm for submission of summative assessments, but the pacing to get each of those points in time is up to you. In lectures (and labs), we will however work through and discussion the material in this order.

week lecture resource labs
1 intro to course welcome deck none
2 textbook ch 1 & 2 deck_1 & deck_2 pilot field labs
3 textbook ch 3 & 4 deck_3 & deck_4 pilot field labs
4 textbook ch 5 & 6 deck_5 & deck_6 pilot field labs
5 textbook ch 7 & 8 deck_7 & deck_8 collect data for field experiment you chose
6 textbook ch 9 & 10 deck_9 & deck_10 submit data and meta-data for field experiment (see course outline for date)
7 test see rubric provided here & due date in course outline work on lab report
8 ten simple rules for awards deck work on lab report
9 ten simple rules for grants deck submit lab report (see course outline for date) - no lab
10 shark-tank thinking for grants engineering shark tank & medicine shark tank & education shark tank select and complete a data-design lab life data deck & MTG deck
11 finalize grant proposal, ensure effective experimental design & see official course outline for due date NSERC criteria & review rubric provided in course materials & Crafting a Sales Pitch & deck & Developing research Qs through grants select & complete a data-design lab
12 grant thinking & discussion on best principles for experimental design applications in daily life grant thinking deck & daily life deck submit lab report (see course outline for date) - no lab


Lortie, CJ (2022): Experiment sandbox. figshare. Book.