Although the word “protocol” has several different meanings (including guidelines for diplomatic etiquette, details of an international agreement or a description of how data is formatted in computer systems), the most common definition of a “protocol report” is a document that sets forth the hypothesis and plan of investigation for a research study prior to the actual experiment. The purpose of a protocol report is to help researchers focus and clarify their thoughts and determine that they have the necessary resources and information to begin their investigation.
1 – Formulate a specific title or thesis for your protocol that is clear, concise and specific–for example, “The Effects of Fertilizer Application on Chili Pepper Growth.”
2 – Describe the subject you are investigating in the first few paragraphs of your protocol. Use the first person pronoun and begin by stating your objective clearly. (“In this research project, I will investigate the effects of certain fertilizers on the growth of chili peppers.”)
3 – Explain briefly why you’re performing this experiment. In addition, include a short overview of the relevant literature on the subject, pointing out earlier studies and their conclusions, and describing how your approach differs from the protocols of others before you.
4 – Write a carefully focused hypothesis, one that is both verifiable and realistic as in this example: “The application of certain fertilizers to chili pepper seedlings produces a marked increase in mature pepper growth.”
5 – Describe the procedure you’ll follow to test your hypothesis as well as the specific materials you’ll need to conduct your experiment such as a certain number of chili pepper seedlings, fertilizer, planters and light sources. Include timelines and specific descriptions of the methods and measurements you plan to use. This will be your action plan for your research.
6 – Provide a list of references for your research study. These references will demonstrate your breadth of knowledge and provide useful resources for your readers.