Laura Mays Hoopes's commentary (The Scientist, Feb. 22, 1993, page 10) sets the stage for listing several advantages of the "practicum" or "special problem" in the undergraduate curriculum.
A research problem allows for observation of experimental materials over time; too often, students graduate perceiving research as a series of studies designed, carried out, and interpreted during two-hour lab periods. A well-designed practicum can provide an opportunity for the student to integrate information from several courses, and make use of diversely located space and research instrumentation not available in large, regularly scheduled labs.
Finally, a good research problem affords a student an opportunity to recognize a real problem of importance, learn how to survey literature and formulate hypotheses, develop research objectives, develop research plans and techniques, learn to record and analyze data, and get tutored experience in interpreting data and in writing scientifically.
KURT C. FELTNER
North Central Association...