All course information is listed within this syllabus.

FDSC 403: Sensory Data Collection & Analysis (3 credits). Sensory Data Collection & Analysis is intended as a survey of standard methods widely used in the area of sensory and consumer science. Students are introduced to these methods and their appropriate execution in a laboratory or industrial setting. The course focuses on the application of these methods to understand product attributes and consumer responses, with an emphasis on quantitative analysis. Evaluation will be conducted via short quizzes and quantitative problems throughout the semester.

Prerequisites: STAT 250 or STAT 240 or STAT 200


Instructor For FDSC 403.

John E. Hayes, Ph.D.
Professor of Food Science
Director, Sensory Evaluation Center

Department of Food Science
220 Rodney A. Erickson Food Science Building
University Park, PA 16802

E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox

Course Overview

The field of sensory and consumer science is primarily focused on the responses of consumers to food products and non-food fast-moving consumer goods (e.g., shampoo). These responses may be sensory/perceptual (i.e., how sweet, how bitter, how smooth) or affective (i.e., liking/preference), with the assumption that the former generally drives the latter. Numerous tools have been developed by sensory practitioners over the last 70 years, with additional influences from experimental psychology. The course also addresses contemporary research on pedagogy that indicates applied statistics are best taught in context to the field in which students will apply the statistical concepts. Here, students will gain practice applying introductory statistical topics (t-tests, analysis of variance, etc.) to sensory and consumer data collected from human participants.

Course Expectations

Please read the following closely so you can know what the expectations are for this class.

This class is fully asynchronous, meaning there are no assigned class times. However, some of the assignments require you to interact with other students, so the individual modules will be unlocked over time to keep all of you on roughly the same pace. The course has twelve modules total, so we will generally unlock a module each week, although you will have 2 weeks for a few modules. Also, we will unlock the first 2 modules immediately, so if you need to get a headstart on any given module, you will have some additional flexibility. Once open, all modules will stay open so you can go back and review prior content if you wish.

For an in-person class, we would use exercises like Think-Pair-Share to encourage active student-centered learning. While this clearly isn't possible asynchronously, we will use other approaches to intentionally build the same kind of active learning environment into this course. However, this is the first time this material is being taught this way, so we will explore these approaches together.

The course has assignments due almost every week, generally due Mondays at midnight Eastern time. Between graded assignments, and the need to react to other students' work, you should plan to log into Canvas at least twice a week.

Although the course material is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I am not. I will try my best to answer all e-mails within 48 hours, and it will hopefully be closer to 24 hours during the week. However, I also believe strongly in protecting personal time for work-life balance (which is doubly hard with the pandemic) so if you e-mail me after 10 p.m. at night, or on a weekend, the response may be delayed until the morning, or Monday, in the case of weekends.

There are no scheduled office hours for the course, but I am happy to schedule a one-on-one appointment via Zoom.

The course is scored out of 500 points total. Of this, 30% is from cumulative module quizzes after Modules 4, 8, and 12. The remaining 70% comes from the assignments at the end of each module. Accordingly, the best way to succeed in this course is to start abreast of these assignments.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the differences between major classes of sensory testing methods, and situations where each is appropriate.
  2. Design a complete sensory test to answer a given research question, including the data analysis plan.
  3. Select and apply appropriate statistical methods to sensory data, to draw conclusions and make recommendations about product characteristics.

Course Outline

Module 1: Synopsis of Sensory Evaluation

Module 2: Review of Statistical Concepts

Module 3: Psychophysics — Historical and Modern Perspectives

Module 4: Scaling Methods (Intensity)

Module 5: Psychological and Physiological Phenomena

Module 6: Sensory Neurobiology (Part 1: Taste and Smell)

Module 7: Sensory Neurobiology (Part 2: Chemesthesis, Astringency, and Texture)

Module 8: Discrimination — Testing for Difference and Similarity

Module 9: Signal Detection Theory & Thurstonian Models

Module 10: Temporal Methods (TI, TCATA, TDS)

Module 11: Survey of Descriptive Analysis

Module 12: Hedonic Testing and Consumer Driven Product Optimization

Module 13: Color Perception

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to the Course Summary on the Syllabus page in Canvas.

Course Materials

Most World Campus courses require that students purchase materials (e.g., textbooks, specific software, etc.). To learn about how to order materials, please see the Course Materials page. You should check the World Campus Course Catalog approximately 3–4 weeks before the course begins for a list of required materials.

No required textbook. Required readings for individual modules will be posted within Canvas.


ISBN: 978-1441964878
Lawless, H. T., & Heymann, H. (2010). Sensory Evaluation of Food: Principles and Practices (2nd ed.). Springer. (E-Book option available)

This textbook, while optional, is strongly recommended.

You may purchase course materials from Barnes & Noble College (the bookstore used by Penn State's World Campus). For pricing and ordering information, please see the Barnes & Noble College website. Materials will be available at Barnes & Noble College approximately three weeks before the course begins. Alternatively, you may obtain these texts from other favorite bookstores. Be sure you purchase the edition/publication date listed.

E-Book Option

An online version of one or more of your texts is available at no cost as a Penn State Library E-Book. Some E-Books will only be available online, while others will be available to download in full or in part. You may choose to use the E-Book as an alternative to purchasing a physical copy of the text. You can access the E-Book by selecting Library Resources in the Course Navigation Menu, and then selecting the E-Reserves link. For questions or issues, you can contact the University Libraries Reserve Help (UL-RESERVESHELP@LISTS.PSU.EDU).


Your grade in this course consists of 2 parts:

  1. Post-module quizzes (3 separate quizzes, 30% of your total grade)
  2. Homework assignments — statistical analysis and interpretation of datasets and output (70%)

Final Exam

There is no final exam in this course.

Late Submission Policy

The instructor will not inform students of any missed work. Each module builds upon one another and the time frame of each one is planned to be one week.

Assignments can be submitted at any time during the week they are due but will not be accepted for credit after the date and time indicated. To ensure a reasonable turnaround time of approximately 1 week, you must submit on time.

Grading Policy

The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value
Assignments 330
Discussions 20
Quizzes 150
TOTAL: 500

The following table is the grading scheme for the course.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage
A 100% – 94%
A- < 94% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 87%
B < 87% – 84%
B- < 84% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 77%
C < 77% – 70%
D < 70% – 60%
F < 60%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Undergraduate Courses for additional information.

Note: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" under World Campus Student Resources.

Online Students Use of the Library

As Penn State students, you have access to many of the materials that the library offers to students. The library website has a lot to offer but can be overwhelming. A guide has been created to serve as your introduction to important library resources, services, and important pages within the library. The Online Student Library Guide is updated regularly by the online librarian. It is intended to provide a level of comfort through an introduction to help you feel comfortable navigating the library website to find valuable information for your coursework.

Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

Getting Help With Canvas Courses

Canvas support is available 24/7 via chat or phone.

It is in your own best interest to be as specific as you possibly can. Try to include information such as the specific course page, quiz question, etc. you were on; what you attempted to do when that failed; the exact language of any error message displayed on your screen; the date and time when your problem occurred; and any other pertinent information (does the problem happen consistently and always in the same way, etc.).

Support Services

As a student, you have access to a variety of services and resources, including advising, tutoring, library services, career services, and more. Please visit the following resources for more information:

Accessibility Information


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and discussion postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Penn State Policies

Login Policy

Students are expected to log in regularly to keep up to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

Course Availability

Your course will be available to you beginning the first day of class and will remain open for one year. After one year the course will close.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights, and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49-20, G-9 Procedures, and the Code of Conduct).

Please read the academic integrity guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University's academic integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff, and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity both inside and outside of the classroom.

Educational Equity Statement

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated and can be reported through Educational Equity on the Bias Response page.

Privacy Policies

For information about Penn State's privacy statement and what it encompasses, please read their Web Privacy Statement. Visit Penn State's FERPA Guidelines for Faculty and Staff page for information regarding its rules governing the privacy of student educational records.

Copyright Notice

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor's express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD40, Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services, addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University's Code of Conduct, and/or liable under federal and state laws.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being. The University offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients' cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Accommodations for Persons With Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources page.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus' disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search to start planning ahead.