Help writing a scientific report
Although this handout takes each section in the order in which it should be presented in the final report, you may for practical reasons decide to compose sections in another order. For example, many writers find that composing their Methods and Results before the other sections helps to clarify their idea of the hell or study as a whole.
You may do further experiments, derivations, or simulations. The following should not be included in your results: Most word-processing software has a number of functions for transferring data into graph form; many scientists have found Microsoft Excel, for example, a helpful tool in graphing results. This question is most important in field studies. Council of Biology Editors. You may believe that audience is a non-issue: Booth, Wayne, Gregory G.
You might consider using each assignment to practice different approaches to drafting the report, to find the order that helpp best for you. What should I do before drafting the lab report? The best way to prepare to write the lab report is to make sure that you fully understand scientifoc you need to about the experiment. To make sure you know enough to write the report, complete the following steps: What are we hoping to learn from this experiment?
Read your lab manual thoroughly, well before you start to carry out the experiment.
Ask yourself the following hekp What are we going to do in this lab? Why are we going to do it that way? Why would we benefit from this knowledge? Consult your lab supervisor as you perform the lab. Plan the steps of the experiment wrting with your lab partners. Also, take some time scieentific think about the best way to organize the data before you have to start putting numbers down. If you can design a table to account for the data, that will tend to work much better than jotting results down hurriedly on a scrap piece of paper.
Record the data carefully so you get them right. Lab groups often make one of two mistakes: Was the hypothesis supported? Did you all get the same results? What kind of figure should you use to represent your findings? The whole group can source together to answer these questions. You may believe that audience is a non-issue: Well, yes—but again, think beyond the classroom.
Source you write with weiting your lab instructor nelp mind, you may omit scientiic that is crucial to a complete understanding of your experiment, because you assume the instructor knows all that stuff already.
Try to write towards a student in the same course but a different lab section. Alternatively, you could envision yourself five years from now, after the reading and lectures for this course have faded writihg bit. What would you remember, and what would you need explained more clearly as a refresher?
Introductions How do I write a strong Introduction? Then we can formulate a logical organizational strategy for the section. Purpose The inclusion of the purpose sometimes called the go here of the experiment often confuses writers. The biggest misconception is that the visit web page is the same as the hypothesis.
The purpose is broader, and deals more with what you expect to gain through the experiment. Source a professional setting, the hypothesis wriging have something to do with how cells react to a certain kind of genetic manipulation, but the purpose of the experiment is to learn more about potential cancer treatments.
In wruting solubility experiment, for example, your hypothesis might talk about the relationship between temperature and the rate of solubility, but the purpose is probably to learn more about some specific scientific principle underlying the process of solubility. Hypothesis For starters, most people say that you should write out your working hypothesis before you perform the experiment or study. Many beginning science students scienhific to do so and find themselves struggling to remember precisely which variables were involved in the process or in go here way the researchers felt that they were related.
In click words, explain that link term A changes, term B changes in this particular way. Readers of hwlp writing are scientiific content with the idea that a relationship between two terms exists—they want to know what that relationship entails.
The independent variable is what you manipulate please click for source test the reaction; the dependent variable is what sdientific as a result writign your manipulation. In the belp above, the independent variable is the temperature of the solvent, and the dependent variable is the rate of solubility.
Be sure that your hypothesis includes both variables. Justify your hypothesis You need read more do more than tell your readers what your hypothesis is; you also need to assure them that this hypothesis was reasonable, given the circumstances. If you did help writing a scientific report it out of thin air, your problems with your report will probably extend beyond using the appropriate format.
- If your paper includes a well-structured Introduction and an effective abstract, you need not repeat any of the Introduction in the Conclusion.
- Do not keep using the word "then" - the reader will understand that the steps were carried out in the order in which they are written.
- Write up the Results This section responds to the question "What have you found?
But you writiing also motivate your hypothesis by essay theme thomas king blackfoot borders on logic or on your own observations. Even such basic, outside-the-lab observations can help you rport your hypothesis as reasonable.
Generally speaking, authors writing journal articles use the background for slightly different purposes than scientofic students completing assignments. In any event, both professional researchers and undergraduates need to scientifix the background material overtly to their own work. Once you scinetific expressed your purpose, you should then find it easier to move from the general purpose, to relevant material on the subject, to your hypothesis. In abbreviated form, an Introduction section might look like this: According to Whitecoat and Labratat higher temperatures the molecules rfport solvents move more quickly.
Thus, it was hypothesized that as the temperature scientiifc a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in more info solvent increases [hypothesis]. Some writers and readers prefer different structures for the Introduction. The one above merely illustrates a common approach to organizing material.
Methods and Materials How do I write a strong Materials and Methods section? Wrihing, others must be able to verify your findings, so your experiment must be reproducible, to the extent that other researchers can follow the same procedure and obtain the same or similar results.
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To this day, the viability of cold hflp is debated within the scientific community, even though an increasing number of researchers believe it possible. So when you write your Methods section, keep in mind that you need to describe your experiment well enough to allow others to replicate it exactly. Writers often want to include the results of their heelp, because they measured and recorded scirntific results during the course of the experiment.
Visit web page such data should be reserved for the Results section. In writinng Methods section, you can write that you recorded the results, or how rreport recorded the results e. Wrting you draft your Methods section, ask yourself the following questions: Be precise in providing details, but stay relevant.
If so, you should give scietific many details as necessary to prevent this experiment from going awry if someone else tries to carry it out. Probably the most crucial detail is measurement; you should always quantify anything you can, such as time elapsed, temperature, mass, volume, etc. If you capped a test tube immediately after adding a solute to a sceintific, why did you do that? In a professional setting, writers provide their rationale writign a way to explain their thinking to potential critics.
Most experiments will include a control, which is a means of comparing experimental results. Describe the control in the Methods section. Two things are especially important in writing yelp the control: Here is an example: Occasionally, researchers use subsections to report their procedure when the following circumstances apply: In fact, many guides to writing lab reports suggest that you try to limit your Methods section to a single paragraph.
Think of this section as telling a story about a group of people and the experiment they performed. Describe what you did in the order in which you did it. Next, add 50 ml of distilled water. Later, of course, you can go back and fill in any part of the procedure you inadvertently overlooked. Remember that other researchers should ideally be able to reproduce experiments exactly, based on the lab report; using first person indicates to some readers that the experiment cannot be duplicated without the original researchers present. You can learn more in our handout on passive voicebut these examples might explain the distinction between active and passive voice: Increasingly, especially in the social sciences, using first person and active voice is acceptable in scientific reports.
Most readers find that this style of writing conveys information more clearly and concisely. This rhetorical choice thus brings two scientific values into conflict: Results How do I write a strong Results section?
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The Results section is often both the shortest yay! Your Materials and Methods section shows how you obtained the results, and your Discussion section explores the significance of the results, so clearly the Results section forms the backbone of the lab report. This section provides the most critical information about your experiment: Before you write this section, look at all the data you collected to figure out what relates significantly to your hypothesis.
Resist the urge to include every bit of data you collected, since perhaps not all are relevant. Nothing your readers can dispute should appear in the Results section. Most Results sections feature three distinct parts: Text This should be a short paragraph, generally just a few lines, that describes the results you obtained from your experiment. Feel free to describe trends that emerge as you examine the data. Although identifying trends requires some judgment on your part and so may not feel like factual reporting, no one can deny that these trends do exist, and so they properly belong in the Results section.
As in the Materials and Methods section, you want to refer to your data in the past tense, because the events you recorded have already occurred and have finished occurring. Tables are useful ways to show variation in data, but not to present a great deal of unchanging measurements. How useful is this table?
As a rule, try not to use a table to describe any experimental event you can cover in one sentence of text. As Day notes, all the information in this table can be summarized in one sentence: When you do have reason to tabulate material, pay attention to the clarity and readability of the format you use.
Here are a few tips: Then, when you refer to the table in the text, use that number to tell your readers which table they can review to clarify the material. Give your table a title. This title should be descriptive enough to communicate the contents of the table, but not so long that it becomes difficult to follow. The titles in the sample tables above are acceptable. Arrange your table so that readers read vertically, not horizontally. For the most part, this rule means that you should construct your table so that like elements read down, not across.
Think about what you want your readers to compare, and put that information in the column up and down rather than in the row across. Usually, the point of comparison will be the numerical data you collect, so especially make sure you have columns of numbers, not rows. Look at this table, which presents the relevant data in horizontal rows: Compare this table, in which the data appear vertically: The second table shows how putting like elements in a vertical column makes for easier reading. In this case, the like elements are the measurements of length and height, over five trials—not, as in the first table, the length and height measurements foreach trial.
Make sure to include units of measurement in the tables. Line up numbers on the right, like this: This convention exists because journals prefer not to have to reproduce these lines because the tables then become more expensive to print. Figures How do I include figures in my report? Although tables can be useful ways of showing trends in the results you obtained, figures i. Lab report writers often use graphic representations of the data they collected to provide their readers with a literal picture of how the experiment went.
When should you use a figure? Under the same conditions, you would probably forgo the figure as well, since the figure would be unlikely to provide your readers with an additional perspective. The strength of a table lies in its ability to supply large amounts of exact data, whereas the strength of a figure is its dramatic illustration of important trends within the experiment.
Of course, an undergraduate class may expect you to create a figure for your lab experiment, if only to make sure that you can do so effectively. At the undergraduate level, you can often draw and label your graphs by hand, provided that the result is clear, legible, and drawn to scale. Computer technology has, however, made creating line graphs a lot easier. Most word-processing software has a number of functions for transferring data into graph form; many scientists have found Microsoft Excel, for example, a helpful tool in graphing results.
If you plan on pursuing a career in the sciences, it may be well worth your while to learn to use a similar program. Here are some of these expectations: Keep it as simple as possible. You may be tempted to signal the complexity of the information you gathered by trying to design a graph that accounts for that complexity. But remember the purpose of your graph: Try not to make the reader stare at the graph for a half hour to find the important line among the mass of other lines. For maximum effectiveness, limit yourself to three to five lines per graph; if you have more data to demonstrate, use a set of graphs to account for it, rather than trying to cram it all into a single figure.
Plot the independent variable on the horizontal x axis and the dependent variable on the vertical y axis. Remember that the independent variable is the condition that you manipulated during the experiment and the dependent variable is the condition that you measured to see if it changed along with the independent variable. Label each axis carefully, and be especially careful to include units of measure. You need to make sure that your readers understand perfectly well what your graph indicates. Number and title your graphs. As with tables, the title of the graph should be informative but concise, and you should refer to your graph by number in the text e.
Many editors of professional scientific journals prefer that writers distinguish the lines in their graphs by attaching a symbol to them, usually a geometric shape triangle, square, etc. Generally, readers have a hard time distinguishing dotted lines from dot-dash lines from straight lines, so you should consider staying away from this system. Use your discretion—try to employ whichever technique dramatizes the results most effectively.
Make your graph large enough so that everything is legible and clearly demarcated, but not so large that it either overwhelms the rest of the Results section or provides a far greater range than you need to illustrate your point. The lines in your graph should more or less fill the space created by the axes; if you see that your data is confined to the lower left portion of the graph, you should probably re-adjust your scale.
If you create a set of graphs, make them the same size and format, including all the verbal and visual codes captions, symbols, scale, etc. Discussion How do I write a strong Discussion section?
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In simple terms, here you tell your readers what to make of the Results you obtained. If you have done the Results part well, your readers should already recognize the trends in the data and have a fairly clear idea of whether your hypothesis was supported. Because the Results can seem so self-explanatory, many students find it difficult to know what material to add in this last section.
Basically, the Discussion contains several parts, in no particular order, but roughly moving from specific i. In this section, you will, as a rule, need to: You might begin this part of the Discussion by explicitly stating the relationships or correlations your data indicate between the independent and dependent variables. Then you can show more clearly why you believe your hypothesis was or was not supported. For example, if you tested solubility at various temperatures, you could start this section by noting that the rates of solubility increased as the temperature increased.
Students tend to view labs as practical tests of undeniable scientific truths. Also, recognize that saying whether the data supported your hypothesis or not involves making a claim to be defended. As such, you need to show the readers that this claim is warranted by the evidence. In a scientific paper, by contrast, you would need to defend your claim more thoroughly by pointing to data such as slurred words, unsteady gait, and the lampshade-as-hat.
In addition to pointing out these details, you would also need to show how according to previous studies these signs are consistent with inebriation, especially if they occur in conjunction with one another. To put it another way, tell your readers exactly how you got from point A was the hypothesis supported? Acknowledge any anomalous data, or deviations from what you expected You need to take these exceptions and divergences into account, so that you qualify your conclusions sufficiently.
The key to making this approach work, though, is to be very precise about the weakness in your experiment, why and how you think that weakness might have affected your data, and how you would alter your protocol to eliminate—or limit the effects of—that weakness. These speculations include such factors as the unusually hot temperature in the room, or the possibility that their lab partners read the meters wrong, or the potentially defective equipment. Another is to try to identify a conversation going on among members of that community, and use your work to contribute to that conversation.
On a more pragmatic level, especially for undergraduates, connecting your lab work to previous research will demonstrate to the TA that you see the big picture. Capitalize on this opportunity by putting your own work in context. If, for example, researchers are hotly disputing the value of herbal remedies for the common cold, and the results of your study suggest that Echinacea diminishes the symptoms but not the actual presence of the cold, then you might want to take some time in the Discussion section to recapitulate the specifics of the dispute as it relates to Echinacea as an herbal remedy.
Consider that you have probably already written in the Introduction about this debate as background research. In argumentative writing generally, you want to use your closing words to convey the main point of your writing. In either case, the concluding statements help the reader to comprehend the significance of your project and your decision to write about it.
The purpose is broader, and deals more with what you expect to gain through the experiment. Make the Conclusion interesting and memorable for them. FOR FIELD STUDIES ONLY: Ecological aspects of fox reproduction. Most often it is not.
To return to the examples regarding solubility, you could end by reflecting on what your work on solubility as a function of temperature tells us potentially about solubility in general. Other resources Websites LabWrite Project University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.
Includes a sample lab report. Commonly considered a handbook of formatting and other relatively minor issues e. A Field Guide for Science Writers: Oxford University Press, Extremely useful as an indicator of the expectations science readers have for professional-level writing. Lots of helpful material regarding formatting, but also includes more about stylistic choices than do the similar CBE and APA manuals. Booth, Wayne, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. The Craft of Research. University of Chicago Press, Leads the reader through all the stages of the research process, from developing a question into a problem that can be addressed, to planning and drafting, to revising for clarity and comprehension.
The last three chapters are especially helpful. Emphasis on presentations at conferences and similar forums, but also probably the most comprehensive discussion about designing tables and graphs. Council of Science Editors. Scientific Style and Format: Cambridge University Press, Like the APA manual, the CSE manual is most often regarded by writers as an encyclopedia of arcane formatting rules, but it does contain a good deal of information about science writing in general. Note that this used to be called the CBE Manual; the organization that produces it was formerly called the Council of Biology Editors.
Scientific Papers and Presentations. A useful guide, particularly for writers who find visuals difficult to design or realize. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. Informative and entertaining guide to what editors look for in manuscripts and what editors really hate in manuscripts as well. Very practical, relying heavily on anecdote to make points.
Especially helpful to professional-level science writers, but undergraduates stand to learn from this one as well. A Short Guide to Writing about Science. Short, true, but accomplishes a good deal in a slim volume. If you were to choose only one of the books listed here, this would probably be your best bet. Targets primarily upper-level undergraduates and beginning researchers. Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. The premier guide to improving writing style generally. Not aimed specifically at science writers, but all ten lessons will apply to some degree.
Perhaps the best and simplest path to clearer, more interesting writing. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout just click print and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.