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Format of articles, cover letter, revised manuscripts, tex/latex files, writing your manuscript, copy editing services, acknowledgements, author contributions, competing interests, data availability, ethics declarations, approval for animal experiments, approval for human experiments, consent to participate/consent to publish.
- Supplementary information
General figure guidelines, figures for peer review, figures for publication, statistical guidelines, chemical and biological nomenclature and abbreviations, gene nomenclature, characterisation of chemical and biomolecular materials, registered reports.
Scientific Reports publishes original research in two formats: Article and Registered Report. For Registered Reports, see section below . In most cases, we do not impose strict limits on word count or page number. However, we strongly recommend that you write concisely and stick to the following guidelines:
- Articles should ideally be no more than 11 typeset pages
- The main text should be no more than 4,500 words (not including Abstract, Methods, References and figure legends)
- The title should be no more than 20 words, should describe the main message of the article using a single scientifically accurate sentence, and should not contain puns or idioms
- The abstract should be no more than 200 words
For a definitive list of which limits are mandatory please visit the submission checklist page .
Please do not include any references in your Abstract. Make sure it serves both as a general introduction to the topic and as a brief, non-technical summary of the main results and their implications. Abstract should be unstructured, i.e. should not contain sections or subheadings.
Your manuscript text file should start with a title page that shows author affiliations and contact information, identifying the corresponding author with an asterisk. We recommend that each section includes an introduction of referenced text that expands on the background of the work. Some overlap with the Abstract is acceptable. Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT , do not currently satisfy our authorship criteria . Notably an attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, which cannot be effectively applied to LLMs. Use of an LLM should be properly documented in the Methods section (and if a Methods section is not available, in a suitable alternative part) of the manuscript. In response to emerging information, advice, guidance and policy around artificial intelligence (AI), we have created a dedicated AI section in our Editorial Policy page . Please familiarize yourself with this content and comply with relevant policies.
For the main body of the text, there are no specific requirements. You can organise it in a way that best suits your research. However, the following structure will be suitable in many cases:
- Results (with subheadings)
- Discussion (without subheadings)
You should then follow the main body of text with:
- References (limited to 60 references, though not strictly enforced)
- Acknowledgements (optional)
- Author contributions (names must be given as initials)
- Data availability statement (mandatory)
- Additional Information (including a Competing Interests Statement)
- Figure legends (these are limited to 350 words per figure)
- Tables (maximum size of one page)
Please note, footnotes should not be used. Please also do not include keywords, as these are not published in Scientific Reports articles.
You may include a limited number of uncaptioned molecular structure graphics and numbered mathematical equations if necessary. Display items are limited to 8 ( figures and/or tables ). However, to enable typesetting of papers, we advise making the number of display items commensurate with your overall word length. So, for Articles of 2,000 words or less, we suggest including no more than 4 figures/tables. Please note that schemes should not be used and should be presented as figures instead.
Your submission must also include:
- A cover letter
- Individual figure files and optional supplementary information files
For first submissions (i.e. not revised manuscripts), you may incorporate the manuscript text and figures into a single file up to 3 MB in size. Whilst Microsoft Word is preferred we also accept LaTeX, or PDF format. Figures can be inserted in the text at the appropriate positions, or grouped at the end.
Supplementary information should be combined and supplied as a single separate file, preferably in PDF format.
A submission template is available in the Overleaf template gallery to help you prepare a LaTeX manuscript within the Scientific Reports formatting criteria.
In your cover letter, you should include:
- The affiliation and contact information of your corresponding author
- A brief explanation of why the work is appropriate for Scientific Reports
- The names and contact information of any reviewers you consider suitable
- The names of any referees you would like excluded from reviewing
Finally, you should state whether you have had any prior discussions with a Scientific Reports Editorial Board Member about the work described in your manuscript.
For revised manuscripts, you should provide all textual content in a single file, prepared using either Microsoft Word or LaTeX. Please note, we do not accept PDF files for the article text of revised manuscripts. Make sure you:
- Format the manuscript file as single-column text without justification.
- Number the pages using an Arabic numeral in the footer of each page.
- Use the default Computer Modern fonts for your text, and the 'symbols' font for any Greek characters.
- Supply any figures as individual files.
- Combine and supply any Supplementary Information as a separate file, preferably in PDF format.
- Include the title of the manuscript and author list in the first page of the Supplementary Information file.
If you do not wish to incorporate the manuscript text and figures into a single file, please provide all textual content in a separate single file, prepared using either Microsoft Word or LaTeX.
If you’re submitting LaTeX files, you can either use the standard ‘Article’ document class (or similar) or the wlscirep.cls file and template provided by Overleaf . For graphics, we recommend your use graphicx.sty. Use numerical references only for citations.
Our system cannot accept .bib files. If you prepare references using BibTeX (which is optional), please include the .bbl file with your submission (as a ‘LaTeX supplementary file’) in order for it to be processed correctly; this file is included automatically in the zip file generated by Overleaf for submissions. Please see this help article on Overleaf for more details.
Alternatively, you can make sure that the references (source code) are included within the manuscript file itself. As a final precaution, you should ensure that the complete .tex file compiles successfully on its own system with no errors or warnings, before submission.
Scientific Reports is read by a truly diverse range of scientists. Please therefore give careful thought to communicating your findings as clearly as possible.
Although you can assume a shared basic knowledge of science, please don’t expect that everyone will be familiar with the specialist language or concepts of your particular field. Therefore:
- Avoid technical jargon wherever possible, explaining it clearly when it is unavoidable.
- Keep abbreviations to a minimum, particularly when they are not standard.
- If you must use an abbreviation, make sure you spell it out fully in the text or legend the first time it appears.
- Clearly explain the background, rationale and main conclusions of your study.
- Write titles and abstracts in language that will be readily understood by any scientist.
We strongly recommend that you ask a colleague with different expertise to review your manuscript before you submit it. This will help you to identify concepts and terminology that non-specialist readers may find hard to grasp.
We don’t provide in-depth copy editing as part of the production process. So, if you feel your manuscript would benefit from someone looking at the copy, please consider using a copy editing or language editing service. You can either do this before submission or at the revision stage. You can also get a fast, free grammar check of your manuscript that takes into account all aspects of readability in English.
We have two affiliates who can provide you with these services: Nature Research Editing Service and American Journal Experts . As a Scientific Reports author, you are entitled to a 10% discount on your first submission to either of these.
Claim 10% off English editing from Nature Research Editing Service
Claim 10% off American Journal Experts
Please note that the use of an editing service is at your own expense, and doesn’t ensure that your article will be selected for peer-review or accepted for publication.
We don't impose word limits on the description of methods. Make sure it includes adequate experimental and characterisation data for others to be able to reproduce your work. You should:
- Include descriptions of standard protocols and experimental procedures.
- Only identify commercial suppliers of reagents or instrumentation when the source is critical to the outcome of the experiments.
- Identify sources for any kits you use in your procedures.
- Include any experimental protocols that describe the synthesis of new compounds.
- Use the systematic name of any new compound and put its bold Arabic numeral in the heading for the experimental protocol, indicating it thereafter by its assigned, bold numeral.
- Describe the experimental protocol in detail, referring to amounts of reagents in parentheses, when possible (eg 1.03 g, 0.100 mmol).
- Use standard abbreviations for reagents and solvents.
- Clearly identify safety hazards posed by reagents or protocols.
- Report isolated mass and percent yields at the end of each protocol.
If you’re reporting experiments on live vertebrates (or higher invertebrates), humans or human samples, you must include a statement of ethical approval in the Methods section (see our detailed requirements for further information on preparing these statements).
We don’t copy edit your references. Therefore, it’s essential you format them correctly, as they will be linked electronically to external databases where possible. At Scientific Reports , we use the standard Nature referencing style. So, when formatting your references, make sure they:
- Run sequentially (and are always numerical).
- Sit within square brackets.
- Only have one publication linked to each number.
- Only include papers or datasets that have been published or accepted by a named publication, recognised preprint server or data repository (if you include any preprints of accepted papers in your reference list, make sure you submit them with the manuscript).
- Include published conference abstracts and numbered patents, if you wish.
- Don’t include grant details and acknowledgements.
Sorry, we cannot accept BibTeX (.bib) bibliography files for references. If you are making your submission by LaTeX, it must either contain all references within the manuscript .tex file itself, or (if you’re using the Overleaf template) include the .bbl file generated during the compilation process as a ‘LaTeX supplementary file’ (see the "Manuscripts" section for more details).
In your reference list, you should:
- Include all authors unless there are six or more, in which case only the first author should be given, followed by 'et al.'.
- List authors by last name first, followed by a comma and initials (followed by full stops) of given names.
- Use Roman text for Article and dataset titles, with only the first word of the title having an initial capital and written exactly as it appears in the work cited, ending with a full stop.
- Use italics for book titles, giving all words in the title an initial capital.
- Use italics for journal and data repository names, abbreviating them according to common usage (with full stops).
- Use bold for volume numbers and the subsequent comma.
- Give the full page range (or article number), where appropriate.
Printed journals Schott, D. H., Collins, R. N. & Bretscher, A. Secretory vesicle transport velocity in living cells depends on the myosin V lever arm length. J. Cell Biol . 156 , 35-39 (2002).
Online only Bellin, D. L. et al . Electrochemical camera chip for simultaneous imaging of multiple metabolites in biofilms . Nat. Commun . 7 , 10535; 10.1038/ncomms10535 (2016).
For papers with more than five authors include only the first author’s name followed by ‘ et al. ’.
Books: Smith, J. Syntax of referencing in How to reference books (ed. Smith, S.) 180-181 (Macmillan, 2013).
Babichev, S. A., Ries, J. & Lvovsky, A. I. Quantum scissors: teleportation of single-mode optical states by means of a nonlocal single photon. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0208066 (2002).
Manaster, J. Sloth squeak. Scientific American Blog Network http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psi-vid/2014/04/09/sloth-squeak (2014).
Hao, Z., AghaKouchak, A., Nakhjiri, N. & Farahmand, A. Global integrated drought monitoring and prediction system (GIDMaPS) data sets. figshare https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.853801 (2014).
Please keep any acknowledgements brief, and don’t include thanks to anonymous referees and editors, or any effusive comments. You may acknowledge grant or contribution numbers. You should also acknowledge assistance from medical writers, proof-readers and editors.
You must supply an Author Contribution Statement as described in the Author responsibilities section of our Editorial and Publishing Policies .
Please be aware:
- The author name you give as the corresponding author will be the main contact during the review process and should not change.
- The information you provide in the submission system will be used as the source of truth when your paper is published.
You must supply a competing interests statement . If there is no conflict of interest, you should include a statement declaring this.
Your statement must be explicit and unambiguous, describing any potential competing interest (or lack thereof) for EACH contributing author. The information you provide in the submission system will be used as the source of truth when your paper is published.
Examples of declarations are:
Competing interests The author(s) declare no competing interests.
Competing interests Dr X's work has been funded by A. He has received compensation as a member of the scientific advisory board of B and owns stock in the company. He also has consulted for C and received compensation. Dr Y and Dr Z declare no potential conflict of interest.
You must include a Data Availability Statement in all submitted manuscripts (at the end of the main text, before the References section); see ' Availability of materials and data ' section for more information.
If your research includes human or animal subjects, you will need to include the appropriate ethics declarations in the Methods section of your manuscript.
For experiments involving live vertebrates and/or higher invertebrates, your Methods section must include a statement that:
- Identifies the institutional and/or licensing committee that approved the experiments, including any relevant details.
- Confirms that all experiments were performed in accordance with relevant named guidelines and regulations.
- Confirms that the authors complied with the ARRIVE guidelines.
For experiments involving human subjects (or tissue samples), your Methods section must include a statement that:
- Confirms that informed consent was obtained from all participants and/or their legal guardians.
Please note that:
- Study participant names (and other personally identifiable information) must be removed from all text/figures/tables/images.
- The use of coloured bars/shapes or blurring to obscure the eyes/facial region of study participants is not an acceptable means of anonymisation. For manuscripts that include information or images that could lead to identification of a study participant, your Methods section must include a statement that confirms informed consent was obtained to publish the information/image(s) in an online open access publication.
You should submit any Supplementary Information together with the manuscript so that we can send it to referees during peer-review. This will be published online with accepted manuscripts.
It’s vital that you carefully check your Supplementary Information before submission as any modification after your paper is published will require a formal correction.
Please avoid including any "data not shown" statements and instead make your data available via deposition in a public repository (see ' Availability of materials and data ' for more information).
If any data that is necessary to evaluate the claims of your paper is not available via a public depository, make sure you provide it as Supplementary Information.
We do not edit, typeset or proof Supplementary Information, so please present it clearly and succinctly at initial submission, making sure it conforms to the style and terminology of the rest of the paper.
To avoid any delays to publication, please follow the guidelines below for creation, citation and submission of your Supplementary Information:
You can combine multiple pieces of Supplementary Information and supply them as a single composite file. If you wish to keep larger information (e.g. supplementary videos, spreadsheets [.csv or .xlsx] or data files) as another separate file you may do so.
Designate each item as Supplementary Table, Figure, Video, Audio, Note, Data, Discussion, Equations or Methods, as appropriate. Number Supplementary Tables and Figures as, for example, "Supplementary Table S1". This numbering should be separate from that used in tables and figures appearing in the main article. Supplementary Note or Methods should not be numbered; titles for these are optional.
Refer to each piece of supplementary material at the appropriate point(s) in the main article. Be sure to include the word "Supplementary" each time one is mentioned. Please do not refer to individual panels of supplementary figures.
Use the following examples as a guide (note: abbreviate "Figure" as "Fig." when in the middle of a sentence): "Table 1 provides a selected subset of the most active compounds. The entire list of 96 compounds can be found as Supplementary Table S1 online." "The biosynthetic pathway of L-ascorbic acid in animals involves intermediates of the D-glucuronic acid pathway (see Supplementary Fig. S2 online). Figure 2 shows...".
Remember to include a brief title and legend (incorporated into the file to appear near the image) as part of every figure submitted, and a title as part of every table.
Keep file sizes as small as possible, with a maximum size of 50 MB, so that they can be downloaded quickly.
Supplementary video files should be provided in the standard video aspects: 4:3, 16:9, 21:9.
If you have any further questions about the submission and preparation of Supplementary Information, please email: [email protected] .
Please begin your figure legends with a brief title sentence for the whole figure and continue with a short description of what is shown in each panel. Use any symbols in sequence and minimise the methodological details as much as possible. Keep each legend total to no more than 350 words. Provide text for figure legends in numerical order after the references.
Please submit any tables in your main article document in an editable format (Word or TeX/LaTeX, as appropriate), and not as images. Tables that include statistical analysis of data should describe their standards of error analysis and ranges in a table legend.
Include any equations and mathematical expressions in the main text of the paper. Identify equations that are referred to in the text by parenthetical numbers, such as (1), and refer to them in the manuscript as "equation (1)" etc.
For submissions in a .doc or .docx format, please make sure that all equations are provided in an editable Word format. You can produce these with the equation editor included in Microsoft Word.
You are responsible for obtaining permission to publish any figures or illustrations that are protected by copyright, including figures published elsewhere and pictures taken by professional photographers. We cannot publish images downloaded from the internet without appropriate permission.
You should state the source of any images used. If you or one of your co-authors has drawn the images, please mention this in your acknowledgements. For software, you should state the name, version number and URL.
Number any figures separately with Arabic numerals in the order they occur in the text of the manuscript. Include error bars when appropriate. Include a description of the statistical treatment of error analysis in the figure legend.
Please do not use schemes. You should submit sequences of chemical reactions or experimental procedures as figures, with appropriate captions. You may include in the manuscript a limited number of uncaptioned graphics depicting chemical structures - each labelled with their name, by a defined abbreviation, or by the bold Arabic numeral.
Use a clear, sans-serif typeface (for example, Helvetica) for figure lettering. Use the same typeface in the same font size for all figures in your paper. For Greek letters, use a 'symbols' font. Put all display items on a white background, and avoid excessive boxing, unnecessary colour, spurious decorative effects (such as three-dimensional 'skyscraper' histograms) and highly pixelated computer drawings. Never truncate the vertical axis of histograms to exaggerate small differences. Ensure any labelling is of sufficient size and contrast to be legible, even after appropriate reduction. The thinnest lines in the final figure should be no smaller than one point wide. You will be sent a proof that will include figures.
- Figures divided into parts should be labelled with a lower-case, bold letter ( a, b, c and so on) in the same type size as used elsewhere in the figure.
- Lettering in figures should be in lower-case type, with only the first letter of each label capitalised.
- Units should have a single space between the number and the unit, and follow SI nomenclature (for example, ms rather than msec) or the nomenclature common to a particular field.
- Thousands should be separated by commas (1,000).
- Unusual units or abbreviations should be spelled out in full or defined in the legend.
- Scale bars should be used rather than magnification factors, with the length of the bar defined on the bar itself rather than in the legend.
In legends, please use visual cues rather than verbal explanations such as "open red triangles". Avoid unnecessary figures: data presented in small tables or histograms, for instance, can generally be stated briefly in the text instead. Figures should not contain more than one panel unless the parts are logically connected; each panel of a multipart figure should be sized so that the whole figure can be reduced by the same amount and reproduced at the smallest size at which essential details are visible.
At the initial submission stage, you may choose to upload separate figure files or to incorporate figures into the main article file, ensuring that any figures are of sufficient quality to be clearly legible.
When submitting a revised manuscript, you must upload all figures as separate figure files, ensuring that the image quality and formatting conforms to the specifications below.
You must supply each complete figure as a separate file upload. Multi-part/panel figures must be prepared and arranged as a single image file (including all sub-parts; a, b, c, etc.). Please do not upload each panel individually.
Please read the digital images integrity and standards section of our Editorial and Publishing Policies . When possible, we prefer to use original digital figures to ensure the highest-quality reproduction in the journal. When creating and submitting digital files, please follow the guidelines below. Failure to do so, or to adhere to the following guidelines, can significantly delay publication of your work.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
1. Line art, graphs, charts and schematics
For optimal results, you should supply all line art, graphs, charts and schematics in vector format, such as EPS or AI. Please save or export it directly from the application in which it was made, making sure that data points and axis labels are clearly legible.
2. Photographic and bitmap images
Please supply all photographic and bitmap images in a bitmap image format such as tiff, jpg, or psd. If saving tiff files, please ensure that the compression option is selected to avoid very large file sizes. Please do not supply Word or Powerpoint files with placed images. Images can be supplied as RGB or CMYK (note: we will not convert image colour modes).
Figures that do not meet these standards will not reproduce well and may delay publication until we receive high-resolution images.
3. Chemical structures
Please produce Chemical structures using ChemDraw or a similar program. All chemical compounds must be assigned a bold, Arabic numeral in the order in which the compounds are presented in the manuscript text. Structures should then be exported into a 300 dpi RGB tiff file before being submitted.
4. Stereo images
You should present stereo diagrams for divergent 'wall-eyed' viewing, with the two panels separated by 5.5 cm. In the final accepted version of the manuscript, you should submit the stereo images at their final page size.
If your paper contains statistical testing, it should state the name of the statistical test, the n value for each statistical analysis, the comparisons of interest, a justification for the use of that test (including, for example, a discussion of the normality of the data when the test is appropriate only for normal data), the alpha level for all tests, whether the tests were one-tailed or two-tailed, and the actual P value for each test (not merely "significant" or "P < 0.05"). Please make it clear what statistical test was used to generate every P value. Use of the word "significant" should always be accompanied by a P value; otherwise, use "substantial," "considerable," etc.
Data sets should be summarised with descriptive statistics, which should include the n value for each data set, a clearly labelled measure of centre (such as the mean or the median), and a clearly labelled measure of variability (such as standard deviation or range).
Ranges are more appropriate than standard deviations or standard errors for small data sets. Graphs should include clearly labelled error bars. You must state whether a number that follows the ± sign is a standard error (s.e.m.) or a standard deviation (s.d.).
You must justify the use of a particular test and explain whether the data conforms to the assumptions of the tests. Three errors are particularly common:
- Multiple comparisons: when making multiple statistical comparisons on a single data set, you should explain how you adjusted the alpha level to avoid an inflated Type I error rate, or you should select statistical tests appropriate for multiple groups (such as ANOVA rather than a series of t-tests).
- Normal distribution: many statistical tests require that the data be approximately normally distributed; when using these tests, you should explain how you tested your data for normality. If the data does not meet the assumptions of the test, you should use a non-parametric alternative instead.
- Small sample size: when the sample size is small (less than about 10), you should use tests appropriate to small samples or justify the use of large-sample tests.
You should identify molecular structures by bold, Arabic numerals assigned in order of presentation in the text. Once identified in the main text or a figure, you may refer to compounds by their name, by a defined abbreviation, or by the bold Arabic numeral (as long as the compound is referred to consistently as one of these three).
When possible, you should refer to chemical compounds and biomolecules using systematic nomenclature, preferably using IUPAC . You should use standard chemical and biological abbreviations. Make sure you define unconventional or specialist abbreviations at their first occurrence in the text.
You should use approved nomenclature for gene symbols, and employ symbols rather than italicised full names (for example Ttn, not titin). Please consult the appropriate nomenclature databases for correct gene names and symbols. A useful resource is Entrez Gene .
You can get approved human gene symbols from HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC), e-mail: [email protected] ; see also www.genenames.org .
You can get approved mouse symbols from The Jackson Laboratory, e-mail: [email protected] ; see also www.informatics.jax.org/mgihome/nomen .
For proposed gene names that are not already approved, please submit the gene symbols to the appropriate nomenclature committees as soon as possible, as these must be deposited and approved before publication of an article.
Avoid listing multiple names of genes (or proteins) separated by a slash, as in 'Oct4/Pou5f1', as this is ambiguous (it could mean a ratio, a complex, alternative names or different subunits). Use one name throughout and include the other at first mention: 'Oct4 (also known as Pou5f1)'.
Scientific Reports is committed to publishing technically sound research. Manuscripts submitted to the journal will be held to rigorous standards with respect to experimental methods and characterisation of new compounds.
You must provide adequate data to support your assignment of identity and purity for each new compound described in your manuscript. You should provide a statement confirming the source, identity and purity of known compounds that are central to the scientific study, even if they are purchased or resynthesised using published methods.
1. Chemical identity
Chemical identity for organic and organometallic compounds should be established through spectroscopic analysis. Standard peak listings (see formatting guidelines below) for 1H NMR and proton-decoupled 13C NMR should be provided for all new compounds. Other NMR data should be reported (31P NMR, 19F NMR, etc.) when appropriate. For new materials, you should also provide mass spectral data to support molecular weight identity. High-resolution mass spectral (HRMS) data is preferred. You may report UV or IR spectral data for the identification of characteristic functional groups, when appropriate. You should provide melting-point ranges for crystalline materials. You may report specific rotations for chiral compounds. You should provide references, rather than detailed procedures, for known compounds, unless their protocols represent a departure from or improvement on published methods.
2. Combinational compound libraries
When describing the preparation of combinatorial libraries, you should include standard characterisation data for a diverse panel of library components.
3. Biomolecular identity
For new biopolymeric materials (oligosaccharides, peptides, nucleic acids, etc.), direct structural analysis by NMR spectroscopic methods may not be possible. In these cases, you must provide evidence of identity based on sequence (when appropriate) and mass spectral characterisation.
4. Biological constructs
You should provide sequencing or functional data that validates the identity of their biological constructs (plasmids, fusion proteins, site-directed mutants, etc.) either in the manuscript text or the Methods section, as appropriate.
5. Sample purity
We request evidence of sample purity for each new compound. Methods for purity analysis depend on the compound class. For most organic and organometallic compounds, purity may be demonstrated by high-field 1H NMR or 13C NMR data, although elemental analysis (±0.4%) is encouraged for small molecules. You may use quantitative analytical methods including chromatographic (GC, HPLC, etc.) or electrophoretic analyses to demonstrate purity for small molecules and polymeric materials.
6. Spectral data
Please provide detailed spectral data for new compounds in list form (see below) in the Methods section. Figures containing spectra generally will not be published as a manuscript figure unless the data are directly relevant to the central conclusions of the paper. You are encouraged to include high-quality images of spectral data for key compounds in the Supplementary Information. You should list specific NMR assignments after integration values only if they were unambiguously determined by multidimensional NMR or decoupling experiments. You should provide information about how assignments were made in a general Methods section.
Example format for compound characterisation data. mp: 100-102 °C (lit. ref 99-101 °C); TLC (CHCl 3 :MeOH, 98:2 v/v): R f = 0.23; [α] D = -21.5 (0.1 M in n-hexane); 1 H NMR (400 MHz, CDCl 3 ): δ 9.30 (s, 1H), 7.55-7.41 (m, 6H), 5.61 (d, J = 5.5 Hz, 1H), 5.40 (d, J = 5.5 Hz, 1H), 4.93 (m, 1H), 4.20 (q, J = 8.5 Hz, 2H), 2.11 (s, 3H), 1.25 (t, J = 8.5 Hz, 3H); 13 C NMR (125 MHz, CDCl 3 ): δ 165.4, 165.0, 140.5, 138.7, 131.5, 129.2, 118.6, 84.2, 75.8, 66.7, 37.9, 20.1; IR (Nujol): 1765 cm- 1 ; UV/Vis: λ max 267 nm; HRMS (m/z): [M] + calcd. for C 20 H 15 C l2 NO 5 , 420.0406; found, 420.0412; analysis (calcd., found for C 20 H 15 C l2 NO 5 ): C (57.16, 57.22), H (3.60, 3.61), Cl (16.87, 16.88), N (3.33, 3.33), O (19.04, 19.09).
7. Crystallographic data for small molecules
If your manuscript is reporting new three-dimensional structures of small molecules from crystallographic analysis, you should include a .cif file and a structural figure with probability ellipsoids for publication as Supplementary Information. These must have been checked using the IUCR's CheckCIF routine, and you must include a PDF copy of the output with the submission, together with a justification for any alerts reported. You should submit crystallographic data for small molecules to the Cambridge Structural Database and the deposition number referenced appropriately in the manuscript. Full access must be provided on publication.
8. Macromolecular structural data
If your manuscript is reporting new structures, it should contain a table summarising structural and refinement statistics. Templates are available for such tables describing NMR and X-ray crystallography data. To facilitate assessment of the quality of the structural data, you should submit with the manuscript a stereo image of a portion of the electron density map (for crystallography papers) or of the superimposed lowest energy structures (≳10; for NMR papers). If the reported structure represents a novel overall fold, you should also provide a stereo image of the entire structure (as a backbone trace).
Registered Reports are original research articles which undergo peer-review prior to data collection and analyses. This format is designed to minimize publication bias and research bias in hypothesis-driven research, while also allowing the flexibility to conduct exploratory (unregistered) analyses and report serendipitous findings. If you intend to submit a Registered Report to Scientific Reports , please refer to detailed guidelines here .
- Explore articles by subject
- Guide to authors
- Editorial policies
Formatting Science Reports
This section describes an organizational structure commonly used to report experimental research in many scientific disciplines, the IMRAD format: I ntroduction, M ethods, R esults, And D iscussion.
When and when not to use the IMRAD format
Although most scientific reports use the IMRAD format, there are some exceptions.
This format is usually not used in reports describing other kinds of research, such as field or case studies, in which headings are more likely to differ according to discipline. Although the main headings are standard for many scientific fields, details may vary; check with your instructor, or, if submitting an article to a journal, refer to the instructions to authors.
Developing a Title
- Describe contents clearly and precisely, so that readers can decide whether to read the report
- Provide key words for indexing
Titles should NOT
- Include wasted words such as “studies on,” “an investigation of”
- Use abbreviations and jargon
- Use “cute” language
The Relationship of Luteinizing Hormone to Obesity in the Zucker Rat
An Investigation of Hormone Secretion and Weight in Rats Fat Rats: Are Their Hormones Different?
The guidelines below address issues to consider when writing an abstract.
What is the report about, in miniature and without specific details?
- State main objectives. (What did you investigate? Why?)
- Describe methods. (What did you do?)
- Summarize the most important results. (What did you find out?)
- State major conclusions and significance. (What do your results mean? So what?)
What to avoid:
- Do not include references to figures, tables, or sources.
- Do not include information not in report.
- Find out maximum length (may vary from 50 to 300+ words).
- Process: Extract key points from each section. Condense in successive revisions.
Guidelines for effective scientific report introductions.
What is the problem?
- Describe the problem investigated.
- Summarize relevant research to provide context, key terms, and concepts so your reader can understand the experiment.
Why is it important?
- Review relevant research to provide rationale. (What conflict or unanswered question, untested population, untried method in existing research does your experiment address? What findings of others are you challenging or extending?)
What solution (or step toward a solution) do you propose?
- Briefly describe your experiment: hypothesis(es), research question(s); general experimental design or method; justification of method if alternatives exist.
- Move from general to specific: problem in real world/research literature –> your experiment.
- Engage your reader: answer the questions, “What did you do?” “Why should I care?”
- Make clear the links between problem and solution, question asked and research design, prior research and your experiment.
- Be selective, not exhaustive, in choosing studies to cite and amount of detail to include. (In general, the more relevant an article is to your study, the more space it deserves and the later in the Introduction it appears.)
- Ask your instructor whether to summarize results and/or conclusions in the Introduction.
Below are some questions to consider for effective methods sections in scientific reports.
How did you study the problem?
- Briefly explain the general type of scientific procedure you used.
What did you use?
(May be subheaded as Materials)
- Describe what materials, subjects, and equipment (chemicals, experimental animals, apparatus, etc.) you used. (These may be subheaded Animals, Reagents, etc.)
How did you proceed?
(May be subheaded as Methods or Procedures)
- Explain the steps you took in your experiment. (These may be subheaded by experiment, types of assay, etc.)
- Provide enough detail for replication. For a journal article, include, for example, genus, species, strain of organisms; their source, living conditions, and care; and sources (manufacturer, location) of chemicals and apparatus.
- Order procedures chronologically or by type of procedure (subheaded) and chronologically within type.
- Use past tense to describe what you did.
- Quantify when possible: concentrations, measurements, amounts (all metric); times (24-hour clock); temperatures (centigrade)
- Don’t include details of common statistical procedures.
- Don’t mix results with procedures.
The section below offers some questions asked for effective results sections in scientific reports.
What did you observe?
For each experiment or procedure:
- Briefly describe experiment without detail of Methods section (a sentence or two).
- Representative: most common
- Best Case: best example of ideal or exception
- from most to least important
- from simple to complex
- organ by organ; chemical class by chemical class
- Use past tense to describe what happened.
- Don’t simply repeat table data; select .
- Don’t interpret results.
- Avoid extra words: “It is shown in Table 1 that X induced Y” –> “X induced Y (Table 1).”
The table below offers some questions effective discussion sections in scientific reports address.
What do your observations mean?
- Summarize the most important findings at the beginning.
What conclusions can you draw?
For each major result:
- Describe the patterns, principles, relationships your results show.
- Explain how your results relate to expectations and to literature cited in your Introduction. Do they agree, contradict, or are they exceptions to the rule?
- Explain plausibly any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions.
- Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions.
How do your results fit into a broader context?
- Suggest the theoretical implications of your results.
- Suggest practical applications of your results?
- Extend your findings to other situations or other species.
- Give the big picture: do your findings help us understand a broader topic?
- Move from specific to general: your finding(s) –> literature, theory, practice.
- Don’t ignore or bury the major issue. Did the study achieve the goal (resolve the problem, answer the question, support the hypothesis) presented in the Introduction?
- Give evidence for each conclusion.
- Discuss possible reasons for expected and unexpected findings.
- Don’t overgeneralize.
- Don’t ignore deviations in your data.
- Avoid speculation that cannot be tested in the foreseeable future.
Academic and Professional Writing
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What this handout is about.
This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you’ve performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we’ll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you’ll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation. Readers of this handout may also find our handout on writing in the sciences useful.
Background and pre-writing
Why do we write research reports.
You did an experiment or study for your science class, and now you have to write it up for your teacher to review. You feel that you understood the background sufficiently, designed and completed the study effectively, obtained useful data, and can use those data to draw conclusions about a scientific process or principle. But how exactly do you write all that? What is your teacher expecting to see?
To take some of the guesswork out of answering these questions, try to think beyond the classroom setting. In fact, you and your teacher are both part of a scientific community, and the people who participate in this community tend to share the same values. As long as you understand and respect these values, your writing will likely meet the expectations of your audience—including your teacher.
So why are you writing this research report? The practical answer is “Because the teacher assigned it,” but that’s classroom thinking. Generally speaking, people investigating some scientific hypothesis have a responsibility to the rest of the scientific world to report their findings, particularly if these findings add to or contradict previous ideas. The people reading such reports have two primary goals:
- They want to gather the information presented.
- They want to know that the findings are legitimate.
Your job as a writer, then, is to fulfill these two goals.
How do I do that?
Good question. Here is the basic format scientists have designed for research reports:
Methods and Materials
This format, sometimes called “IMRAD,” may take slightly different shapes depending on the discipline or audience; some ask you to include an abstract or separate section for the hypothesis, or call the Discussion section “Conclusions,” or change the order of the sections (some professional and academic journals require the Methods section to appear last). Overall, however, the IMRAD format was devised to represent a textual version of the scientific method.
The scientific method, you’ll probably recall, involves developing a hypothesis, testing it, and deciding whether your findings support the hypothesis. In essence, the format for a research report in the sciences mirrors the scientific method but fleshes out the process a little. Below, you’ll find a table that shows how each written section fits into the scientific method and what additional information it offers the reader.
Thinking of your research report as based on the scientific method, but elaborated in the ways described above, may help you to meet your audience’s expectations successfully. We’re going to proceed by explicitly connecting each section of the lab report to the scientific method, then explaining why and how you need to elaborate that section.
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 experiment or study as a whole. You might consider using each assignment to practice different approaches to drafting the report, to find the order that works 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 everything you need to about the experiment. Obviously, if you don’t quite know what went on during the lab, you’re going to find it difficult to explain the lab satisfactorily to someone else. To make sure you know enough to write the report, complete the following steps:
- What are we going to do in this lab? (That is, what’s the procedure?)
- Why are we going to do it that way?
- What are we hoping to learn from this experiment?
- Why would we benefit from this knowledge?
- Consult your lab supervisor as you perform the lab. If you don’t know how to answer one of the questions above, for example, your lab supervisor will probably be able to explain it to you (or, at least, help you figure it out).
- Plan the steps of the experiment carefully with your lab partners. The less you rush, the more likely it is that you’ll perform the experiment correctly and record your findings accurately. Also, take some time to 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. You won’t be able to trust your conclusions if you have the wrong data, and your readers will know you messed up if the other three people in your group have “97 degrees” and you have “87.”
- Consult with your lab partners about everything you do. Lab groups often make one of two mistakes: two people do all the work while two have a nice chat, or everybody works together until the group finishes gathering the raw data, then scrams outta there. Collaborate with your partners, even when the experiment is “over.” What trends did you observe? 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 work together to answer these questions.
- Consider your audience. You may believe that audience is a non-issue: it’s your lab TA, right? Well, yes—but again, think beyond the classroom. If you write with only your lab instructor in mind, you may omit material that is crucial to a complete understanding of your experiment, because you assume the instructor knows all that stuff already. As a result, you may receive a lower grade, since your TA won’t be sure that you understand all the principles at work. Try to write towards a student in the same course but a different lab section. That student will have a fair degree of scientific expertise but won’t know much about your experiment particularly. Alternatively, you could envision yourself five years from now, after the reading and lectures for this course have faded a bit. What would you remember, and what would you need explained more clearly (as a refresher)?
Once you’ve completed these steps as you perform the experiment, you’ll be in a good position to draft an effective lab report.
How do i write a strong introduction.
For the purposes of this handout, we’ll consider the Introduction to contain four basic elements: the purpose, the scientific literature relevant to the subject, the hypothesis, and the reasons you believed your hypothesis viable. Let’s start by going through each element of the Introduction to clarify what it covers and why it’s important. Then we can formulate a logical organizational strategy for the section.
The inclusion of the purpose (sometimes called the objective) of the experiment often confuses writers. The biggest misconception is that the purpose is the same as the hypothesis. Not quite. We’ll get to hypotheses in a minute, but basically they provide some indication of what you expect the experiment to show. The purpose is broader, and deals more with what you expect to gain through the experiment. In a professional setting, the hypothesis might 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. Undergraduate reports don’t often have this wide-ranging a goal, but you should still try to maintain the distinction between your hypothesis and your purpose. In a 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.
For starters, most people say that you should write out your working hypothesis before you perform the experiment or study. Many beginning science students neglect to do so and find themselves struggling to remember precisely which variables were involved in the process or in what way the researchers felt that they were related. Write your hypothesis down as you develop it—you’ll be glad you did.
As for the form a hypothesis should take, it’s best not to be too fancy or complicated; an inventive style isn’t nearly so important as clarity here. There’s nothing wrong with beginning your hypothesis with the phrase, “It was hypothesized that . . .” Be as specific as you can about the relationship between the different objects of your study. In other words, explain that when term A changes, term B changes in this particular way. Readers of scientific writing are rarely content with the idea that a relationship between two terms exists—they want to know what that relationship entails.
Not a hypothesis:
“It was hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between the temperature of a solvent and the rate at which a solute dissolves.”
“It was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases.”
Put more technically, most hypotheses contain both an independent and a dependent variable. The independent variable is what you manipulate to test the reaction; the dependent variable is what changes as a result of your manipulation. In the example 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 to do more than tell your readers what your hypothesis is; you also need to assure them that this hypothesis was reasonable, given the circumstances. In other words, use the Introduction to explain that you didn’t just pluck your hypothesis out of thin air. (If you did pluck it out of thin air, your problems with your report will probably extend beyond using the appropriate format.) If you posit that a particular relationship exists between the independent and the dependent variable, what led you to believe your “guess” might be supported by evidence?
Scientists often refer to this type of justification as “motivating” the hypothesis, in the sense that something propelled them to make that prediction. Often, motivation includes what we already know—or rather, what scientists generally accept as true (see “Background/previous research” below). But you can also motivate your hypothesis by relying on logic or on your own observations. If you’re trying to decide which solutes will dissolve more rapidly in a solvent at increased temperatures, you might remember that some solids are meant to dissolve in hot water (e.g., bouillon cubes) and some are used for a function precisely because they withstand higher temperatures (they make saucepans out of something). Or you can think about whether you’ve noticed sugar dissolving more rapidly in your glass of iced tea or in your cup of coffee. Even such basic, outside-the-lab observations can help you justify your hypothesis as reasonable.
This part of the Introduction demonstrates to the reader your awareness of how you’re building on other scientists’ work. If you think of the scientific community as engaging in a series of conversations about various topics, then you’ll recognize that the relevant background material will alert the reader to which conversation you want to enter.
Generally speaking, authors writing journal articles use the background for slightly different purposes than do students completing assignments. Because readers of academic journals tend to be professionals in the field, authors explain the background in order to permit readers to evaluate the study’s pertinence for their own work. You, on the other hand, write toward a much narrower audience—your peers in the course or your lab instructor—and so you must demonstrate that you understand the context for the (presumably assigned) experiment or study you’ve completed. For example, if your professor has been talking about polarity during lectures, and you’re doing a solubility experiment, you might try to connect the polarity of a solid to its relative solubility in certain solvents. In any event, both professional researchers and undergraduates need to connect the background material overtly to their own work.
Organization of this section
Most of the time, writers begin by stating the purpose or objectives of their own work, which establishes for the reader’s benefit the “nature and scope of the problem investigated” (Day 1994). Once you have 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:
“The purpose of the experiment was to test conventional ideas about solubility in the laboratory [purpose] . . . According to Whitecoat and Labrat (1999), at higher temperatures the molecules of solvents move more quickly . . . We know from the class lecture that molecules moving at higher rates of speed collide with one another more often and thus break down more easily [background material/motivation] . . . Thus, it was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases [hypothesis].”
Again—these are guidelines, not commandments. Some writers and readers prefer different structures for the Introduction. The one above merely illustrates a common approach to organizing material.
How do I write a strong Materials and Methods section?
As with any piece of writing, your Methods section will succeed only if it fulfills its readers’ expectations, so you need to be clear in your own mind about the purpose of this section. Let’s review the purpose as we described it above: in this section, you want to describe in detail how you tested the hypothesis you developed and also to clarify the rationale for your procedure. In science, it’s not sufficient merely to design and carry out an experiment. Ultimately, 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.
Here’s a real-world example of the importance of reproducibility. In 1989, physicists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman announced that they had discovered “cold fusion,” a way of producing excess heat and power without the nuclear radiation that accompanies “hot fusion.” Such a discovery could have great ramifications for the industrial production of energy, so these findings created a great deal of interest. When other scientists tried to duplicate the experiment, however, they didn’t achieve the same results, and as a result many wrote off the conclusions as unjustified (or worse, a hoax). To this day, the viability of cold fusion 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.
With these goals in mind, let’s consider how to write an effective Methods section in terms of content, structure, and style.
Sometimes the hardest thing about writing this section isn’t what you should talk about, but what you shouldn’t talk about. Writers often want to include the results of their experiment, because they measured and recorded the results during the course of the experiment. But such data should be reserved for the Results section. In the Methods section, you can write that you recorded the results, or how you recorded the results (e.g., in a table), but you shouldn’t write what the results were—not yet. Here, you’re merely stating exactly how you went about testing your hypothesis. As you draft your Methods section, ask yourself the following questions:
- How much detail? Be precise in providing details, but stay relevant. Ask yourself, “Would it make any difference if this piece were a different size or made from a different material?” If not, you probably don’t need to get too specific. If so, you should give as 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.
- Rationale: Be sure that as you’re relating your actions during the experiment, you explain your rationale for the protocol you developed. If you capped a test tube immediately after adding a solute to a solvent, why did you do that? (That’s really two questions: why did you cap it, and why did you cap it immediately?) In a professional setting, writers provide their rationale as a way to explain their thinking to potential critics. On one hand, of course, that’s your motivation for talking about protocol, too. On the other hand, since in practical terms you’re also writing to your teacher (who’s seeking to evaluate how well you comprehend the principles of the experiment), explaining the rationale indicates that you understand the reasons for conducting the experiment in that way, and that you’re not just following orders. Critical thinking is crucial—robots don’t make good scientists.
- Control: Most experiments will include a control, which is a means of comparing experimental results. (Sometimes you’ll need to have more than one control, depending on the number of hypotheses you want to test.) The control is exactly the same as the other items you’re testing, except that you don’t manipulate the independent variable-the condition you’re altering to check the effect on the dependent variable. For example, if you’re testing solubility rates at increased temperatures, your control would be a solution that you didn’t heat at all; that way, you’ll see how quickly the solute dissolves “naturally” (i.e., without manipulation), and you’ll have a point of reference against which to compare the solutions you did heat.
Describe the control in the Methods section. Two things are especially important in writing about the control: identify the control as a control, and explain what you’re controlling for. Here is an example:
“As a control for the temperature change, we placed the same amount of solute in the same amount of solvent, and let the solution stand for five minutes without heating it.”
Structure and style
Organization is especially important in the Methods section of a lab report because readers must understand your experimental procedure completely. Many writers are surprised by the difficulty of conveying what they did during the experiment, since after all they’re only reporting an event, but it’s often tricky to present this information in a coherent way. There’s a fairly standard structure you can use to guide you, and following the conventions for style can help clarify your points.
- Subsections: Occasionally, researchers use subsections to report their procedure when the following circumstances apply: 1) if they’ve used a great many materials; 2) if the procedure is unusually complicated; 3) if they’ve developed a procedure that won’t be familiar to many of their readers. Because these conditions rarely apply to the experiments you’ll perform in class, most undergraduate lab reports won’t require you to use subsections. In fact, many guides to writing lab reports suggest that you try to limit your Methods section to a single paragraph.
- Narrative structure: 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. You may have heard the old joke centered on the line, “Disconnect the red wire, but only after disconnecting the green wire,” where the person reading the directions blows everything to kingdom come because the directions weren’t in order. We’re used to reading about events chronologically, and so your readers will generally understand what you did if you present that information in the same way. Also, since the Methods section does generally appear as a narrative (story), you want to avoid the “recipe” approach: “First, take a clean, dry 100 ml test tube from the rack. Next, add 50 ml of distilled water.” You should be reporting what did happen, not telling the reader how to perform the experiment: “50 ml of distilled water was poured into a clean, dry 100 ml test tube.” Hint: most of the time, the recipe approach comes from copying down the steps of the procedure from your lab manual, so you may want to draft the Methods section initially without consulting your manual. Later, of course, you can go back and fill in any part of the procedure you inadvertently overlooked.
- Past tense: Remember that you’re describing what happened, so you should use past tense to refer to everything you did during the experiment. Writers are often tempted to use the imperative (“Add 5 g of the solid to the solution”) because that’s how their lab manuals are worded; less frequently, they use present tense (“5 g of the solid are added to the solution”). Instead, remember that you’re talking about an event which happened at a particular time in the past, and which has already ended by the time you start writing, so simple past tense will be appropriate in this section (“5 g of the solid were added to the solution” or “We added 5 g of the solid to the solution”).
- Active: We heated the solution to 80°C. (The subject, “we,” performs the action, heating.)
- Passive: The solution was heated to 80°C. (The subject, “solution,” doesn’t do the heating–it is acted upon, not acting.)
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: objectivity versus clarity. Since the scientific community hasn’t reached a consensus about which style it prefers, you may want to ask your lab instructor.
How do I write a strong Results section?
Here’s a paradox for you. The Results section is often both the shortest (yay!) and most important (uh-oh!) part of your report. 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: the data that allow you to discuss how your hypothesis was or wasn’t supported. But it doesn’t provide anything else, which explains why this section is generally shorter than the others.
Before you write this section, look at all the data you collected to figure out what relates significantly to your hypothesis. You’ll want to highlight this material in your Results section. Resist the urge to include every bit of data you collected, since perhaps not all are relevant. Also, don’t try to draw conclusions about the results—save them for the Discussion section. In this section, you’re reporting facts. Nothing your readers can dispute should appear in the Results section.
Most Results sections feature three distinct parts: text, tables, and figures. Let’s consider each part one at a time.
This should be a short paragraph, generally just a few lines, that describes the results you obtained from your experiment. In a relatively simple experiment, one that doesn’t produce a lot of data for you to repeat, the text can represent the entire Results section. Don’t feel that you need to include lots of extraneous detail to compensate for a short (but effective) text; your readers appreciate discrimination more than your ability to recite facts. In a more complex experiment, you may want to use tables and/or figures to help guide your readers toward the most important information you gathered. In that event, you’ll need to refer to each table or figure directly, where appropriate:
“Table 1 lists the rates of solubility for each substance”
“Solubility increased as the temperature of the solution increased (see Figure 1).”
If you do use tables or figures, make sure that you don’t present the same material in both the text and the tables/figures, since in essence you’ll just repeat yourself, probably annoying your readers with the redundancy of your statements.
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. Example:
“Heating the solution increased the rate of solubility of polar solids by 45% but had no effect on the rate of solubility in solutions containing non-polar solids.”
This point isn’t debatable—you’re just pointing out what the data show.
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. In the example above, note the use of “increased” and “had,” rather than “increases” and “has.” (You don’t know from your experiment that heating always increases the solubility of polar solids, but it did that time.)
You shouldn’t put information in the table that also appears in the text. You also shouldn’t use a table to present irrelevant data, just to show you did collect these data during the experiment. Tables are good for some purposes and situations, but not others, so whether and how you’ll use tables depends upon what you need them to accomplish.
Tables are useful ways to show variation in data, but not to present a great deal of unchanging measurements. If you’re dealing with a scientific phenomenon that occurs only within a certain range of temperatures, for example, you don’t need to use a table to show that the phenomenon didn’t occur at any of the other temperatures. How useful is this table?
As you can probably see, no solubility was observed until the trial temperature reached 50°C, a fact that the text part of the Results section could easily convey. The table could then be limited to what happened at 50°C and higher, thus better illustrating the differences in solubility rates when solubility did occur.
As a rule, try not to use a table to describe any experimental event you can cover in one sentence of text. Here’s an example of an unnecessary table from How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , by Robert A. Day:
As Day notes, all the information in this table can be summarized in one sentence: “S. griseus, S. coelicolor, S. everycolor, and S. rainbowenski grew under aerobic conditions, whereas S. nocolor and S. greenicus required anaerobic conditions.” Most readers won’t find the table clearer than that 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:
- Number your table. 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.Here’s an example of how drastically this decision affects the readability of your table (from A Short Guide to Writing about Chemistry , by Herbert Beall and John Trimbur). Look at this table, which presents the relevant data in horizontal rows:
It’s a little tough to see the trends that the author presumably wants to present in this table. 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 for each trial.
- Make sure to include units of measurement in the tables. Readers might be able to guess that you measured something in millimeters, but don’t make them try.
- Don’t use vertical lines as part of the format for your table. This convention exists because journals prefer not to have to reproduce these lines because the tables then become more expensive to print. Even though it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be sending your Biology 11 lab report to Science for publication, your readers still have this expectation. Consequently, if you use the table-drawing option in your word-processing software, choose the option that doesn’t rely on a “grid” format (which includes vertical lines).
How do I include figures in my report?
Although tables can be useful ways of showing trends in the results you obtained, figures (i.e., illustrations) can do an even better job of emphasizing such trends. 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?
Remember the circumstances under which you don’t need a table: when you don’t have a great deal of data or when the data you have don’t vary a lot. 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. Scientists really don’t like their time wasted, so they tend not to respond favorably to redundancy.
If you’re trying to decide between using a table and creating a figure to present your material, consider the following a rule of thumb. 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. If you feel that your readers won’t get the full impact of the results you obtained just by looking at the numbers, then a figure might be appropriate.
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. If this is the case, then don’t worry about whether to use figures or not—concentrate instead on how best to accomplish your task.
Figures can include maps, photographs, pen-and-ink drawings, flow charts, bar graphs, and section graphs (“pie charts”). But the most common figure by far, especially for undergraduates, is the line graph, so we’ll focus on that type in this handout.
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.
Computers can’t, however, decide for you how your graph really works; you have to know how to design your graph to meet your readers’ expectations. 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: to dramatize your results in a manner that’s easy to see and grasp. 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. Placing the variables along their respective axes is mostly just a convention, but since your readers are accustomed to viewing graphs in this way, you’re better off not challenging the convention in your report.
- 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.g., “Figure 1 shows the increase in the solubility rate as a function of temperature”).
- 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.), and using that symbol throughout the curve of the line. 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. Editors don’t usually like different-colored lines within a graph because colors are difficult and expensive to reproduce; colors may, however, be great for your purposes, as long as you’re not planning to submit your paper to Nature. Use your discretion—try to employ whichever technique dramatizes the results most effectively.
- Try to gather data at regular intervals, so the plot points on your graph aren’t too far apart. You can’t be sure of the arc you should draw between the plot points if the points are located at the far corners of the graph; over a fifteen-minute interval, perhaps the change occurred in the first or last thirty seconds of that period (in which case your straight-line connection between the points is misleading).
- If you’re worried that you didn’t collect data at sufficiently regular intervals during your experiment, go ahead and connect the points with a straight line, but you may want to examine this problem as part of your Discussion section.
- 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. If, for example, the seedlings of your plant grew only 15 mm during the trial, you don’t need to construct a graph that accounts for 100 mm of growth. 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.). You want to be as consistent as possible in your illustrations, so that your readers can easily make the comparisons you’re trying to get them to see.
How do I write a strong Discussion section?
The discussion section is probably the least formalized part of the report, in that you can’t really apply the same structure to every type of experiment. 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.e., related to your experiment only) to general (how your findings fit in the larger scientific community). In this section, you will, as a rule, need to:
Explain whether the data support your hypothesis
- Acknowledge any anomalous data or deviations from what you expected
Derive conclusions, based on your findings, about the process you’re studying
- Relate your findings to earlier work in the same area (if you can)
Explore the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings
Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for each of these objectives.
This statement is usually a good way to begin the Discussion, since you can’t effectively speak about the larger scientific value of your study until you’ve figured out the particulars of this experiment. 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. If your initial hypothesis surmised that temperature change would not affect solubility, you would then say something like,
“The hypothesis that temperature change would not affect solubility was not supported by the data.”
Note: Students tend to view labs as practical tests of undeniable scientific truths. As a result, you may want to say that the hypothesis was “proved” or “disproved” or that it was “correct” or “incorrect.” These terms, however, reflect a degree of certainty that you as a scientist aren’t supposed to have. Remember, you’re testing a theory with a procedure that lasts only a few hours and relies on only a few trials, which severely compromises your ability to be sure about the “truth” you see. Words like “supported,” “indicated,” and “suggested” are more acceptable ways to evaluate your hypothesis.
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. Make sure that you’re very explicit about the relationship between the evidence and the conclusions you draw from it. This process is difficult for many writers because we don’t often justify conclusions in our regular lives. For example, you might nudge your friend at a party and whisper, “That guy’s drunk,” and once your friend lays eyes on the person in question, she might readily agree. 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?) to point B (yes/no).
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. For obvious reasons, your readers will doubt your authority if you (deliberately or inadvertently) overlook a key piece of data that doesn’t square with your perspective on what occurred. In a more philosophical sense, once you’ve ignored evidence that contradicts your claims, you’ve departed from the scientific method. The urge to “tidy up” the experiment is often strong, but if you give in to it you’re no longer performing good science.
Sometimes after you’ve performed a study or experiment, you realize that some part of the methods you used to test your hypothesis was flawed. In that case, it’s OK to suggest that if you had the chance to conduct your test again, you might change the design in this or that specific way in order to avoid such and such a problem. 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. Often, inexperienced researchers and writers feel the need to account for “wrong” data (remember, there’s no such animal), and so they speculate wildly about what might have screwed things up. 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. These explanations are what scientists call “cop-outs,” or “lame”; don’t indicate that the experiment had a weakness unless you’re fairly certain that a) it really occurred and b) you can explain reasonably well how that weakness affected your results.
If, for example, your hypothesis dealt with the changes in solubility at different temperatures, then try to figure out what you can rationally say about the process of solubility more generally. If you’re doing an undergraduate lab, chances are that the lab will connect in some way to the material you’ve been covering either in lecture or in your reading, so you might choose to return to these resources as a way to help you think clearly about the process as a whole.
This part of the Discussion section is another place where you need to make sure that you’re not overreaching. Again, nothing you’ve found in one study would remotely allow you to claim that you now “know” something, or that something isn’t “true,” or that your experiment “confirmed” some principle or other. Hesitate before you go out on a limb—it’s dangerous! Use less absolutely conclusive language, including such words as “suggest,” “indicate,” “correspond,” “possibly,” “challenge,” etc.
Relate your findings to previous work in the field (if possible)
We’ve been talking about how to show that you belong in a particular community (such as biologists or anthropologists) by writing within conventions that they recognize and accept. Another is to try to identify a conversation going on among members of that community, and use your work to contribute to that conversation. In a larger philosophical sense, scientists can’t fully understand the value of their research unless they have some sense of the context that provoked and nourished it. That is, you have to recognize what’s new about your project (potentially, anyway) and how it benefits the wider body of scientific knowledge. 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. You have an opportunity, in the Discussion section, to distinguish yourself from the students in your class who aren’t thinking beyond the barest facts of the study. Capitalize on this opportunity by putting your own work in context.
If you’re just beginning to work in the natural sciences (as a first-year biology or chemistry student, say), most likely the work you’ll be doing has already been performed and re-performed to a satisfactory degree. Hence, you could probably point to a similar experiment or study and compare/contrast your results and conclusions. More advanced work may deal with an issue that is somewhat less “resolved,” and so previous research may take the form of an ongoing debate, and you can use your own work to weigh in on that debate. 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.)
This information is often the best way to end your Discussion (and, for all intents and purposes, the report). In argumentative writing generally, you want to use your closing words to convey the main point of your writing. This main point can be primarily theoretical (“Now that you understand this information, you’re in a better position to understand this larger issue”) or primarily practical (“You can use this information to take such and such an action”). In either case, the concluding statements help the reader to comprehend the significance of your project and your decision to write about it.
Since a lab report is argumentative—after all, you’re investigating a claim, and judging the legitimacy of that claim by generating and collecting evidence—it’s often a good idea to end your report with the same technique for establishing your main point. If you want to go the theoretical route, you might talk about the consequences your study has for the field or phenomenon you’re investigating. 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. (Some folks consider this type of exploration “pure” as opposed to “applied” science, although these labels can be problematic.) If you want to go the practical route, you could end by speculating about the medical, institutional, or commercial implications of your findings—in other words, answer the question, “What can this study help people to do?” In either case, you’re going to make your readers’ experience more satisfying, by helping them see why they spent their time learning what you had to teach them.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Beall, Herbert, and John Trimbur. 2001. A Short Guide to Writing About Chemistry , 2nd ed. New York: Longman.
Blum, Deborah, and Mary Knudson. 1997. A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers . New York: Oxford University Press.
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Briscoe, Mary Helen. 1996. Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications , 2nd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Council of Science Editors. 2014. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers , 8th ed. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.
Davis, Martha. 2012. Scientific Papers and Presentations , 3rd ed. London: Academic Press.
Day, Robert A. 1994. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , 4th ed. Phoenix: Oryx Press.
Porush, David. 1995. A Short Guide to Writing About Science . New York: Longman.
Williams, Joseph, and Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace , 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.
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How to Write a Scientific Report | Step-by-Step Guide
Got to document an experiment but don't know how? In this post, we'll guide you step-by-step through how to write a scientific report and provide you with an example.
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Year 9 science, year 10 science.
Is your teacher expecting you to write an experimental report for every class experiment? Are you still unsure about how to write a scientific report properly? Don’t fear! We will guide you through all the parts of a scientific report, step-by-step.
How to write a scientific report:
- What is a scientific report
- General rules to write Scientific reports
- Syllabus dot point
- Introduction/Background information
- Risk assessment
What is a scientific report?
A scientific report documents all aspects of an experimental investigation. This includes:
- The aim of the experiment
- The hypothesis
- An introduction to the relevant background theory
- The methods used
- The results
- A discussion of the results
- The conclusion
Scientific reports allow their readers to understand the experiment without doing it themselves. In addition, scientific reports give others the opportunity to check the methodology of the experiment to ensure the validity of the results.
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A scientific report is written in several stages. We write the introduction, aim, and hypothesis before performing the experiment, record the results during the experiment, and complete the discussion and conclusions after the experiment.
But, before we delve deeper into how to write a scientific report, we need to have a science experiment to write about! Read our 7 Simple Experiments You Can Do At Home article and see which one you want to do.
General rules about writing scientific reports
Learning how to write a scientific report is different from writing English essays or speeches!
You have to use:
- Passive voice (which you should avoid when writing for other subjects like English!)
- Past-tense language
- Headings and subheadings
- A pencil to draw scientific diagrams and graphs
- Simple and clear lines for scientific diagrams
- Tables and graphs where necessary
Structure of scientific reports:
Now that you know the general rules on how to write scientific reports, let’s look at the conventions for their structure!
The title should simply introduce what your experiment is about.
The Role of Light in Photosynthesis
2. Introduction/Background information
Write a paragraph that gives your readers background information to understand your experiment.
This includes explaining scientific theories, processes and other related knowledge.
Photosynthesis is a vital process for life. It occurs when plants intake carbon dioxide, water, and light, and results in the production of glucose and water. The light required for photosynthesis is absorbed by chlorophyll, the green pigment of plants, which is contained in the chloroplasts.
The glucose produced through photosynthesis is stored as starch, which is used as an energy source for the plant and its consumers.
The presence of starch in the leaves of a plant indicates that photosynthesis has occurred.
The aim identifies what is going to be tested in the experiment. This should be short, concise and clear.
The aim of the experiment is to test whether light is required for photosynthesis to occur.
The hypothesis is a prediction of the outcome of the experiment. You have to use background information to make an educated prediction.
It is predicted that photosynthesis will occur only in leaves that are exposed to light and not in leaves that are not exposed to light. This will be indicated by the presence or absence of starch in the leaves.
5. Risk assessment
Identify the hazards associated with the experiment and provide a method to prevent or minimise the risks. A hazard is something that can cause harm, and the risk is the likelihood that harm will occur from the hazard.
A table is an excellent way to present your risk assessment.
Remember, you have to specify the type of harm that can occur because of the hazard. It is not enough to simply identify the hazard.
- Do not write: “Scissors are sharp”
- Instead, you have to write: “Scissors are sharp and can cause injury”
The method has 3 parts:
- A list of every material used
- Steps of what you did in the experiment
- A scientific diagram of the experimental apparatus
Let’s break down what you need to do for each section.
This must list every piece of equipment and material you used in the experiment.
Remember, you need to also specify the amount of each material you used.
- 1 geranium plant
- Aluminium foil
- 2 test tubes
- 1 test tube rack
- 1 pair of scissors
- 1 250 mL beaker
- 1 pair of forceps
- 1 10 mL measuring cylinder
- Iodine solution (5 mL)
- Methylated spirit (50ml)
- Boiling water
- 2 Petri dishes
The rule of thumb is that you should write the method in a clear way so that readers are able to repeat the experiment and get similar results.
Using a numbered list for the steps of your experimental procedure is much clearer than writing a whole paragraph of text. The steps should:
- Be written in a sequential order, based on when they were performed.
- Specify any equipment that was used.
- Specify the quantity of any materials that were used.
You also need to use past tense and passive voice when you are writing your method. Scientific reports are supposed to show the readers what you did in the experiment, not what you will do.
- Aluminium foil was used to fully cover a leaf of the geranium plant. The plant was left in the sun for three days.
- On the third day, the covered leaf and 1 non-covered leaf were collected from the plant. The foil was removed from the covered leaf, and a 1 cm square was cut from each leaf using a pair of scissors.
- 150 mL of water was boiled in a kettle and poured into a 250 mL beaker.
- Using forceps, the 1 cm square of covered leaf was placed into the beaker of boiling water for 2 minutes. It was then placed in a test tube labelled “dark”.
- The water in the beaker was discarded and replaced with 150 mL of freshly boiled water.
- Using forceps, the 1 cm square non-covered leaf was placed into the beaker of boiling water for 2 minutes. It was then placed in a test tube labelled “light”
- 5 mL of methylated spirit was measured with a measuring cylinder and poured into each test tube so that the leaves were fully covered.
- The water in the beaker was replaced with 150 mL of freshly boiled water and both the “light” and “dark” test tubes were immersed in the beaker of boiling water for 5 minutes.
- The leaves were collected from each test tube with forceps, rinsed under cold running water, and placed onto separate labelled Petri dishes.
- 3 drops of iodine solution were added to each leaf.
- Both Petri dishes were placed side by side and observations were recorded.
- The experiment was repeated 5 times, and results were compared between different groups.
After you finish your steps, it is time to draw your scientific diagrams! Here are some rules for drawing scientific diagrams:
- Always use a pencil to draw your scientific diagrams.
- Use simple, sharp, 2D lines and shapes to draw your diagram. Don’t draw 3D shapes or use shading.
- Label everything in your diagram.
- Use thin, straight lines to label your diagram. Do not use arrows.
- Ensure that the label lines touch the outline of the equipment you are labelling and not cross over it or stop short of it
- The label lines should never cross over each other.
- Use a ruler for any straight lines in your diagram.
- Draw a sufficiently large diagram so all components can be seen clearly.
This is where you document the results of your experiment. The data that you record for your experiment will generally be qualitative and/or quantitative.
Qualitative data is data that relates to qualities and is based on observations (qualitative – quality). This type of data is descriptive and is recorded in words. For example, the colour changed from green to orange, or the liquid became hot.
Quantitative data refers to numerical data (quantitative – quantity). This type of data is recorded using numbers and is either measured or counted. For example, the plant grew 5.2 cm, or there were 5 frogs.
You also need to record your results in an appropriate way. Most of the time, a table is the best way to do this.
Here are some rules to using tables
- Use a pencil and a ruler to draw your table
- Draw neat and straight lines
- Ensure that the table is closed (connect all your lines)
- Don’t cross your lines (erase any lines that stick out of the table)
- Use appropriate columns and rows
- Properly name each column and row (including the units of measurement in brackets)
- Do not write your units in the body of your table (units belong in the header)
- Always include a title
Note : If your results require calculations, clearly write each step.
Observations of the effects of light on the amount of starch in plant leaves.
If quantitative data was recorded, the data is often also plotted on a graph.
The discussion is where you analyse and interpret your results, and identify any experimental errors or possible areas of improvements.
You should divide your discussion as follows.
1. Trend in the results
Describe the ‘trend’ in your results. That is, the relationship you observed between your independent and dependent variables.
The independent variable is the variable that you are changing in the experiment. In this experiment, it is the amount of light that the leaves are exposed to.
The dependent variable is the variable that you are measuring in the experiment, In this experiment, it is the presence of starch in the leaves.
Explain how a particular result is achieved by referring to scientific knowledge, theories and any other scientific resources you find. 2. Scientific explanation:
The presence of starch is indicated when the addition of iodine causes the leaf to turn dark purple. The results show that starch was present in the leaves that were exposed to light, while the leaves that were not exposed to light did not contain starch.
2. Scientific explanation:
Provide an explanation of the results using scientific knowledge, theories and any other scientific resources you find.
As starch is produced during photosynthesis, these results show that light plays a key role in photosynthesis.
Validity refers to whether or not your results are valid. This can be done by examining your variables.
VA lidity = VA riables
Identify the independent, dependent, controlled variables and the control experiment (if you have one).
The controlled variables are the variables that you keep the same across all tests e.g. the size of the leaf sample.
The control experiment is where you don’t apply an independent variable. It is untouched for the whole experiment.
Ensure that you never change more than one variable at a time!
The independent variable of the experiment was amount of light that the leaves were exposed to (the covered and uncovered geranium leaf), while the dependent variable was the presence of starch. The controlled variables were the size of the leaf sample, the duration of the experiment, the amount of time the solutions were heated, and the amount of iodine solution used.
Identify how you ensured the reliability of the results.
RE liability = RE petition
Show that you repeated your experiments, cross-checked your results with other groups or collated your results with the class.
The reliability of the results was ensured by repeating the experiment 5 times and comparing results with other groups. Since other groups obtained comparable results, the results are reliable.
Accuracy should be discussed if your results are in the form of quantitative data, and there is an accepted value for the result.
Accuracy would not be discussed for our example photosynthesis experiment as qualitative data was collected, however it would if we were measuring gravity using a pendulum:
The measured value of gravity was 9.8 m/s 2 , which is in agreement with the accepted value of 9.8 m/s 2 .
6. Possible improvements
Identify any errors or risks found in the experiment and provide a method to improve it.
If there are none, then suggest new ways to improve the experimental design, and/or minimise error and risks.
Possible improvements could be made by including control experiments. For example, testing whether the iodine solution turns dark purple when added to water or methylated spirits. This would help to ensure that the purple colour observed in the experiments is due to the presence of starch in the leaves rather than impurities.
State whether the aim was achieved, and if your hypothesis was supported.
The aim of the investigation was achieved, and it was found that light is required for photosynthesis to occur. This was evidenced by the presence of starch in leaves that had been exposed to light, and the absence of starch in leaves that had been unexposed. These results support the proposed hypothesis.
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