Writing Lab Reports&Scientific Papers
Persuade others to accept or reject hypotheses by presenting data and interpretations
Detail data, procedures, and outcomes for future researchers
Become part of the accepted body of scientific knowledge when published unless later disproved
Provide an archival record for reference and document a current situation for future comparison
Reflect the factual content with less than ten words in a straightforward manner
Use keywords researchers and search engines on the Internet will recognize
Summarize in a concise paragraph the purpose of the report, data presented, and major conclusions in about 100 - 200 words.
Define the subject of the report: "Why was this study performed?"
Provide background information and relevant studies: "What knowledge already exists about this subject?"
Outline scientific purpose(s) and/or objective(s): "What are the specific hypotheses and the experimental design for investigation?"
Materials and methods:
List materials used, how were they used, and where and when was the work done (especially important in field studies)
Describe special pieces of equipment and the general theory of the analyses or assays used
Provide enough detail for the reader to understand the experiment without overwhelming him/her. When procedures from a lab book or another report are followed exactly, simply cite the work and note that details can be found there.
Concentrate on general trends and differences and not on trivial details.
Summarize the data from the experiments without discussing their implications
Organize data into tables, figures, graphs, photographs, etc. Data in a table should not be duplicated in a graph or figure
Title all figures and tables; include a legend explaining symbols, abbreviations, or special methods
Number figures and tables separately and refer to them in the text by their number, i.e.
Figure 1 shows that the activity....
The activity decreases after five minutes (fig. 1)
Interpret the data; do not restate the results
Relate results to existing theory and knowledge
Explain the logic that allows you to accept or reject your original hypotheses
Speculate as necessary but identify it as such
Include suggestions for improving your techniques or design, or clarify areas of doubt for further research
Cite only references in your paper and not a general bibliography on the topic
Alphabetize by last name of the author
Follow the recommended format for citations
Strive for logic and precision and avoid ambiguity, especially with pronouns and sequences
Keep your writing impersonal; avoid the use of the first person (i.e. I or we)
Use the past tense and be consistent within the report
note: "data" is plural and "datum" is singular; species is singular and plural
Italicize all scientific names (genus and species)
Use the metric system of measurement and abbreviate measurements without periods (i.e. cm kg) spell out all numbers beginning sentences or less than 10 (i.e. "two explanations of six factors").
Write numbers as numerals when greater than ten (i.e. 156) or associated with measurements (i.e. 6 mm or 2 g)
Have a neutral person review and critique your report before submission