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How to write your scientific report?

How to write your scientific report?

Writing a scientific report at first thought might seem laborious and even scary. However, it

is not if you actually get to know its importance, and follow general guidelines. This guideline is

designed for you as first year biology students and is not as extensive as those that are followed

when writing a thesis, journal article, or a book. It is designed so that all Biology 108 students

and markers have a standard format of writing and marking the reports. Read the following

guideline carefully, and try to understand it carefully before actually writing your reports. If you

have any clarifications or questions, you can always ask your tutors or course coordinator.

What is a scientific report?

A scientific report is a written explanation of a research work showing; the reason why it was

done, the basic information supporting the reasons, the way it was done, the outcome of the

research, and the implications and limitations of the findings. Thus a scientific report has the

following sections:

Title:

It is important that any person reading your report must be able to clearly assume what your

report would be generally about just by looking at the title. While it is important to include all

the key words in the title, it should be noted that a very lengthy title might not only be confusing,

but would more likely have grammar errors that you might not be aware of. Thus, it is advisable

to have the title of your report to around 15 words.

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Abstract:

The purpose of the abstract is to let the reader quickly know what your research is about and

what findings came out from it. In simple terms, the abstract can be seen as the summary of the

different sections of the report. For example, the first sentence can summarize the introduction,

followed by the summary of the aim in the second sentence. The next couple of sentences can

each summarize the methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion respectively. This should

end up to 6 sentences adding up to 50-100 words.

Introduction:

Introduction comes from the word introduce which means to familiarize someone to something

new. You must write your report with the assumption that the person reading (in this case the

person marking it) has no idea of the concepts of your research. What you must do here is to give

a general idea of what area of science your research fits in and then with each sentence, narrow it

down to why it was important for you to do your research. Once you are able to show this, you

must then show the specific aims of your research.

For example, you as a B I 108 student a r e studying animals which have a lot of habitats,

niche, and functions but this practical is focused only on the concept of osmoregulation. Also,

out of all the phylums that you have so far covered, this practical studies this concept in only

Phylum Annelida and Arthropoda. Within this, you should notice that there are two specific

species of organism to represent each phylum where one could be an osmoregulator while the

other an osmoconformer.
Imagine if you had to explain what you did to an average primary school kid and make him

understand it. The first thing you would have to do is explain the meaning of all these scientific

terms and for this you yourself must first find out what they mean. This is where you should start

referring to places from where you can get the answers (journals, thesis, books, reports, websites,

Wikipedia etc.) and then properly references the sources (see the reference section).

Thus, what you actually have to do is go from the broad topic (animal behavior) to less broad

(mechanism of osmoregulation and osmoconformation) to a narrow area (the two phylua) to

the main idea (the process in the exact species studied) with the specific aims as the last

point. In each step, be sure of what you are writing by consulting the reference materials as

above and then properly referencing them so that when the reader wants to read more on it, they

can easily and correctly find the information from where you exactly got it from and

expand their knowledge as they like.

Materials and Methods:

Now that you have explained why your research was done, it is important you also explain very

clearly how you actually did it. The very first thing you must realize is that the experiment has

already been done and you are just reporting it so it will be written in reported speech which

means using the past tense. For the purpose of this practical where you did not design the

experiment yourself but followed what was required of you in the lab handout, you can state

“Materials and Methods as per the BI108 lab-6 handout”.


Results:

Perhaps the most important and interesting part of your research is the results that you obtained

since this is what you aimed to show in your experiments. Thus, it is very important that you

present your results in a manner that is very clear for anyone to see and understand without

misinterpretation. The first thing that you have to decide is whether to use a table or a graph to

show your data. For the purpose of this practical, you are expected to draw graphs. In order for

your reader to get the right message clearly, you should have a caption for each graph simply

explaining in a sentence what it shows. Each graph should be numbered respectively e.g. Figure

1. Figure 2. etc. Secondly, while it is not compulsory to print your graphs in color, it is much

easier to understand patterns when different lines have different colors or in some cases patterns

like dotted, dashed, or whole lines. It is however compulsory that you refer to the figure

whenever trying to explain or relate a point to the graphs. For example, the results showed that

Species A is an osmoregulator (refer to Figure 1).

Discussion:

Most of the time, the discussion section is written very poorly because of the misconception that

it is very difficult, unclear, and requires a lot of work. Actually, I enjoy writing the discussion

section the most for my research because I personally believe it is not only the most interesting

and original, but the most important section as well. It will become much easier if you break

down your section into two main parts; (1) Interpretation and implication of results and (2)

Limitation of methodology.
You can interpret your results by simply stating the answer to your aims e.g. which species is

the osmoregulator and which species the osmoconformer. This then should be followed by your

reasons. For example, if you can refer back to the definitions that you used in the introduction

and then relate how the results of your experiment show the species abiding by it, you can say

why one species was the osmoregulator and the other one an osmoconformer. As before, please

do not forget to reference the places from where you got the definitions and/ or explanations.

Then, you could compare your results to at least a similar research done on the same concept on

different or the same species of organisms and relate the similarities and differences.

Following this, you should state what were some of the limitations or short comings or sources

of errors in the study that might have resulted in the current results which might be slightly or

completely different from what you expected. This might be due to, for example, errors in taking

readings, or the way in which you handled your organisms or similar things depending on what

your results look like.

Conclusion:

The conclusion is not as easy and insignificant as it seems. Though, it is very small, it is

extremely important. In your conclusion, you are reminding your reader why they read your

report for and what the main aspects that they must remember as takeaways are. For example,

you can remind the reader that you wanted them to know which species were the osmoregulator

and osmoconformer. You can now give the exact proper answer with a general reason. In

addition, you should also give suggestions for improving your research with reference to the

limitations that you pointed out in the discussion. You should state briefly how you or

anyone
else could improve the experiments to obtain better results. You can also give your opinion and

recommendations on what aspect of your research needs to be studied further.

References:

The reason why we have references, is to (as it is called), refer the reader to the source of

information used in your report. The reader must very easily be guided to the actual book,

journal or website that you have referred to, to support your idea. Thus, it becomes very

important to format your reference list carefully, correctly and consistently.

Before you actually start making the reference list, you should know the difference and the

purpose of the in-text citation and bibliography (reference list). The in-text citation is the “code”

to the actual source of information mentioned in the body of your report. For example, if you

referred to page 13 of an article written by Dr. C h r i s t i called “The osmoregulators

and osmoconformers” in the year 2014, published by the University of the South Pacific and

used it to get the idea ……, you write (Christi, 2014) beside the information to show that you

got this this idea from Dr. Ketan Christi. example, ‘Osmoregulators regulate the concentration of

soluble ions while osmoconformers conform to it (Christi, 2014).’ The (Christi, 2014) would give

you an indication that in the reference list at the back, you have to go to Christi to find the details

of where to get the articles. If this article is a book it would be written slightly different than

if it was a journal. The following section will provide you examples of how to write the

complete references for the different types of articles that you are to use.
Referencing Style:

Journal:
Surname, Initial of authors. (Year). Title of Journal, volume, page
number.
Example:
Abbott, W. S. and Prasad, R. R. (1925). A method for computing the effectiveness of an
insecticide. Journal of Economics Entomology, 18, 265-262.

Thesis:
Surname, Initial of author. (Year). Title. Degree, University, City,
Country.
Example:
Ahmed, M. (2000). The effects of boron-treated timbers against Coptotermes species in
Australia. PhD, University of Melbourne, Victoria,
Australia.

Book:
Surname, Initial of authors. (Year). Title of Chapter. Title of Book (editor), page
number. Publisher, Place of publication.
Example:
Bhatt, A. K. (2012). Effect of pesticides on non-target sites with reference to soil ecosystems. In
Integrated pest management: principles and practice (ed. by D. P. Abrol & U. Shankar), pp.
370-385. Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International, UK.

On-line Book:
Surname, Initial of authors. Title of Chapter. Title of Book (editor), page
number.url
Example:
Ahmed, S., Zafar, M. I., Hussain, A., Riaz, M. A. and Shahid, M. (2011). Evaluation of plant
extracts on mortality and tunneling activities of subterranean termites in Pakistan. In Pesticide in
the modern world - pests control and pesticides exposure and toxicity assesment (ed. by M.
Stoytecheva), pp. 39-54. (web link www.intechopen.com).
Report:
Surname, Initial of authors. (Year). Title. Publisher, Place published, page numbers.
Example:
Audsley, E., Stacey, K., Parsons, D. J. and Williams, A. G. (2009). Estimation of the greenhouse
gas emissions from agricultural pesticide manufacture and use. Cranfield University,
Peterborough, 20 pp.

Conference Proceeding:

Surname, Initial of authors. (Year). Title. Name of Conference. (editors), page


numbers, Publisher, place of publication.
Example:
Bradely, K. and Gann, G. D. (1999). The status of exotic plants in the preserves of southern

Florida. In Proceedings of the Proceedings of a Joint Conference of the Exotic Pest Plant

Council and the Florida Native Plant Society (ed. by D. T. Jones & B. W. Gamble), pp. 35-41.

South Florida’s Water Mangement District, Florida.


Final message:

Don’t get the misconception you would not be able to write your own report since it is very

difficult. This will only lead you to depend on your friends, with whom you might end up getting

a zero. Please do not plagiarize when you can give your own best shot. Plagiarism is strictly

against USP policies and if you are found doing it, you’d have to face the consequences. Writing

this report will require a lot of research and editing but it will also make you a better Biology

student. Remember the tree could have fallen on newton’s head instead of the apple!

All the best and happy mid-semester break J