Writing a Scientific Report
Abstract: A brief summary, 250 words or less written in passive voice, of the paper. i.e.: What is the main idea? What kind of experiment did you perform? What were the results?
Introduction: A quick review of the essential background information is necessary in order for an "outsider" reader to thoroughly understand the report. All unusual terms or abbreviations must be defined. Once completed, a clear and concise statement of the problem, its goals, and the general approach to solving the problem must be stated. State and explain your hypothesis to the laboratory problem. In general, you should include a reference for every factual assertion made that is not based upon the evidence in the text.
For example: most chemists refer to the American Chemical Society publications, manuals, or various scientific texts as resources.
Experimental Methods & Materials: Provide enough details and descriptions so a stranger, one not familiar with your work, could replicate or reproduce the experiment. Do not write this section in passive or second person voice. Instead use the first person plural ("we").
- Identify all materials used throughout the duration of the experiment; be sure to indicate the amount of material, concentration of material, etc. used. Provide the formulas of all compounds, once, alongside their chemical names.
- List all equipment. Describe the equipment, unless it is commercially available; provide a drawing if necessary.
- Include a detailed description of all steps. You should include all of the background data, formulas, and equations necessary for the experiment.
Data/Results: This section should present the major experimental results obtained, including the original data and all necessary calculations (for each varying calculation define all variable, include the formula, and at least one worked-out sample calculation per formula). All relevant information and assumptions made in the collection of all data should be included. For clarity, the usage of tables, graphs, and figures, are pertinent. Tables, graphs, and figures should be clearly described in terms of the results and must be properly titled.
Discussion: The discussion section states the conclusions drawn from the data and results section; describe what your conclusion(s) imply about your system, science, or the universe. If your results differ significantly from what was expected, discuss all possible sources of error in detail. Prove whether or not your hypothesis was correct.
Conclusion: Summarize the experiment. Once completed, discuss how the results relate to the initial goals of the experiment and any conclusions that may be drawn from the experiment. Consider any alternate explanations for your experimental outcome. Suggest an alternate approach or a refinement that could be useful in future studies.
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