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General Scaffold for Writing a Scientific Report

The following formatting guidelines should be adhered to:
• Font: size 12, Times New Roman or Arial
• 1.5 spaced
• Standard margin size
• Your student number in a header
• A page count in a footer
• Labelled images, diagrams, tables and graphs
• Bibliography on a separate page (not included in word count)
• The use of subheadings as instructed below
• Hardcopy should be stapled in the top left corner and handed in (i.e. no plastic
• Word count: 2500 words maximum
Title Page
Bordered with these three headings centred in the middle and completed.
Student number:
An abstract provides a brief overview of the experiment, including its findings and
conclusions. In general, the abstract should cover following questions:
 Why was the experiment conducted? (big-picture/real-world view).
 What specific problem/research question was being addressed?
 What methods were used to solve the problem/answer the question?
 What results were obtained?
 What do these results mean?
 How do they answer the overall question or improve our understanding of the
The most important thing to remember when writing the abstract is to be brief and state only
what is relevant. No extraneous information should be included. It also must be clear enough
so someone who is unfamiliar with your experiment could understand why you did what you
did, and the conclusions you reached, without needing to read the rest of the report.
An abstract is written after the experiment is completed. The abstract should take no more
than 1/3 of a page. Refer to the links below for examples of an abstract.
Please see
This provides a summary of the analysis to be undertaken. The purpose of the Introduction is
to put the reader in the picture and place the research/experiment within a context.
 Provide the context and motivation for the experiment.
 Briefly explain relevant theory in sufficient detail.
 Clearly state the aim or research question that the experiment is designed to address.
 Introduce any relevant laws, equations or theorems.
 Background about the analysis to be carried out.
 An explanation of the different techniques and why they are used.
The introduction should not include any results or conclusions. The introduction should be a
page long not including any diagrams. Refer to the link below for examples of introductions.
The method section is where you describe what you actually did. It includes the procedure
that was followed. This should be a report of what you actually did, not what was planned. A
typical procedure usually includes:
 Safety issues addressed
 How apparatus and equipment were set up (e.g. experimental set-up), usually
including a diagram,
 A list of materials used,
 Steps used to collect the data,
The Method should include such things as sample size, apparatus or equipment used,
experimental conditions, concentrations, times, controls etc.
Results and Analysis
This section is to present the main data collected during your experiment. Each key
measurement needs to be reported appropriately. Data are often presented in graphs, figures
or tables.
The following should be included in your Results:
 Pictures and spectra.
 Tables and graphs whenever practical.
 When writing about each picture, graph or table, refer to it parenthetically e.g. (Figure
1 graph of ….).
Massive quantities of data or raw data (not refined statistically) can be presented in
This section often also includes analysis of the raw data, such as calculations. An analysis of
the errors or uncertainties in the experiment is also usually included in this section.
The discussion section is where you:
 remind readers of the aim of the experiment
 comment on the main/key results you obtained
 interpret what the results mean (does it compare to hypothesis/theoretical value 80%-
 identify and explain any results which were unexpected.
The discussion section should demonstrate how well you understand what happened in the
experiment. It should address the following:
 identify and comment on any trends you have observed
 compare the experimental results with any predictions
 identify how any sources of error might impact on the interpretation of your results
 any experimental difficulties encountered and how they were resolved or worked
 suggest explanations for unexpected results, and where appropriate, suggest how the
experiment could have been improved.
 comment on the consistency of results and improving reliability of the experiment
The conclusion section should provide a take-home message summing up what has been
learned from the experiment:
 Briefly restate the purpose of the experiment (the question it was seeking to answer)
 Identify the main findings (answer to the research question)
 Note the main limitations that are relevant to the interpretation of the results
 Summarise what the experiment has contributed to your understanding of the
Harvard style – according to the link:
Extra Resources