Scientific Lab Report Guideline

Tina Wambach twambach at uoguelph.ca
Wed Aug 27 15:28:30 EST 1997


My apology to all who could not read the attached message of my previous
mail. I hope the solution below will work for anyone interested.  
Tina Wambach

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FORMAT OF A SCIENTIFIC PAPER

I. TITLE
Use the fewest possible words to convey the topic of research, biological 
system(s) used including scientific names of organisms, and if appropriate, 
the approach used (e.g. chromatography, mathematical analyses). The title 
should not contain abbreviations, chemical formulae or jargon.

II. ABSTRACT
The abstract should summarize the entire report. It should state clearly and 
briefly the objectives, methods, results and conclusions of the study.
1. OBJECTIVE - State the objective or purpose of the study.
2. METHOD - Summarize into one or two sentences the methods and techniques 
used
3. RESULTS - State what you found in your study. Summarize the most important 
details of the results. Be specific but concise.
4. CONCLUSION - State the meaning of these results in relation to your 
objectives.
5. STYLE - The abstract should be concise and complete. It should contain 
the most important details of the lab report, but nothing that isn't in the 
lab report.

III. INTRODUCTION
The introduction should describe the purpose and scope of the study and 
include any background information necessary to understand the experiment.
1. GENERAL TOPIC -  Give a brief statement (one or two sentences) of what 
the general topic under investigation is, and why the topic is relevant and 
important.
2. DEFINE TERMS AND EXPLAIN CONCEPTS AND THEORIES - Define all specialized 
terms and explain concepts and theories related to the objectives of your 
experiment. Supply sufficient theoretical information to allow the reader 
to understand the "expected" pattern of response and to evaluate and
understand the results of your study without needing to refer to previous
publications on the topic. Be concise. Do not write an essay.
3. LITERATURE REVIEW - Give a brief review of the primary journal
literature relevant to the null hypothesis you are testing. State what
has been found in previous studies that have tested similar null hypothesis.
4. HYPOTHESIS, APPROACH AND RATIONALE - State the specific null
hypothesis that you are testing, and the approach (general methodology)
that you will use. Point out to the reader why you are doing your
experiment and what you hope to accomplish in your experiment that hasn't
already been done in the literature you reviewed.
5. STYLE - The introduction should be well written with proper spelling
and grammar. It should be well organized. You must reference all
information that is not your own. Do not use direct quotes, just
reference the ideas. See REFERENCES (later part of this guideline) for
the correct method of citation.

IV. METHODS 
The methods section should describe what was done and how it was done.
1. CONTENT - The methods section should provide only enough detail so
that a competent worker can repeat the experiment and the reader can
judge whether the methods used are all valid. It should not be simply a
list of all the steps involved, as provided in the lab handout. Give the
time and place of the study if it is relevant to the type of data
collected. State the latin or common names of the species used, the
instruments, equipment and number of replicates used. Describe any
unusual numerical calculations and state the statistical techniques used
to analyze the data.
2. STYLE - The methods section should be concise, with no unnecessary
detail. It should be written in the past tense and passive voice and in
paragraph form. It should be written as if the student were the sole
researcher. All unusual statistical tests must be referenced.

V. RESULTS
The results section should present the data in a summarized form and
describe only the key features of these data, emphasizing the trends or
patterns observed that are relevant to the hypothesis being tested.
Interpretation of these data is given in the discussion section, not in
the results section.
1. PRESENTATION OF DATA:STYLE - Organize the results into tables or
figures (graphs). Do not present the same data in a table and a figure,
and do not present any "raw" data. The tables and figures should be
numbered (table 1, table 2, etc.) in the order that they are mentioned in
the written text of the results section. The title of each table and
figure should contain enough information so that it is not necessary to
refer to the text for clarification. The number and title is placed at
the top of a table and at the bottom of a figure. For graphs, use graph
paper and rulers, join successive data points with straight lines, use an
appropriate scale and label the axes. The tables and figures should be
placed in the Results section, not grouped together at the back of the
report. 
2. WRITTEN TEXT:CONTENT - Guide the researcher through your figures and
tables in a logical and systematic way, pointing out patterns, trends and
statistically significant differences that pertain to each hypothesis
being tested. Simply state what you found and avoid interference or
reference to the "expected" patterns.
3. WRITTEN TEXT:STYLE - The results should be well-organized and well
written, with proper spelling and grammar. Make reference to which table
or figure you are describing. There should be no interpretation of data
in the results section.

VI. DISCUSSION
The discussion section should provide an explanation and interpretation
of your results and indicate whether your results support or do not
support the hypotheses being tested. Results of the previous studies on
the same topic should be compared with yours and an explanation should be
given for why your results were similar or different from those of
previous studies.
1. CONTENT - The emphasis of the discussion should be on interpreting and
explaining the results of your study. For each of the null hypotheses
that are being tested you should summarize the most important results
that you found, compare your results to those of other studies, provide
possible explanations for your results, and state whether you are
accepting or rejecting the null hypotheses.
2. STYLE - Follow the style guidelines for the introduction. Make sure
that the discussion is well-organized, and discusses all hypotheses being
tested in a logical, straightforward manner. 

VII. REFERENCES
The reference section should be a list of all books, journal articles and
other material cited in the introduction, methods and discussion sections
of your lab report.
1. METHOD OF CORRECT CITATION -The surname of the author(s) and the year
of publication are inserted in the text at an appropriate point : "Smith
(1985) compared ..." or "...were compared (Smith 1985)". If the reference
has more than two authors, include only the surname of the first author
followed by "et al.". If you are citing a journal article that you did
not read but that was cited in a journal article that you did read, your
citation would be (Smith 1940 as cited by Jones 1976), and both Smith 1940
 and Jones 1976 should appear in your reference list.
2. METHOD OF REFERENCING CORRECT - List references in alphabetical order
by author's last name. If there is more than one author, list them in the
order that they appear in the journal article, and include all names in
the reference. Make sure that the date of publication, volume number and
page numbers are correct. Include the whole title of the journal article
or book including scientific names of organisms used. Do not number
references. 

The following citations illustrate the punctuation, style and
abbreviations that you should use for referencing a) a primary article,
b) a book, c) a chapter in a book where each chapter is written by a
different author. If you have any other types of references, ask the lab
coordinator for the correct style to use. 

Peterman, R.M. 1982. Model of salmon age structure and its use in
     preseason forecasting and studies of marine survival.
     Can.J.Fish.Aquat.Sci.39:1444-145.

LeBlond, P.H., and L.A. Mysak. 1978. Waves in the ocean. Elsevier, New
     York, N.Y. 602p.

Healey, M.C. 1980. The ecology of juvenile salmon in Georgia Strait,
     British Columbia, pp. 203-229. In W.J. Neil and D.C. Himsworth (ed.)
     Salmonid ecosystems of the North Pacific. Oregon State University
     Press, Corvallis, OR.

3. REFERENCE SECTION:COMPLETE - All journal articles, books or other
material cited in the introduction, methods and discussion sections of
your lab report should be included in the reference section and no others.

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