A scientific report assesses your ability to think critically, analyse results and present that information in an easily accessible manner. Unlike essays, your report will be separated into several sections, which allows the reader to easily find the information they are looking for.
Your report will contain:
- An abstract
- A table of contents
- An introduction
- A literature review
- The methodology and equipment used for your experiment
- The results
- The discussion
- The conclusion
- And any appendices.
The next few slides will provide further detail for each of these sections in a scientific report.
While the abstract is the first part of your report a reader will see, it should be written last. It provides a concise summary of the entire report including the purpose of the report, how the experiment was carried out, key results and any conclusions drawn.
The length of your abstract depends on the length of your report; however, a general rule of thumb is limiting your abstract to a page or less.
Table of Contents
The table of contents provides the headings of each section and sub-section, as well as the corresponding page numbers. The titles of these sections should be descriptive and give the reader a good idea of what topics are covered in each section.
Pages occurring before the contents page should be numbered using Roman numerals as shown in the slide.
This slide depicts a decimal style table of contents, where the headings and subheadings are numbered. For more information on this style, see the “Structure” section of Report Writing, via the link above.
Note that you should always check which style to use for your specific unit or assignment.
The introduction is included in your report to ‘set the scene’ for the reader. It should provide enough context to show why your topic is important – providing key concepts and background information as well as the scope and purpose of your research.
Your introduction should be structured so that the reader is introduced to the topic first in a general sense and then guided to the specific purpose of your report. It can be thought of as an “inverted pyramid” as shown in the slide.
Things to include in your introduction are:
- Your aim – why this report was written
- Enough background information to provide the reader with an understanding of your topic and why it is significant
- References to any work cited that is not your own
- And an outline of the structure of the report – how your report is formatted and what information is presented in each section.
A literature review has two main purposes: to Summarise and Evaluate the existing literature related to your report. It is important to remember that this is not simply a list of sources and information but requires analysis of the texts as well. A good way to think about it is to separate or group your discussion based on the contents of the literature instead of summarising each research paper individually.
• Provide a concise overview of the existing literature
• Outline the scope of your report by looking at literature directly related to your topic.
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current literature?
• Are there conflicting results from other academic papers?
• When was the study done?
• What gaps exist in the current literature?
This section of your report outlines the equipment and materials used while conducting your experiment as well as the method you followed to obtain your results. The method should provide a recount of the steps you took with enough detail that someone could replicate your experiment.
In addition, justification for the methodology you selected should be provided, any alternative methods should be discussed, and the reason for selecting your method should be clear to the reader.
For example: “Load flow analysis of the 13-bus distribution network was conducted using the Adaptive Newton-Raphson method with 99 iterations and a precision of 0.0001. This result was then compared with results obtained using Accelerated Gauss-Seidel with a maximum of 2000 iterations, a precision of 0.000001 and an acceleration factor of 1.45.”
Your results may be broken up into several sections depending on the nature of your report. It is important to remember that these sections are for results only; interpretation of these results should be left to the discussion section.
The results should be clear and easy to read. This is where you would also include any graphs or tables to visually display your results.
The structure and content of your discussion section depends greatly on the aim of your experiment; thus, there is no “one size fits all” solution to writing a discussion section. However, three steps have been outlined in the following slides that will help you to perfect your discussion writing abilities.
Step 1: Link your results to your aim/hypothesis
In your aim, you outlined what your experiment set out to examine. Are your results consistent with the aim/hypothesis outlined at the beginning of your report?
Step 2: compare your results to existing theory, or previous results:
Do your results agree with the existing scientific theory?
Step 3: identify any errors or inconsistencies in your results and provide a rationale or ways to improve the accuracy of your results.
What were the sources of uncertainty or error while conducting your experiment? This can include things like:
• Equipment tolerances
• Equipment failure
• Measurement errors.
Even if your experiment failed, it is still possible to achieve a good mark by analysing where and how the experiment failed and how it could be improved.
Your conclusion should be used to provide a succinct overview of the experiment, the results achieved and whether or not the experiment was successful. It is important that you do not introduce any new material in your conclusion that was not previously discussed in your report.
When writing your report, you are required to cite any information that is not from your own research. This not only gives credit to the original author, it increases the legitimacy of your findings. It is important to remember that a reference list contains ONLY sources actively used in your report; it is NOT a bibliography or reading list.
Different departments require different referencing styles; the most common can be found on the Curtin University Library webpage.
Your appendices contain the bulk data from your research that are too large to include in the results section.
They may include:
• Data sheets of equipment used
• Tables of data or figures
Have a go at the Activities, on the right-hand side of the page, to test what you have learned in this section. Then, click on the NEXT PAGE button at the bottom of the screen to learn about the Style of a Scientific Report.
Follow the link to view the ‘Structure’ pdf version.Previous Page Next Page