It is generally expected that scientific reports will be read by audiences who are familiar with scientific terms and related jargon.
Therefore, it is acceptable to use appropriate scientific language throughout your report, but make sure explain key terms, methods, and abbreviations where necessary.
The next few slides will provide you with an understanding of the appropriate style of a scientific report.
Scientific report writing should be succinct and to the point.
Your readers will want to find the information they need quickly and easily, so it is important to write concisely.
The report’s title should contain as much relevant information as possible about what the study is, and what area it is relevant to. Avoid using redundant words such as “a study of” or “investigations of”.
Similarly, the headings and subheadings of your report should accurately reflect the content within them.
Here are some rules to follow when writing scientific reports:
- Write clearly and purposefully.
- Eliminate unnecessary words.
- Don’t over-explain (remember, your audience is expected to have an understanding of scientific terminology)
- Cite your sources.
- Use simple words and sentences. Complex words and sentences will make your writing more difficult to follow and will not necessarily make you sound more authoritative.
- Use quantifying language. For example, use the exact measurement, rather than “some”, or “a little”.
- Use the passive voice. The focus should be on the experiment and what was done, rather than who was conducting it. In some sciences, especially the social sciences, the actions of the person conducting the experiment are acknowledged, and consequently the active voice is used. Whenever you write, make sure you conform to the active or passive conventions of the discipline in which you are writing.
- Use past tense, as your experiment has already been conducted.
For more information on sentence structure and using the passive voice, see our Better Sentences program via the link on the slide above.
Abbreviations should be used for common terms of measurement such as hr for hour, mL for millilitre, etc.
For other abbreviated terms, spell them out in the first instance, followed by the abbreviation in brackets.
Subsequently you can use the abbreviated term, but aim to only abbreviate words if they appear more than three times in your report.
As with all academic writing, make sure you proofread your writing before submission.
This includes checking your spelling, punctuation, and data and results are correct; tenses are consistent; active or passive voice is consistent, abbreviations are spelled out where appropriate; tables and graphs are correctly labelled; and all relevant sections for your assignment brief have been included.
If you are unsure of any style or formatting requirements for your report, you can ask your tutor for clarification, or refer to your unit outline.
Try Activities One and Two, on the right-hand side of the page, to test your knowledge of the style of scientific report writing.
Click on the NEXT PAGE button at the bottom of the screen to go to the Conclusion and Feedback Questionnaire.
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