Advanced Authentic Research

Final Report Guidelines

Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) Final Report Guideline

Communication in the scientific community usually takes the form of a written paper.  Scientific papers should be written in a clear and concise manner.  One should avoid the use of unnecessary words that are written with the intent to impress the reader.  Also, all scientific papers should be written in past tense.  Either active or passive voice may be used, but be consistent.

There is a conventional format to follow when communicating your findings to the scientific community in written form.  A scientific paper usually consists of eight sections.  Below you will find information on each of these sections.


I. Title: The function of the title is to succinctly convey the specific subject of your research.  The title should be short; but more importantly, it should be descriptive.  


II. Abstract: The abstract is a brief summary of the most important aspects of your research.  It basically describes what you did and the major results and conclusions that you obtained.  Abstracts are often only one or two paragraphs in length.  [Note: You can skip this section when writing lab papers for this class.]


III. Introduction: The function of the introduction is to give the rationale for your research, as well as to provide pertinent background or historical information that puts your research into a context that has meaning for the reader and the rest of the scientific community. The specific question or problem you are addressing in your study should be clearly stated in the introduction. 


IV. Methods (or Materials & Methods): This section describes the procedural details (i.e., methods) of your research.  It is written as a narrative (i.e., in paragraph form) and, like the rest of your paper, in the past tense.  It should not be written like a recipe or a "to do" list; and you should not separate the materials used from the methods employed.  This section should be written with enough detail so that any well-versed reader could easily repeat your experiment.  Do not forget to include information such as concentrations, names of species, types of equipment, etc.  SI units should be used. You should also mention which, if any, analyses were performed on your data.


V. Results: Your data and observations are presented in this section, as well as the results of any analyses performed on the data and observations.  Do not discuss the relevance or importance of your results, or attempt to explain or interpret your results in this section.  Often data may be presented in the form of a table or figure.  This is appropriate only if the table or figure is referred to in the text of the results section, which again should be written as a narrative in the past tense.  If tables and figures are used, each should be constructed with a descriptive caption or legend.  Do not make both a table and a figure to show the same data.  Lastly, when reporting the results of statistical analyses, if any, give the test statistic, degrees of freedom and/or sample size, and probability value. 


VI. Discussion: In this section you present the conclusions drawn from your data and analyses, and you interpret, explain, and discuss their significance (i.e., their relevance, meaning, and/or importance).  Make sure that your conclusions and interpretations clearly address the question or problem posed in the introduction.  You should put your findings into their proper context by relating them to research work done by others.  Try to describe how your findings support, refute, or extend the work of others in the field.  You can also suggest further studies that can be performed to clear up any discrepancies or ambiguities, or answer any unanswered questions.  


VII. Acknowledgments: This is a single paragraph where you thank those previously unmentioned people and organizations that helped you with your research by contributing money, working space, physical labor, permits, thoughts and ideas, editorial comments, etc.  [Note: You can skip this section when writing lab papers for this class.]


VIII. References (or Literature Cited): A list of all of the sources used and cited in your paper appears in this section.  The list is presented in alphabetical order according to the primary author's last name.  If you used information that is not considered to be "common knowledge" from another source, then that source should be properly cited in the text of your paper using an embedded reference (usually the author's name and the date of publication in parentheses).  The full bibliographic reference for any source appears in the "references" section.  [Note: We will use the format described in the APA format for citing sources in all papers written in this course.]


References for Writing a Scientific Paper:

Brower, J.E. and J.H. Zar.  (1984).  Writing research reports.  In Field and laboratory methods for general ecology (2nd ed.)(pp 21-24).  Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers.

Day, R.  (1998).  How to write and publish a scientific paper (5th ed.).  Phoenix Arizona: Oryx Press.

Eberhard, C.  (1982).  Writing a lab report.  In Biology laboratory: A manual to accompany Biology (2nd ed.)(pp.311-313).  Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing Co.