Writing Scientific Reports:

  • What is an Abstract and how to write one
  • Why have an Introduction and how to write one that includes both background information and a hypothesis
  • How should a method be written
  • In what format should results be written - table and graphs.
  • What is the role of a discussion in a scientific report and how to write one
  • What is a conclusion and how to write one
  • What is an annotated bibliography and why is it important in scientific reports
  • How to use ICT to construct a reference list
  • Transition Words Link

An abstract is a concise single paragraph summary of completed work or work in progress. In a minute or less a reader can learn the rationale behind the study, general approach to the problem, pertinent results, and important conclusions or new questions.

For example:
The following scientific report outlines the factors involved in improving cardio-respiratory fitness levels in a 17 year old male.
The key question: Is cardio-respiratory fitness able to be improved over a 6 week test period?
Results indicate that with FITT priniciple and overload principle training methodologies maximal oxygen consumption test and beep test data supports an improvement of 10% in the test period.
In conclusion it can be stated that aerobic training techniques can lead relatively quickly to improvements in aerobic fitness.
Other questions have arisen with respect to this topic:
Is the test period adequate to achieve maximum results?
Is this result transferable to all ages, genders and races?

The purpose of an introduction is to aquaint the reader with the rationale behind the work, with the intention of defending it. It places your work in a theoretical context, and enables the reader to understand and appreciate your objectives. It must therefore include your research question, your hypothesis and your cited background information.

Example of a research question:
Is there a link between aerobic training and cardio-respiratory fitness?

Example of a hypothesis:
If skin cancer is related to ultraviolet light , then people with a high exposure to uv light will have a higher frequency of skin cancer.
If leaf color change is related to temperature , then exposing plants to low temperatures will result in changes in leaf color.

If aerobic training is related to cardio-respiratory fitness, then subjects with effective aerobic training methodologies will have a improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness indicatiors, such as the beep test and the maximal oxygen consumption test.

Example of a cited background:

The Garner (2008) Study elicited improvement in VO2 max values of 16% over an 8 week study period.


This should be the easiest section to write, but many students misunderstand the purpose. The objective is to document all specialized materials and general procedures, so that another individual may use some or all of the methods in another study or judge the scientific merit of your work. It is not to be a step by step description of everything you did, nor is a methods section a set of instructions. In particular, it is not supposed to tell a story.

Example of a method:
Beep Test Method - http://www.topendsports.com/testing/tests/20mshuttle.htm

The purpose of a results section is to present and illustrate your findings. Make this section a completely objective report of the results, and save all interpretation for the discussion.
Use mainly line graphs
Where appropriate use trend lines in your data (lines of best fit)

The objective here is to provide an interpretation of your results and support for all of your conclusions, using evidence from your experiment and generally accepted knowledge, if appropriate. The significance of findings should be clearly described.

Interpret your data in the discussion in appropriate depth. This means that when you explain a phenomenon you must describe mechanisms that may account for the observation. If your results differ from your expectations, explain why that may have happened. If your results agree, then describe the theory that the evidence supported. It is never appropriate to simply state that the data agreed with expectations, and let it drop at that.
  • Decide if each hypothesis is supported, rejected, or if you cannot make a decision with confidence. Do not simply dismiss a study or part of a study as "inconclusive."
  • Research papers are not accepted if the work is incomplete. Draw what conclusions you can based upon the results that you have, and treat the study as a finished work
  • You may suggest future directions, such as how the experiment might be modified to accomplish another objective.
  • Explain all of your observations as much as possible, focusing on mechanisms.
  • Decide if the experimental design adequately addressed the hypothesis, and whether or not it was properly controlled.
  • Try to offer alternative explanations if reasonable alternatives exist.
  • One experiment will not answer an overall question, so keeping the big picture in mind, where do you go next? The best studies open up new avenues of research. What questions remain?
  • Recommendations for specific papers will provide additional suggestions.

The discussion must be appropriately cited as well.

No citations or validations in statement
At the start of my fitness program we conducted pre testing, which tested: body fat, weight, visceral fat ratings, bone mass, metabolism (BMI), sit-ups, push-ups, beep test and a maximal oxygen consumption. These results showed that I am within all the good limits for this testing and that I am fit and healthy.

Now - these statements are not incorrect - but they are also not support in appropriate depth.
The paragraph could be written like this:
In order to test of adaptive physiological improvement in the test subject's cardio-respiratory fitness a pre-test and a post-test was carried out over the 6-week test period. The beep test and the maximal oxygen consumption test results were encouraging showing a 10% increase in both of these indicators (Graph 1 and 2). Anderson (2008) states that an improvement in the maximal oxygen consumption is directly related to an improvement in aerobic fitness. MacKenzie (2009) supports this view with respect to improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness directly relating to increases in the beep test score. He does however state that the maximal oxygen consumption test alone was not a successful indicator of performance enhancement. MacKenzie's popular website, www.brainmac.co.uk, did however state that improvements in a number of these aerobic fitness tests collectively were a good indicator of performance. As a consequence the 10% improvement in both test validates an improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness.

Note - supportive statements from two cited authors with the addition of results.

In the final section of your report you need to summarise the main findings and the major implications of the study, point out any limitations, and offer suggestions for future research. In order to achieve these multiple aims you may use a combination of tenses.

For example:
Although the study found evidence of tillage and irrigation within the study area, from the data collected it was not possible to determine if the effects of agriculture upstream cause (or caused) higher levels of total nitrogen downstream. Further studies are therefore necessary to determine the effects of agriculture on the health of Stringybark Creek.

Annotated Bibliographies
Your annotated bibliography should provide the reader with:
  • an informative title
  • a short introduction - introducing the topic and explaining the relevance of the selected articles to the topic
  • full details of each article covered, including author and publication details according to the referencing guidelines required for the unit
  • a brief summary of the aims of the research reported in each article
  • a brief summary of the conclusions of each article
  • an evaluation of the article's relevance, validity and bias to the topic.

For example:
Hotter and Hotter
J. Hansen et al., GISS Surface Temperature Analysis
(December 18, 2005)
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2005
(December 15, 2005)
Global temperature data covering the meteorological year from December 2004 through November 2005 show 2005 tied with 1998 as the hottest year on record. The year 2005 continues the clear global warming trend of the last several decades by equaling the record warmth of 1998 without a boost from El Nino, which in 1998 added extra heat from the ocean to the earth's surface. The 10 warmest years on record have now all occurred since 1990.

Reference List using Easy Bib.
An excellent source for collating and constructing reference lists/bibliographies.