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How to Write Guide: Sections of the Paper
Whya Scientific Format?The scientific formatmay seem confusing for the beginning science writer due to itsrigid structurewhich is so different from writingin the humanities. One reason for using this format is that itis a means of efficiently communicating scientific findings tothe broad community of scientists in a uniform manner. Anotherreason, perhaps more important than the first, is that this formatallows the paper to be read at several different levels. Forexample, many people skim Titlesto find out what informationis available on a subject. Others may read only titles and Abstracts. Those wanting to go deeper maylook at the Tablesand Figuresinthe Results, and so on. The take home pointhere is that the scientific format helps to insure that at whateverlevel a person reads your paper (beyond title skimming), theywill likely get the key results and conclusions. Top of page The Sections ofthe PaperMost journal-style scientific papers aresubdivided into the following sections: Title,Authors and Affiliation, Abstract,Introduction, Methods,Results, Discussion,Acknowledgments, and LiteratureCited, which parallel the experimental process. This is thesystem we will use. This website describes the style, content,and format associated with each section. The sections appear in a journal stylepaper in the following prescribed order: Experimental process Section of PaperWhat did I do in a nutshell? Abstract What is the problem?Introduction How did I solve the problem? Materialsand Methods What did I find out? Results What does it mean? Discussion Who helped me out? Acknowledgments(optional) Whose work did I refer to? LiteratureCited Extra InformationAppendices (optional) Section Headings:Main Section Headings: Each main section of the paper begins with aheading which should be capitalized, centeredat the beginning of the section, and double spacedfrom the lines above and below. Do not underline the sectionheading OR put a colon at the end. Example of a main section heading: INTRODUCTION Subheadings:When your paper reports on morethan one experiment, use subheadings to help organize the presentation.Subheadings should be capitalized (first letterin each word), left justified, and either bolditalics OR underlined. Example of a subheading: Effects of LightIntensity on the Rate of Electron Transport Top of page Title, Authors' Names,and Institutional Affiliations1. Function: Your paper shouldbegin with a Title that succinctly describes the contentsof the paper. Use descriptive words that you would associatestrongly with the content of your paper: the molecule studied,the organism used or studied, the treatment, the location ofa field site, the response measured, etc. A majority of readerswill find your paper via electronic database searches and thosesearch engines key on words found in the title. 2. TitleFAQs 3. Format: The title should be centered atthe top of page 1 (DO NOT use a title page - it is a waste ofpaper for our purposes); thetitle is NOT underlined or italicized.the authors' names (PI or primaryauthor first) and institutional affiliation are double-spacedfrom and centered below the title. When more then two authors,the names are separated by commas except for the last which isseparated from the previous name by the word "and".For example: Ducks Over-Winter in ColoradoBarley Fields in Response toIncreased Daily Mean Temperature Ima Mallard, Ura Drake, and WoodruffDucqueDepartment of Wildlife Biology, University of Colorado - Boulder Top of page The title is not a section, but it isnecessary and important. The title should be short and unambiguous,yet be an adequate description of the work. A general rule-of-thumbis that the title should contain the key words describingthe work presented. Remember that the title becomes the basisfor most on-line computer searches - if your title is insufficient,few people will find or read your paper. For example, in a paperreporting on an experiment involving dosing mice with the sexhormone estrogen and watching for a certain kind of courtshipbehavior, a poor title would be: Mouse Behavior Why? It is very general, and could bereferring to any of a number of mouse behaviors. A bettertitle would be: The Effects of Estrogen on the Nose-Twitch Courtship Behaviorin Mice Why? Because the key words identify aspecific behavior, a modifying agent, and the experimental organism.If possible, give the key result of the study in the title, asseen in the first example. Similarly, the above title could berestated as: Estrogen Stimulates Intensityof Nose-Twitch Courtship Behavior in Mice 4. Strategyfor Writing Title. Topof page ABSTRACT1. Function:An abstract summarizes, in one paragraph (usually), the majoraspects of the entire paper in the following prescribed sequence: the question(s) you investigated(or purpose), (from Introduction)state the purpose very clearly in thefirst or second sentence.the experimental designand methods used, (from Methods)clearly express the basic design of thestudy.Name or briefly describe the basic methodologyused without going into excessive detail-be sure to indicatethe key techniques used.the major findings includingkey quantitative results, or trends(from Results)report those results which answer thequestions you were askingidentify trends, relative change or differences,etc.a brief summary of your interpetationsand conclusions. (from Discussion)clearly state the implications of theanswers your results gave you.Whereas theTitlecan only make the simplest statementabout the content of your article, the Abstract allows you toelaborate more on each major aspect of the paper. The lengthof your Abstract should be kept to about 200-300 words maximum(a typical standard length for journals.) Limit your statementsconcerning each segment of the paper (i.e. purpose, methods,results, etc.) to two or three sentences, if possible. The Abstracthelps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of thepaper, or it may be the only part they can obtain via electronicliterature searches or in published abstracts. Therefore, enoughkey information (e.g., summary results, observations, trends,etc.) must be included to make the Abstract useful to someonewho may to reference your work. Top of page Howdo you know when you have enough information in your Abstract? A simple rule-of-thumb is to imagine that youare another researcher doing an study similar to the one youare reporting. If your Abstract was the only part of the paperyou could access, would you be happy with the information presentedthere? 2. Style: The Abstract is ONLY text. Use the active voicewhen possible, but much of it may require passive constructions.Write your Abstract using concise, but complete, sentences, andget to the point quickly. Use past tense. Maximum lengthshould be 200-300 words, usually in a single paragraph. The Abstract SHOULD NOT contain: lengthy background information,references to other literature,elliptical (i.e., ending with ...) orincomplete sentences,abbreviations or terms that may be confusingto readers,any sort of illustration, figure, ortable, or references to them.Top of page 3. Strategy: Although itis the first section of your paper, the Abstract, by definition,must be written last since it will summarize the paper. To begincomposing your Abstract, take whole sentences or key phrasesfrom each section and put them in a sequence which summarizesthe paper. Then set about revising or adding words to make itall cohesive and clear. As you become more proficient you willmost likely compose the Abstract from scratch. 4. Check your work: Once youhave the completed abstract, check to make sure that the informationin the abstract completely agrees with what is written in thepaper. Confirm that all the information appearing theabstract actually appears in the body of the paper. Topof page INTRODUCTION[ strategy| FAQs| style| structure| relevantliterature review| statement ofpurpose| rationale]1. Function: The function of theIntroduction is to: Establish the context of the work beingreported. This is accomplished by discussing the relevantprimary research literature(withcitations)and summarizing our current understanding of the problem youare investigating;State the purposeof the work in the form of the hypothesis, question,or problem you investigated; and,Briefly explain your rationaleand approach and, whenever possible, the possible outcomes yourstudy can reveal.Quite literally, the Introduction mustanswer the questions, "What was I studying? Whywas it an important question? What did we know about itbefore I did this study? How will this study advance our knowledge?" 2.Style: Use theactive voice as much as possible. Some use of first person isokay, but do not overdo it. Top of page 3.Structure: Thestructure of the Introduction can be thought of as an invertedtriangle - the broadest part at the top representing the mostgeneral information and focusing down to the specific problemyou studied. Organize the information to present the more generalaspects of the topic early in the Introduction, then narrow towardthe more specific topical information that provides context,finally arriving at your statement of purpose and rationale.A good way to get on track is to sketch out the Introductionbackwards; start with the specific purpose and then decidewhat is the scientific context in which you are asking the question(s)your study addresses. Once the scientific context is decided,then you'll have a good sense of what level and type of generalinformation with which the Introduction should begin. Here is the information should flow inyour Introduction: Begin your Introduction by clearlyidentifying the subject area of interest.Do this by using key words from your Titlein the first few sentences of the Introduction to get it focuseddirectly on topic at the appropriate level. This insures thatyou get to the primary subject matter quickly without losingfocus, or discussing information that is too general. For example,in the mouse behavior paper, the words hormones and behaviorwould likely appear within the first one or two sentences ofthe Introduction.Top of page Establish the context by providinga brief and balanced review of the pertinent published literaturethat is available on the subject. Thekey is to summarize (for the reader) what we knew about the specificproblem before you did your experiments or studies. Thisis accomplished with a general review of the primary researchliterature (with citations)but should not include very specific, lengthy explanations thatyou will probably discuss in greater detail later in the Discussion. The judgment of what is generalor specific is difficult at first, but with practice and readingof the scientific literature you will develop e firmer senseof your audience. In the mouse behavior paper, for example, youwould begin the Introduction at the level of mating behaviorin general, then quickly focus to mouse mating behaviors andthen hormonal regulation of behavior. Lead the reader to yourstatement of purpose/hypothesis by focusing your literature reviewfrom the more general context (the big picture e.g., hormonalmodulation of behaviors) to the more specific topic of interestto you (e.g., role/effects of reproductive hormones, especiallyestrogen, in modulating specific sexual behaviors of mice.)Top of page Whatliterature should you look for in your review of what we knowabout the problem? Focus yourefforts on the primary research journals - the journalsthat publish original research articles. Although you may readsome general background references (encyclopedias, textbooks,lab manuals, style manuals, etc.) to get yourself acquaintedwith the subject area, do not cite these, becasue they containinformation that is considered fundamental or "common"knowledge wqithin the discipline. Cite, instead, articles thatreported specific results relevant to your study. Learn, as soonas possible, how to find the primary literature (researchjournals) and review articles rather than depending onreference books. The articles listed in the Literature Citedof relevant papers you find are a good starting point to movebackwards in a line of inquiry. Most academic librariessupport the Citation Index - an index which is usefulfor tracking a line of inquiry forward in time. Some ofthe newer search engines will actually send you alerts of newpapers that cite particular articles of interest to you. Reviewarticles are particularly useful because they summarize allthe research done on a narrow subject area over a brief periodof time (a year to a few years in most cases).Top of page Be sureto clearly state the purpose and /or hypothesis that you investigated. When you are first learning to write in thisformat it is okay, and actually preferable, to use a pat statementlike, "The purpose of this study was to...." or "Weinvestigated three possible mechanisms to explain the ... (1)blah, blah..(2) etc. It is most usual to place the statementof purpose near the end of the Introduction, often as the topicsentence of the final paragraph. It is not necessary (or evendesirable) to use the words "hypothesis" or "nullhypothesis", since these are usually implicit if you clearlystate your purpose and expectations.Top of page Providea clear statement of the rationale for your approach to the problemstudied. For example: State brieflyhow you approached the problem (e.g., you studied oxidative respirationpathways in isolated mitochondria of cauliflower). This willusually follow your statement of purpose in the last paragraphof the Introduction. Why did you choose this kind of experimentor experimental design? What are the scientific meritsof this particular model system? What advantages doesit confer in answering the particular question(s) you are posing?Do not discuss here the actual techniques or protocolsused in your study (this will be done in the Materialsand Methods); your readers will be quite familiar with theusual techniques and approaches used in your field. If you areusing a novel (new, revolutionary, never used before)technique or methodology, the merits of the new technique/methodversus the previously used methods should be presentedin the Introduction.Topof Page MATERIALS AND METHODSThis section is variously called Methodsor Methods and Materials. 1. Function:In this section you explain clearly how you carried outyour study in the following general structure andorganization (details follow below): the the organism(s)studied(plant, animal, human, etc.) and, when relevant,their pre-experiment handling and care, and when and where thestudy was carried out (only if location and time are importantfactors); note that the term "subject" is used ONLYfor human studies.if you did a field study, provide a descriptionof the study site, including the significant physicaland biological features, and the precise location (latitude andlongitude, map, etc);the experimentalOR sampling design(i.e., how the experiment or studywas structured. For example, controls, treatments, what variable(s)were measured, how many samples were collected, replication,the final form of the data, etc.);the protocol forcollecting data, i.e., how the experimental procedureswere carried out, and,how the datawere analyzed(qualitative analyses and/or statistical proceduresused to determine significance, data transformations used, whatprobability was used to decide significance, etc).Organizeyour presentation so your reader will understand the logicalflow of the experiment(s); subheadings work well for thispurpose. Each experiment or procedure should be presented asa unit, even if it was broken up over time. The experimentaldesign and procedure are sometimes most efficiently presentedas an integrated unit, because otherwise it would be difficultto split them up. In general, provide enough quantitativedetail(how much, how long, when, etc.) about yourexperimental protocol such that other scientists could reproduceyour experiments. You should also indicate the statisticalproceduresused to analyze your results, including the probabilitylevel at which you determined significance (usually at 0.05 probability). 2. Style:The style in this section should read as if you were verballydescribing the conduct of the experiment. You may use the activevoice to a certain extent, although this section requires moreuse of third person, passive constructions than others. Avoiduse of the first person in this section. Remember to use thepast tense throughout - the work being reported is done,and was performed in the past, not the future. The Methods sectionis not a step-by-step, directive, protocol as youmight see in your lab manual. 3. Strategyfor writing the Methods section. 4. MethodsFAQs. Top of Page Describe theorganism(s) used in the study.This includes giving the (1) source (supplier or whereand how the orgranisms were collected), (2) typicalsize (weight, length, etc), (3) how they were handled,fed, and housed before the experiment, (4) howthey were handled, fed, and housed during the experiment.In genetics studies include the strains or genetic stocks used.For some studies, age may be an important factor. For example,did you use mouse pups or adults? Seedlings or mature plants? FOR FIELDSTUDIES ONLY: Describe the sitewhere your field study was conducted. The description must include both physicaland biological characteristics of the site pertinant tothe study aims. Include the date(s) of the study (e.g., 10-15April 1994) and the exact location of the study area. Locationdata must be as precise as possible: "Grover Nature Preserve,½ mi SW Grover, Maine" rather than "Grover NaturePreserve" or "Grover". When possible, give theactual latitude and longitude position of the site: these canbe obtained using handheld GPS units, OR, from web resourcessuch as Google Earth(TM) and MapQuest(TM). It is often a good idea to include a map(labeled as a Figure) showing the study location in relationto some larger more recognizable geographic area. Someone elseshould be able to go to the exact location of your study siteif they want to repeat or check your work, or just visit yourstudy area. NOTE: For laboratorystudies you need not report the date and locationof the study UNLESS it is necessary information for someoneto have who might wish to repeat your work or use the same facility.Most often it is not. If you have performed experimentsat a particular location or lab because it is the only placeto do it, or one of a few, then you should note that in yourmethods and identify the lab or facility.Top of Page Describeyour experimental design clearly. Besure to include the hypotheses you tested, controls,treatments, variables measured, how many replicatesyou had, what you actually measured, what form the datatake, etc. Always identify treatments by the variable or treatmentname, NOT by an ambiguous, generic name or number (e.g., use"2.5% NaCl" rather than "test 1".) When yourpaper includes more than one experiment, use subheadingsto help organize your presentation by experiment. A general experimentaldesign worksheetis available to help plan yourexperiments in the core courses. Describe the procedures for your study in sufficientdetail that other scientists could repeat your work to verifyyour findings. Foremost in yourdescription should be the "quantitative" aspects ofyour study - the masses, volumes, incubation times, concentrations,etc., that another scientist needs in order to duplicate yourexperiment. When using standard lab or field methods and instrumentation,it is not always necessary to explain the procedures (e.g., serialdilution) or equipment used (e.g., autopipetter) since otherscientists will likely be familiar with them already. You may want to identify certain typesof equipment by vendor name and brand or category (e.g., ultracentrifugevs. prep centrifuge), particularly if they are not commonly foundin most labs. It is appropriate to report, parenthetically, thesource (vendor) and catalog number for reagents used, e.g., "....poly-L-lysine (Sigma #1309)." When using a method described in anotherpublished source, you can save time and words by providing therelevant citationto thesource. Always make sure to describe any modifications you havemade of a standard or published method. NOTE:Very frequently the experimental design and data collection proceduresfor an experiment cannot be separated and must be integratedtogether. If you find yourself repeating lots of informationabout the experimental design when describing the data collectionprocedure(s), likely you can combine them and be more concise.NOTE:Although tempting, DO NOT say that you "recorded thedata," i.e., in your lab notebook, in the Methods description.Of course you did, because that is what all good scientistsdo, and it is a given that you recorded your measurementsand observations.Describehow the data were summarized and analyzed. Hereyou will indicate what types of descriptive statistics were usedand which analyses (usually hypothesis tests) were employed toanswer each of the questions or hypotheses tested and determinestatistical siginifcance. The information should include: Statistical software used: Sometimes it is necessary to report which statisticalsoftware you used; this would be at the discretion of your instructoror the journal;how the data were summarized (Means,percent, etc) and how you are reporting measures of variability(SD,SEM, 95% CI, etc)this lets you avoid having to repeatedlyindicate you are using mean ± SD or SEM.which data transformations wereused(e.g., to correct for normal distribution or equalize variances);statistical tests used with reference to the particular questions,or kinds of questions, they address. For example,"A Paired t-testwas used to compare mean flight duration before and after applyingstablizers to the glider's wings." "One way ANOVAwas used to compare mean weight gain in weight-matched calvesfed the three different rations." "Comparisons amongthe three pH treatment groups for each variable were done usingone way ANOVA (with Tukey's post hoc test) or a Kruskal-WallisTest (with Dunn's post hoc test)." any other numerical (e.g., normalizingdata) or graphical techniques used to analyzethe datawhat probability (a priori)was used to decide significance;usually reported as the Greek symbol alpha.NOTE: You DO NOT need to say thatyou made graphs and tables. Top of Page Here is some additional advice on particularproblems common to new scientific writers. Problem: The Methods section isprone to being wordy or overly detailed. Avoid repeatedly using a single sentenceto relate a single action; thisresults in very lengthy, wordy passages. A related sequence ofactions can be combined into one sentence to improve clarityand readability:Problematic Example: This is a very long and wordy description ofa common, simple procedure. It is characterized by single actionsper sentence and lots of unnecessary details. "The petri dishwas placed on the turntable. The lid was then raised slightly.An inoculating loop was used to transfer culture to the agarsurface. The turntable was rotated 90 degrees by hand. The loopwas moved lightly back and forth over the agar to spread theculture. The bacteria were then incubated at 37 C for 24 hr." Improved Example:Same actions, but all the important information is given in asingle, concise sentence. Note that superfluous detail and otherwiseobvious information has been deleted while important missinginformation was added. "Each plate wasplaced on a turntable and streaked at opposing angles with freshovernight E. coli culture using an inoculating loop. The bacteriawere then incubated at 37 C for 24 hr." Best: Herethe author assumes the reader has basic knowledge of microbiologicaltechniques and has deleted other superfluous information. Thetwo sentences have been combined because they are related actions. "Each plate wasstreaked with fresh overnight E. coli culture and incubated at37 C for 24 hr." Topof Page Problem:Avoid using ambiguous terms to identify controls or treatments,or other study parameters that require specific identifiers tobe clearly understood. Designators such as Tube 1, Tube 2, orSite 1 and Site 2 are completely meaningless out of context anddifficult to follow in context.Problematic example: In this example the reader will have no clueas to what the various tubes represent without having to constantlyrefer back to some previous point in the Methods. "A Spec 20 wasused to measure A600of Tubes 1,2, and3 immediately afterchloroplasts were added (Time 0) and every 2 min. thereafteruntil the DCIP was completely reduced. Tube 4'sA600 was measured only at Time 0 andat the end of the experiment." Improved example: Notice how thesubstitution (in red) of treatment and control identifiers clarifiesthe passage both in the context of the paper, and if taken outof context. "A Spec 20 wasused to measure A600 of the reaction mixtures exposed to light intensitiesof 1500, 750, and 350 uE/m2/sec immediately after chloroplasts were added (Time0) and every 2 min. thereafter until the DCIP was completelyreduced. The A600 of the no-light control was measured only at Time 0 and at the end ofthe experiment." Top of Page RESULTS 1. Function: The function of theResults section is to objectively present your key results,without interpretation, in an orderly and logicalsequenceusing both textand illustrativematerials(Tables and Figures). The results section alwaysbegins with text, reporting the key results and referring toyour figures and tables as you proceed. Summariesof the statistical analysesmay appear either in the text(usually parenthetically) or in the relevant Tables or Figures(in the legend or as footnotes to the Table or Figure). The Resultssection should be organizedaroundTables and/or Figuresthat shouldbe sequenced to present your key findings in a logical order.The text of the Results section should be crafted to follow thissequence and highlight the evidence needed to answer the questions/hypothesesyou investigated. Important negativeresultsshould be reported, too. Authors usually write thetext of the results section based upon the sequence of Tablesand Figures. 2. Style: Write the text of theResults section concisely and objectively. The passive voicewill likely dominate here, but use the active voice as much aspossible. Use the past tense. Avoid repetitive paragraphstructures. Do not interpret the data here. The transition intointerpretive language can be a slippery slope. Consider the followingtwo examples: This example highlights the trend/differencethat the author wants the reader to focus:The duration of exposureto running water had a pronounced effect on cumulative seed germinationpercentages (Fig. 2). Seeds exposed to the 2-day treatment hadthe highest cumulative germination (84%), 1.25 times that ofthe 12-h or 5-day groups and 4 times that of controls. In contrast, this examplestrays subtly into interpretation by referring to optimality(a conceptual model) and tieing the observed result to that idea:The results of the germinationexperiment (Fig. 2) suggest that the optimal time for running-watertreatment is 2 days. This group showed the highest cumulativegermination (84%), with longer (5 d) or shorter (12 h) exposuresproducing smaller gains in germination when compared to the controlgroup. 3. Strategyfor Writing the Results Section 4. Frequentlyasked questions (FAQs). Top of Page Things to consider as you write yourResults section:What are the"results"?: When youpose a testable hypothesis that can be answered experimentally,or ask a question that can be answered by collecting samples,you accumulate observations about those organisms or phenomena.Those observations are then analyzed to yield an answer to thequestion. In general, the answer is the " key result". The above statements apply regardlessof the complexity of the analysis you employ. So, in an introductorycourse your analysis may consist of visual inspection of figuresand simple calculations of means and standard deviations; ina later course you may be expected to apply and interpret a varietyof statistical tests. You instructor will tell you the levelof analysis that is expected. For example, suppose you asked the question,"Is the averageheight of male students the same as female students in a poolof randomly selected Biology majors?" You would firstcollect height data from large random samples of male and femalestudents. You would then calculate the descriptive statisticsfor those samples (mean, SD, n, range, etc) and plot these numbers.In a course where statistical tests are not employed, you wouldvisually inspect these plots. Suppose you found that male Biologymajors are, on average, 12.5 cm taller than female majors; thisis the answer to the question. Notice that the outcome of a statisticalanalysis is not a key result, but rather an analytical toolthat helps us understand what is our key result.Differences, directionality, and magnitude: Report your results so as to provide as muchinformation as possible to the reader about the nature of differencesor relationships. For eaxmple, if you testing for differencesamong groups, and you find a significant difference, itis not sufficient to simply report that "groupsA and B were significantly different". How are they different?How much are they different? It is much more informative to saysomething like, "Group A individuals were 23% larger thanthose in Group B", or, "Group B pups gained weightat twice the rate of Group A pups." Report the directionof differences (greater, larger, smaller, etc) and the magnitudeof differences (% difference, how many times, etc.) wheneverpossible. See also below about use of the word "significant." Top of Page Organizethe results section based on the sequence of Table and Figuresyou'll include. Prepare the Tables and Figuresas soon as allthe data are analyzed and arrange them in the sequence that bestpresents your findings in a logical way. A good strategy is tonote, on a draft of each Table or Figure, the one or two keyresults you want to addess in the text portion of the Results.Simple rules to follow related to Tables and Figures: Tables and Figures are assignednumbersseparately and in the sequence that you will referto them from the text.The first Table you refer to is Table1, the next Table 2 and so forth.Similarly, the first Figure is Figure1, the next Figure 2, etc. EachTable or Figure must include a brief description of the resultsbeing presented and other necessary information in a legend.Table legends go above the Table; tables are read from top to bottom.Figure legends go below the figure; figures are usually viewed from bottom to top. When referringto a Figurefrom the text, "Figure" is abbreviatedas Fig.,e.g.,Fig. 1. Table is never abbreviated, e.g., Table 1.Top of Page The body of theResults section is a text-based presentation of the key findingswhich includes references to each of the Tables and Figures.The text should guide the readerthrough your results stressing the key results which providethe answers to the question(s) investigated. A major functionof the text is to provide clarifying information. You must referto each Table and/or Figure individually and in sequence (seenumbering sequence),and clearly indicate for the reader the key results that eachconveys. Key results depend on your questions, they might includeobvious trends, important differences, similarities, correlations,maximums, minimums, etc. Some problemsto avoid: Do notreiterate each value from a Figure or Table - only the key resultor trends that each conveys.Do notpresent the same data in both a Table and Figure - this is consideredredundant and a waste of space and energy. Decide which formatbest shows the result and go with it.Do notreport raw data values when they can be summarized as means,percents, etc.Topof PageStatisticaltest summaries (test name, p-value) are usually reportedparenthetically in conjunction with the biological results theysupport. Always report your resultswith parenthetical reference to the statistical conclusion thatsupports your finding (if statistical tests are being used inyour course). This parenthetical reference should include thestatistical test used and the level of significance (test statisticand DF are optional). For example, if you found that the meanheight of male Biology majors was significantly larger than thatof female Biology majors, you might report this result (in blue)and your statistical conclusion (shown in red) as follows: "Males (180.5 ±5.1 cm; n=34) averaged 12.5 cm taller than females (168 ±7.6 cm; n=34) in the AY 1995 pool of Biology majors (two-sample t-test, t = 5.78,33 d.f., p > 0.001)." If the summary statisticsare shown in a figure, the sentence above need not report themspecifically, but must include a reference to the figure wherethey may be seen: "Males averaged 12.5cm taller than females in the AY 1995 pool of Biology majors(two-sample t-test,t = 5.78, 33 d.f., p > 0.001; Fig.1)." Note that the report ofthe key result (shown in blue) would be identical in a paperwritten for a course in which statistical testing is not employed- the section shown in red would simply not appear except referenceto the figure. Avoid devoting wholesentences to report a statistical outcome alone.Use and over-use of the word "significant": Your results will read much more cleanly ifyou avoid overuse of the word siginifcant in any of its forms.In scientific studies, the use of thisword implies that a statistical test was employed to make a decisionabout the data; in this case the test indicated a larger differencein mean heights than you would expect to get by chance alone.Limit the use of the word "significant" to this purposeonly.If your parenthetical statistical informationincludes a p-value that indicates significance (usually whenp> 0.05), it is unncecssary (and redundant)to use the word "significant" in the body of the sentence(see example above) because we all interpret the p-value thesame way.Likewise, when you report that one groupmean is somehow different from another (larger, smaller, increased,decreased, etc), it will be understood by your reader that youhave tested this and found the difference to be statisticallysignificant,especially if you also report a p-value > 0.05.Present theresults of your experiment(s) in a sequence that will logicallysupport (or provide evidence against) the hypothesis, or answerthe question, stated in the Introduction. Forexample, in reporting a study of the effect of an experimentaldiet on the skeletal mass of the rat, consider first giving thedata on skeletal mass for the rats fed the control dietand then give the data for the rats fed the experimentaldiet. Top of Page Reportnegative results - they are important! If you did not get the anticipated results, itmay mean your hypothesis was incorrect and needs to be reformulated,or perhaps you have stumbled onto something unexpected that warrantsfurther study. Moreover, the absence of an effect maybe very telling in many situations. In any case, your resultsmay be of importance to others even though they did not supportyour hypothesis. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that resultscontrary to what you expected are necessarily "bad data".If you carried out the work well, they are simply your resultsand need interpretation. Many important discoveries can be tracedto "bad data". Always enter the appropriate unitswhen reporting data or summary statistics. for an individual valueyou would write, "themean length was 10 m", or, "the maximum time was 140 min."When including a measure of variability,place the unit after the error value, e.g., "...was 10 ± 2.3 m".Likewise place the unit after the lastin a series of numbers all having the same unit.For example: "lengthsof 5, 10, 15, and 20 m", or "no differences were observed after2, 4, 6, or 8 min. of incubation".Top of Page DISCUSSION| strategy| FAQs| style| approach| useof literature| results in discussion| 1. Function:The function of the Discussion is to interpret your results inlight of what was already knownaboutthe subject of the investigation, and to explain our new understandingof the problem after taking your results into consideration.The Discussion will always connect to the Introductionby way of the question(s) or hypotheses you posed and the literatureyou cited, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the Introduction.Instead, it tells how your study has moved us forward from theplace you left us at the end of the Introduction. Fundamental questions to answer here include: Do your results provide answers to yourtestable hypotheses? If so, how do you interpret your findings?Do your findings agree with what othershave shown? If not, do they suggest an alternative explanationor perhaps a unforseen design flaw in your experiment (or theirs?)Given your conclusions, what is our newunderstanding of the problem you investigated and outlined inthe Introduction?If warranted, what would be the nextstep in your study, e.g., what experiments would you do next?2. Style: Use the active voice whenever possible in thissection. Watch out for wordy phrases; be concise and make yourpoints clearly. Use of the first person is okay, but too muchuse of the first person may actually distract the reader fromthe main points. 3.Approach: Organize the Discussionto address each of the experiments or studies for which you presentedresults; discuss each in the same sequence as presented in theResults, providing your interpretation of what they mean in thelarger context of the problem. Do not waste entire sentencesrestating your results; if you need to remind the reader of theresult to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" thatrelate the result to the interpretation: "The slow responseof the lead-exposed neurons relative to controls suggests that...[interpretation]". You will necessarily make referenceto the findings of othersin order to support your interpretations.Usesubheadings, if need be, to help organizeyour presentation. Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of aresult for an interpretation, and make sure that nonew resultsare presented here that rightly belong in theresults. You mustrelate your work to the findings of other studies - includingprevious studies you may have done and those of other investigators.As stated previously, you mayfind crucial information in someone else's study that helps youinterpret your own data, or perhaps you will be able to reinterpretothers' findings in light of yours. In either case you shoulddiscuss reasons for similarities and differences between yoursand others' findings. Consider how the results of other studiesmay be combined with yours to derive a new or perhaps bettersubstantiated understanding of the problem. Be sure to statethe conclusions that can be drawn from your results in lightof these considerations. You may also choose to briefly mentionfurther studies you would do to clarify your working hypotheses.Make sure to reference any outsidesourcesas shown in the Introduction section.Do notintroduce new results in the Discussion. Althoughyou might occasionally include in this section tables and figureswhich help explain something you are discussing, they must notcontain new data (from your study) that should have been presentedearlier. They might be flow diagrams, accumulation of data fromthe literature, or something that shows how one type of dataleads to or correlates with another, etc. For example, if youwere studying a membrane-bound transport channel and you discovereda new bit of information about its mechanism, you might presenta diagram showing how your findings helps to explain the channel'smechanism. Top of Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS(include as needed) | FAQs|If, in your experiment, you received anysignificant help in thinking up, designing, or carrying out thework, or received materials from someone who did you a favorby supplying them, you must acknowledge their assistance andthe service or material provided. Authors always acknowledgeoutside reviewers of their drafts (in PI courses, thiswould be done only if an instructor or other individualcritiqued the draft prior to evaluation) and any sources offunding that supported the research. Although usual stylerequirements (e.g., 1st person, objectivity) are relaxed somewhathere, Acknowledgments are always brief and never flowery. Place the Acknowledgmentsbetween the Discussion and the Literature Cited.LITERATURECITED1. Function:The Literature Cited section gives an alphabetical listing (byfirst author's last name) of the references that you actuallycited in the body of your paper. Instructionsfor writing full citationsfor various sources are givenin on separate page. A complete format list for virtually alltypes of publication may be found in Huthand others(1994). NOTE:Do not label this section "Bibliography". A bibliography contains references that youmay have read but have not specifically cited in the text. Bibliographysections are found in books and other literary writing, but notscientific journal-style papers. 2. Formatand Instructions for standard full citations of sources. 3. LiteratureCited FAQs. Top of Page APPENDICES| FAQs| Function| Headings| Types of Content| Tablesand Figures Function: An Appendix contains information that is non-essentialto understanding of the paper, but may present information thatfurther clarifies a point without burdening the body of the presentation.An appendix is an optional part of the paper, and is onlyrarely found in published papers. Headings: Each Appendix should be identified by a Romannumeral in sequence, e.g., Appendix I, Appendix II, etc. Eachappendix should contain different material. Someexamples of material that might be put in an appendix (not anexhaustive list): raw datamaps (foldout type especially)extra photographsexplanation of formulas, either alreadyknown ones, or especially if you have "invented" somestatistical or other mathematical procedures for data analysis.specialized computer programs for a particularprocedurefull generic names of chemicals or compoundsthat you have referred to in somewhat abbreviated fashion orby some common name in the text of your paper.diagrams of specialized apparati.Figuresand Tables in Appendices Figures and Tables are often found inan appendix. These should be formatted as discussed previously(see Tables and Figures), butare numbered in a separate sequence from those found in the bodyof the paper. So, the first Figure in the appendix would be Figure1, the first Table would be Table 1, and so forth. In situationswhen multiple appendices are used, the Table and Figure numberingmust indicate the appendix number as well (see Huthand others, 1994).
How to Write a Reaction Paper
How to Write a Reaction PaperWhen you write academic papers, you have various goals to achieve. For instance, you may inform your readers about some important facts or events or impress them by revealing your own point of view about certain issues in your essay. Students who don’t know how to write a reaction paper should understand that they will inform, but not impress. Their main task is to persuade their readers that the research they are writing about is valid, important and relevant to the other investigations done in the same field. If you don’t know how to write a reaction paper, you may find some important clues and hints in this article. What Is a Reaction PaperThe modern science area is one of the most changeable and unpredictable ones. Lots of new inventions and developments appear every day, so sometimes you may need to complete a reaction paper sample. The main aim of this essay is to help you share your own research work’s results or review the investigations made by other scholars. But what is a reaction paper and how to write it properly? Guide to Writing Reaction Paper While writing a reaction paper, remember that this type of paper has two main audiences to address: the referees who assist journal editors in choosing the most appropriate articles for publication and the journal readers themselves who have enough knowledge to grasp the main idea of the article. Reaction papers should be written by concise, accurate and clear language because they might be cited by other scholars in the future. Remember, that you shouldn’t just tell how the investigation was done. Your main goal is to prove that the invention you are writing about is both important and valuable for other scientists.
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