by PLA Jiameng Xu
- Be sure to read the lab beforehand. Most labs tend to end early, so it’s a good idea to come to class with questions and get them answered in that extra time.
- Write and edit several drafts. Spend at least one-half of your time editing your paper (suggestion from lab manual).
- Remember the 3 C’s: be clear, concise, and coherent in your writing.
- Be precise and accurate in your descriptions.
Common stylistic errors to avoid
- Colloquial statements
- Imprecise language
- Definitive statements should be avoided (opt for “may” instead of “will”)
- Grammatical errors (e.g. data is plural, datum is singular)
- Citation errors
- Species’ names (both words are italicized, genus is capitalized – e.g. Homo sapiens)
- Writing should be concise; avoid verbosity if possible
Common content errors to avoid
- Problems in logic
- Inaccuracy of descriptions
- Avoid stating something conclusively
- Be careful to not mix up the indicator with the actual thing that the indicator is supposed to represent (e.g. “in this lab the concentration of carbon dioxide in the exhaled breath was measured to study changes in metabolic rate”, and not “in this lab metabolic rate was measured”, because the latter statement implies that metabolic rate was directly measured when it was not)
Overall format (check with TA, as the following may have changed)
- 1.5 line spacing
- All paragraphs should be indented
- 1 inch margins
- Times New Roman, size 11 font
- Descriptive title: main objective, species involved (if relevant), location (if relevant)
- X and Y-axis of the main figure are helpful hints for the title
Requirements for the “Results” section
- Be sure to reference the figure: “From Figure 1 it can be seen…”
- Make the reference before the Figure appears (i.e. include the reference in the paragraph above the Figure)
- Trend statement
- Statistical statement
- A “significant increase” or a “significant decrease” = 1-tailed test (because the change is in one direction: up or down)
- A “significant difference” = 2-tailed test (because the change could be in two directions: either up or down)
- Statistical calculation
- Statistical analysis is determined by a calculation and not from a figure
- Mention the sample size
- Include figure caption, error bars, and axis labels.
- “Do not provide explanations or conclusions” for the results
- Be careful to put correct units on the Y-axis
We are basically interpreting the data collected
- What does the figure show?
- What does the statistical information show?
Discussion requirements (copied from lab manual):
1. Introductory paragraph – summarizes results and sets the stage – raises possible reasons
2. 3 paragraphs of interpretation or analysis of results – discusses results
3. Concluding paragraph – summarizes and discusses future directions
Sample marking scheme from the 2010 lab manual:
- General presentation: 6 marks
- Substantiation of literature cited: 4
- Depth of analysis
- Several detailed, flawlessly presented points of analysis: 10
- Possible reasons for results are sometimes superficial, but arguments are easy to follow, and a reasonable depth of analysis is present: 7
- Deep analysis & interpretation of results
- Good coverage of material
- Do not repeat the results; focus on analyzing & interpreting them
- Good biological reasons
- Making definitive statements
- Discussing results that was not previously included in the results section
- Discussing the work as if it were a class lab assignment
- Blaming student or experimental error for unexpected results (we need to go deeper for explanations)
- Writing is verbose – (keep in mind that scientific writing should be precise)
How to write an abstract
Copied from Berkeley.edu:
An abstract is a short summary of your completed research. If done well, it makes the reader want to learn more about your research.
These are the basic components of an abstract in any discipline:
1) Motivation/problem statement: Why do we care about the problem? What practical, scientific, theoretical or artistic gap is your research filling?
2) Methods/procedure/approach: What did you actually do to get your results? (e.g. analyzed 3 novels, completed a series of 5 oil paintings, interviewed 17 students)
3) Results/findings/product: As a result of completing the above procedure, what did you learn/invent/create?
4) Conclusion/implications: What are the larger implications of your findings, especially for the problem/gap identified in step 1?