ARTICLES BY WACEK KIJEWSKI

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# 11 Report Presentation (Part 2) - The Content of the Report

Date: 31/05/2011

Once the format has been determined (for student reports the format is usually, though not always, prescribed by the lecturer), the report writer's task is to arrange the appropriate content under each heading.

  1. The Title. This should tell what the report is about; what the experiment investigates. It should be expressed in the fewest possible words, yet describe the content adequately. It should be brief but not vague, specific and grammatically correct. The title should appear in block letters.

  2. The Introduction, Aim or Objective. This should be a brief, clear statement of the overall purpose of the work being reported on. If appropriate, it is recommended to include sufficient background information so that the reader will not have to refer to previous publications to understand your report. This would include information about previous studies and the theoretical background leading up to this work. Credit the source of any published material used by giving the author(s)' surname and year of publication, then give complete bibliographical entries in the References section at the end of the report. If original research is being reported, the introduction would contain the rationale for the present study: the nature and scope of the problem which prompted the study, the method of study and reason for choosing it, including limitation of the method. The report may contain a Summary, brief accounts of the contents of the report.

  3. Separate "Theory" or "Hypothesis" Sections. A report of research in which a theory or hypothesis is being tested often contains a separate section in which the relevant theory is described in the writer's own words or the hypothesis which the experiment will test is defined.

  4. The Materials and Methods (or Apparatus and Procedure) Section. The overall purpose of this part of the report is to give enough detail about how the experiment was performed to enable a competent person to repeat the experiment. Standard apparatus which the person would know need only be mentioned by name in the text. Any special features in the apparatus may require more details. A labeled diagram of the apparatus, drawn to scale and correctly titled, is generally preferable to a description of the apparatus in words. The diagram or description of the apparatus is followed by a step-by-step summary of what was done with the apparatus. This account should be written in chronological order (where possible) using the third person and past tense of the passive voice ("The glass capillary tube was clamped and a traveling microscope used to measure."). The reasoning should be presented inductively i.e. from particular bases to general conclusions. If subheadings are used in this section they should match those used in the "Results" section. Some formats contain only a "Method" or "Procedure" section, indicating the importance for putting less emphasis on the materials or apparatus used in the experiment than on the way in which they were used. However, please note that reproducibility of experimental results is fundamental to the scientific method of conducting experiments, hence the importance to record conditions of temperature, relative humidity and pressure where applicable and where deviations of these may have a bearing on results.

  5. The Results. In this section, the data obtained from measurements are presented. The data should be representative, not repetitive. Generally speaking, the data are first presented in tables and then summarized in graphs. The tables should be carefully presented with the correct quantities and appropriate units. Quantities and the units for measurements of quantities (m, kg, N, etc.), should be written only in columns heading. They should be numbered and titled, e.g.: "Table 2. Measurement of R". Graphs should be carefully drawn with well chosen scale, clear and correctly labeled. Calculations and error calculations (where applicable) should also be neatly recorded in this section. Following the presentation of data in tables and graphs, the results are often summarised in words. Again, repetition is to be avoided: avoid repeating details from the "Materials and Methods" section or giving information which is to be given later in the "Discussion" section; state clearly in words what are the main findings in the graphs and tables (e.g. "It is shown in Graph 1 that the gradient of the line."). Refer to the tables and graphs by number in the text.

  6. The Discussion. In this section, the "Results" are analysed. Without repeating information from the Results section, the Discussion points out principles, relationships and generalizations shown by the results. The relative significance of the findings is discussed in order to point out which findings are significant or insignificant and also point out exception, lack of correlation, consistency of results and experimental limitations. Where appropriate, the results should be compared with those of previously published work, and theoretical and practical implications discussed. It is expected that the differences that could occur are identified and explained how they affected the experiment. It should be visible to a reader of your understanding of the principles of the conducted experiment. Suggestions may be made for improvement of experiments and the evidence leading to each conclusion may be summarised. If applicable, the error/uncertainty of the result should be calculated. If more than one formula was used, the final, compound error should be found. The degree to which the results confirm the hypothesis may be discussed. If applicable, the uncertainty of the final result could be calculated.

  7. The Conclusion. This section should contain the conclusions of the general findings of the report related to the aim of experiment, not of particular results only. These conclusions should be presented "not as a personal opinion but as though the results were speaking for themselves" (Mitchell, 1974). They should be stated briefly and listed; they should be numbered and grammatically parallel (e.g.: "1. It was found that...; 2. It was found that..."). The writer should be sure that each is a logical conclusion from every aspect of the report and is related to the aim of the work.

  8. References. This section contains a list of the published works referred to in the text. The works may be source of background information to which the reader is referred in the introduction for more details. These are: published reports of experiments leading up to current one or sources consulted in the design and implementation of the experiment for theoretical or procedural information, e.g. textbooks and laboratory manuals. The list of references gives the full bibliographic entry for sources which are referred to in an abbreviated form in the text. In the text, generally only the author's surname and the year of publication, or a reference number are given in brackets:
    1. (15) (NB. This reference number refers to the list of references).
    2. Topping, J., Errors of Observation and their Treatment, Fourth edition, London, Chapman & Hall, London, 1972.
    3. Kijewski, W., The 2011 Edition-SI Units, Conversion and Measurement Skills, George, South Africa, SI-Metric.CopyCat Printing, 2011...
    In the list of references, the author's surname and initials, date of publication, title of the article, title of the book or journal, volume and issue number of journal (if appropriate), ISBN of the book (if appropriate), page number(s), city of publication and name of publisher (if appropriate) are given.

  9. Useful Further Reading. In this section recommend the best books or write-ups on writing - articles on scientific reports and the books related to the aim of the experiment.

General Guidelines:
1. Proofread the report.
2. Pay attention to neatness and clarity of presentation.
3. Write in such a way that later you can easily repeat the experiment

 
 

Do you like anecdotes, interesting and challenging problems, fun facts, puzzles, jokes related to metric system and measurement? Read them in the 2015 on-line edition of "SI Units, Conversion and Measurement Skills",204 pp.