The format described in this document refers to a standard format used by scientists throughout the world. However, your teacher may require another class format more appropriate to your classwork.
As in most professions, communication (both oral and written) is critically important to the scientist. A scientific investigator has not completed her/his work until their research results are available to the scienitifc community via publication. This is done through the publishing of scientific articles and papers. Whether the investigator is working for the governement, a university, or a private firm, the ability to write and communicate clearly is paramount.
In writing scientific papers, it useful to look at it from the perspective of a journalist. The language and style of writing are fairly analogous to that a reporter would use: objective, concise, interesting. The format of a scientific paper is also similar to that of the inverted triangle. For those not familiar with journalistic writing, the inverted triangle first gives a summary of the important information and then starts at the “beginning” and fills in the details.
An interesting aside: The inverted triangle format was developed because news reporters were giving reports over airwaves and their lines kept getting cut off before they had gotten to the essential information. They began putting a summary first so that should the line get cut off, the gist of the story would have been conveyed. This is much how a scientific paper works. Often your “summary” is all that the reader will see.
In scientific writing, you begin with an abstract (the summary), and then an introduction (where you start back at the beginning and introduce background information as to why), the methods fills in the “how and when”, there is a results section (unique to the scientific community), and then this is all tied together in the discussion. To get you started thinking in this format, pay attention next time you read the newspaper or listen to a news reporter. While not exact, this will help you get the idea of how the abstract and the rest of the paper fit together.
Most importantly, your laboratory reports should be professional. The writing should be clear and concise. Cut out ALL unnecessary verbiage and keep it to the bare essentials. This way the reader isn’t lost in excess language. If you want a better example of what is meant by language, check out this site for an example.
Most scientific publications include the following sections: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusions and References . Click on each of these headings below for more detailed information about each of these sections.
* This page was adapted from the work of Christy Tyler and Tana Wood at the University of Virginia