10 simple steps to writing up your experiment – Special Issue: Doing Science

10 simple steps to writing up your experiment – Special Issue: Doing Science – Cover Story

Karen McNulty

You never thought you’d see the end of your experiment, but here you are, headed for the homestretch. There’s just one thing left to do: Write up a report. Your report tells other people (like your teacher) exactly what you did and found. No report, no glory.

But don’t panic. Science project reports usually follow a standard ten-part format. That makes writing them more like filling in the blanks than trying to come up with original ideas that flow like U2 lyrics. Work on just two parts a night, say, and you’ll be finished in less than a week. Here goes:

1. ABSTRACT

Believe it or not, though the abstract comes first, it’s the last thing you write. It’s simply a summary of your whole report–your Purpose, Procedure, Results, and Conclusions. The whole thing should fit on one page and give a quick overview of your research–the general picture.

2. TITLE PAGE

For flair, put your title in the center of a separate page, along with your name, school, grade, and date. The title should identify your independent and dependent variables (see p. 9).

3. TABLE OF CONTENTS

Include a list of the next seven parts of your report and their page numbers (which you won’t know until you’ve written the whole thing).

4. PURPOSE

In two or three sentences, say why you did your experiment–what you were trying to find out. If you had a hypothesis about the outcome (see p. 10), include that here.

5. SPECIAL THANKS

In a few short sentences, thank the people who helped you with your project.

6. BACKGROUND

Here’s where you summarize what you found out about your topic before you began your experiment–from books, encyclopedias, and other people’s research. Explain how that information led you to your hypothesis and experimental setup.

7. MATERIALS AND METHODS

What Materials did you use to do your experiment? Make a list here. Then explain the step-by-step Procedure you followed to collect your data (see p. 14). You may want to include diagrams.

8. RESULTS

Time to display those data tables (see p. 15) and graphs (see p. 19). You might also want to include a few sentences to summarize what they show. No opinions or inferences here–just the facts.

9. CONCLUSIONS

Here’s where you get to interpret your results: Do they support or refute your hypothesis? How do they compare with other information on the same topic? You may include your opinions. And don’t be afraid to admit where you may have made mistakes. If you can think of any ways to improve your experiment, or if you think of new hypotheses you’d like to test, you can include those here too.

10. BIBLIOGRAPHY

List any books, articles, or other sources you used to gather information. (Ask your teacher or a librarian to show you the correct form to use for each source.)

COPYRIGHT 1993 Scholastic, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group