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Report Writing
The Structure of Scientific Report

Unlike an essay, a report has a formalised structure. Taking into account disciplinary differences, scientific or laboratory reports written by undergraduates share the same format as scientific reports written by academics for publication. The sections of a scientific report are:

key-bullet Title
key-bullet Abstract
key-bullet Introduction
key-bullet Method
key-bullet Results
key-bullet Discussion
key-bullet Reference List
key-bullet Appendices

These sections appear in the report in the order they are listed above; however, this is not necessarily the best order in which to write them (O'Shea, 1996). As the abstract is an overview this is most easily and accurately written last. The method and results sections are most probably the easiest sections with which to start if you have completed your experiment as they have a formalised structure (O'Shea, 1996).

Scientific reports that use qualitative research methods (e.g. interviews, participant observation, textual analysis) may be less formally structured that the form outlined above. Although seeking to answer the same questions as a quantitative research report such as:

key-bullet what did you do?


key-bullet what did you find?

there may be less emphasis on those aspects of the report that allow an experiment to be repeated since many qualitative research methods are less able to be replicated exactly (i.e. an interview) (Hay, 1996). The results of qualitative research tend to be confirmed in ways other than through replication. In addition, the results and discussion section of a qualitative research report may often be merged together (Hay, 1996).


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