The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Scientific Reports

What this handout is about.

This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you’ve performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we’ll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you’ll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation. Readers of this handout may also find our handout on writing in the sciences useful.

Background and pre-writing

Why do we write research reports.

You did an experiment or study for your science class, and now you have to write it up for your teacher to review. You feel that you understood the background sufficiently, designed and completed the study effectively, obtained useful data, and can use those data to draw conclusions about a scientific process or principle. But how exactly do you write all that? What is your teacher expecting to see?

To take some of the guesswork out of answering these questions, try to think beyond the classroom setting. In fact, you and your teacher are both part of a scientific community, and the people who participate in this community tend to share the same values. As long as you understand and respect these values, your writing will likely meet the expectations of your audience—including your teacher.

So why are you writing this research report? The practical answer is “Because the teacher assigned it,” but that’s classroom thinking. Generally speaking, people investigating some scientific hypothesis have a responsibility to the rest of the scientific world to report their findings, particularly if these findings add to or contradict previous ideas. The people reading such reports have two primary goals:

  • They want to gather the information presented.
  • They want to know that the findings are legitimate.

Your job as a writer, then, is to fulfill these two goals.

How do I do that?

Good question. Here is the basic format scientists have designed for research reports:

  • Introduction

Methods and Materials

This format, sometimes called “IMRAD,” may take slightly different shapes depending on the discipline or audience; some ask you to include an abstract or separate section for the hypothesis, or call the Discussion section “Conclusions,” or change the order of the sections (some professional and academic journals require the Methods section to appear last). Overall, however, the IMRAD format was devised to represent a textual version of the scientific method.

The scientific method, you’ll probably recall, involves developing a hypothesis, testing it, and deciding whether your findings support the hypothesis. In essence, the format for a research report in the sciences mirrors the scientific method but fleshes out the process a little. Below, you’ll find a table that shows how each written section fits into the scientific method and what additional information it offers the reader.

Thinking of your research report as based on the scientific method, but elaborated in the ways described above, may help you to meet your audience’s expectations successfully. We’re going to proceed by explicitly connecting each section of the lab report to the scientific method, then explaining why and how you need to elaborate that section.

Although this handout takes each section in the order in which it should be presented in the final report, you may for practical reasons decide to compose sections in another order. For example, many writers find that composing their Methods and Results before the other sections helps to clarify their idea of the experiment or study as a whole. You might consider using each assignment to practice different approaches to drafting the report, to find the order that works best for you.

What should I do before drafting the lab report?

The best way to prepare to write the lab report is to make sure that you fully understand everything you need to about the experiment. Obviously, if you don’t quite know what went on during the lab, you’re going to find it difficult to explain the lab satisfactorily to someone else. To make sure you know enough to write the report, complete the following steps:

  • What are we going to do in this lab? (That is, what’s the procedure?)
  • Why are we going to do it that way?
  • What are we hoping to learn from this experiment?
  • Why would we benefit from this knowledge?
  • Consult your lab supervisor as you perform the lab. If you don’t know how to answer one of the questions above, for example, your lab supervisor will probably be able to explain it to you (or, at least, help you figure it out).
  • Plan the steps of the experiment carefully with your lab partners. The less you rush, the more likely it is that you’ll perform the experiment correctly and record your findings accurately. Also, take some time to think about the best way to organize the data before you have to start putting numbers down. If you can design a table to account for the data, that will tend to work much better than jotting results down hurriedly on a scrap piece of paper.
  • Record the data carefully so you get them right. You won’t be able to trust your conclusions if you have the wrong data, and your readers will know you messed up if the other three people in your group have “97 degrees” and you have “87.”
  • Consult with your lab partners about everything you do. Lab groups often make one of two mistakes: two people do all the work while two have a nice chat, or everybody works together until the group finishes gathering the raw data, then scrams outta there. Collaborate with your partners, even when the experiment is “over.” What trends did you observe? Was the hypothesis supported? Did you all get the same results? What kind of figure should you use to represent your findings? The whole group can work together to answer these questions.
  • Consider your audience. You may believe that audience is a non-issue: it’s your lab TA, right? Well, yes—but again, think beyond the classroom. If you write with only your lab instructor in mind, you may omit material that is crucial to a complete understanding of your experiment, because you assume the instructor knows all that stuff already. As a result, you may receive a lower grade, since your TA won’t be sure that you understand all the principles at work. Try to write towards a student in the same course but a different lab section. That student will have a fair degree of scientific expertise but won’t know much about your experiment particularly. Alternatively, you could envision yourself five years from now, after the reading and lectures for this course have faded a bit. What would you remember, and what would you need explained more clearly (as a refresher)?

Once you’ve completed these steps as you perform the experiment, you’ll be in a good position to draft an effective lab report.

Introductions

How do i write a strong introduction.

For the purposes of this handout, we’ll consider the Introduction to contain four basic elements: the purpose, the scientific literature relevant to the subject, the hypothesis, and the reasons you believed your hypothesis viable. Let’s start by going through each element of the Introduction to clarify what it covers and why it’s important. Then we can formulate a logical organizational strategy for the section.

The inclusion of the purpose (sometimes called the objective) of the experiment often confuses writers. The biggest misconception is that the purpose is the same as the hypothesis. Not quite. We’ll get to hypotheses in a minute, but basically they provide some indication of what you expect the experiment to show. The purpose is broader, and deals more with what you expect to gain through the experiment. In a professional setting, the hypothesis might have something to do with how cells react to a certain kind of genetic manipulation, but the purpose of the experiment is to learn more about potential cancer treatments. Undergraduate reports don’t often have this wide-ranging a goal, but you should still try to maintain the distinction between your hypothesis and your purpose. In a solubility experiment, for example, your hypothesis might talk about the relationship between temperature and the rate of solubility, but the purpose is probably to learn more about some specific scientific principle underlying the process of solubility.

For starters, most people say that you should write out your working hypothesis before you perform the experiment or study. Many beginning science students neglect to do so and find themselves struggling to remember precisely which variables were involved in the process or in what way the researchers felt that they were related. Write your hypothesis down as you develop it—you’ll be glad you did.

As for the form a hypothesis should take, it’s best not to be too fancy or complicated; an inventive style isn’t nearly so important as clarity here. There’s nothing wrong with beginning your hypothesis with the phrase, “It was hypothesized that . . .” Be as specific as you can about the relationship between the different objects of your study. In other words, explain that when term A changes, term B changes in this particular way. Readers of scientific writing are rarely content with the idea that a relationship between two terms exists—they want to know what that relationship entails.

Not a hypothesis:

“It was hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between the temperature of a solvent and the rate at which a solute dissolves.”

Hypothesis:

“It was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases.”

Put more technically, most hypotheses contain both an independent and a dependent variable. The independent variable is what you manipulate to test the reaction; the dependent variable is what changes as a result of your manipulation. In the example above, the independent variable is the temperature of the solvent, and the dependent variable is the rate of solubility. Be sure that your hypothesis includes both variables.

Justify your hypothesis

You need to do more than tell your readers what your hypothesis is; you also need to assure them that this hypothesis was reasonable, given the circumstances. In other words, use the Introduction to explain that you didn’t just pluck your hypothesis out of thin air. (If you did pluck it out of thin air, your problems with your report will probably extend beyond using the appropriate format.) If you posit that a particular relationship exists between the independent and the dependent variable, what led you to believe your “guess” might be supported by evidence?

Scientists often refer to this type of justification as “motivating” the hypothesis, in the sense that something propelled them to make that prediction. Often, motivation includes what we already know—or rather, what scientists generally accept as true (see “Background/previous research” below). But you can also motivate your hypothesis by relying on logic or on your own observations. If you’re trying to decide which solutes will dissolve more rapidly in a solvent at increased temperatures, you might remember that some solids are meant to dissolve in hot water (e.g., bouillon cubes) and some are used for a function precisely because they withstand higher temperatures (they make saucepans out of something). Or you can think about whether you’ve noticed sugar dissolving more rapidly in your glass of iced tea or in your cup of coffee. Even such basic, outside-the-lab observations can help you justify your hypothesis as reasonable.

Background/previous research

This part of the Introduction demonstrates to the reader your awareness of how you’re building on other scientists’ work. If you think of the scientific community as engaging in a series of conversations about various topics, then you’ll recognize that the relevant background material will alert the reader to which conversation you want to enter.

Generally speaking, authors writing journal articles use the background for slightly different purposes than do students completing assignments. Because readers of academic journals tend to be professionals in the field, authors explain the background in order to permit readers to evaluate the study’s pertinence for their own work. You, on the other hand, write toward a much narrower audience—your peers in the course or your lab instructor—and so you must demonstrate that you understand the context for the (presumably assigned) experiment or study you’ve completed. For example, if your professor has been talking about polarity during lectures, and you’re doing a solubility experiment, you might try to connect the polarity of a solid to its relative solubility in certain solvents. In any event, both professional researchers and undergraduates need to connect the background material overtly to their own work.

Organization of this section

Most of the time, writers begin by stating the purpose or objectives of their own work, which establishes for the reader’s benefit the “nature and scope of the problem investigated” (Day 1994). Once you have expressed your purpose, you should then find it easier to move from the general purpose, to relevant material on the subject, to your hypothesis. In abbreviated form, an Introduction section might look like this:

“The purpose of the experiment was to test conventional ideas about solubility in the laboratory [purpose] . . . According to Whitecoat and Labrat (1999), at higher temperatures the molecules of solvents move more quickly . . . We know from the class lecture that molecules moving at higher rates of speed collide with one another more often and thus break down more easily [background material/motivation] . . . Thus, it was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases [hypothesis].”

Again—these are guidelines, not commandments. Some writers and readers prefer different structures for the Introduction. The one above merely illustrates a common approach to organizing material.

How do I write a strong Materials and Methods section?

As with any piece of writing, your Methods section will succeed only if it fulfills its readers’ expectations, so you need to be clear in your own mind about the purpose of this section. Let’s review the purpose as we described it above: in this section, you want to describe in detail how you tested the hypothesis you developed and also to clarify the rationale for your procedure. In science, it’s not sufficient merely to design and carry out an experiment. Ultimately, others must be able to verify your findings, so your experiment must be reproducible, to the extent that other researchers can follow the same procedure and obtain the same (or similar) results.

Here’s a real-world example of the importance of reproducibility. In 1989, physicists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman announced that they had discovered “cold fusion,” a way of producing excess heat and power without the nuclear radiation that accompanies “hot fusion.” Such a discovery could have great ramifications for the industrial production of energy, so these findings created a great deal of interest. When other scientists tried to duplicate the experiment, however, they didn’t achieve the same results, and as a result many wrote off the conclusions as unjustified (or worse, a hoax). To this day, the viability of cold fusion is debated within the scientific community, even though an increasing number of researchers believe it possible. So when you write your Methods section, keep in mind that you need to describe your experiment well enough to allow others to replicate it exactly.

With these goals in mind, let’s consider how to write an effective Methods section in terms of content, structure, and style.

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing this section isn’t what you should talk about, but what you shouldn’t talk about. Writers often want to include the results of their experiment, because they measured and recorded the results during the course of the experiment. But such data should be reserved for the Results section. In the Methods section, you can write that you recorded the results, or how you recorded the results (e.g., in a table), but you shouldn’t write what the results were—not yet. Here, you’re merely stating exactly how you went about testing your hypothesis. As you draft your Methods section, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much detail? Be precise in providing details, but stay relevant. Ask yourself, “Would it make any difference if this piece were a different size or made from a different material?” If not, you probably don’t need to get too specific. If so, you should give as many details as necessary to prevent this experiment from going awry if someone else tries to carry it out. Probably the most crucial detail is measurement; you should always quantify anything you can, such as time elapsed, temperature, mass, volume, etc.
  • Rationale: Be sure that as you’re relating your actions during the experiment, you explain your rationale for the protocol you developed. If you capped a test tube immediately after adding a solute to a solvent, why did you do that? (That’s really two questions: why did you cap it, and why did you cap it immediately?) In a professional setting, writers provide their rationale as a way to explain their thinking to potential critics. On one hand, of course, that’s your motivation for talking about protocol, too. On the other hand, since in practical terms you’re also writing to your teacher (who’s seeking to evaluate how well you comprehend the principles of the experiment), explaining the rationale indicates that you understand the reasons for conducting the experiment in that way, and that you’re not just following orders. Critical thinking is crucial—robots don’t make good scientists.
  • Control: Most experiments will include a control, which is a means of comparing experimental results. (Sometimes you’ll need to have more than one control, depending on the number of hypotheses you want to test.) The control is exactly the same as the other items you’re testing, except that you don’t manipulate the independent variable-the condition you’re altering to check the effect on the dependent variable. For example, if you’re testing solubility rates at increased temperatures, your control would be a solution that you didn’t heat at all; that way, you’ll see how quickly the solute dissolves “naturally” (i.e., without manipulation), and you’ll have a point of reference against which to compare the solutions you did heat.

Describe the control in the Methods section. Two things are especially important in writing about the control: identify the control as a control, and explain what you’re controlling for. Here is an example:

“As a control for the temperature change, we placed the same amount of solute in the same amount of solvent, and let the solution stand for five minutes without heating it.”

Structure and style

Organization is especially important in the Methods section of a lab report because readers must understand your experimental procedure completely. Many writers are surprised by the difficulty of conveying what they did during the experiment, since after all they’re only reporting an event, but it’s often tricky to present this information in a coherent way. There’s a fairly standard structure you can use to guide you, and following the conventions for style can help clarify your points.

  • Subsections: Occasionally, researchers use subsections to report their procedure when the following circumstances apply: 1) if they’ve used a great many materials; 2) if the procedure is unusually complicated; 3) if they’ve developed a procedure that won’t be familiar to many of their readers. Because these conditions rarely apply to the experiments you’ll perform in class, most undergraduate lab reports won’t require you to use subsections. In fact, many guides to writing lab reports suggest that you try to limit your Methods section to a single paragraph.
  • Narrative structure: Think of this section as telling a story about a group of people and the experiment they performed. Describe what you did in the order in which you did it. You may have heard the old joke centered on the line, “Disconnect the red wire, but only after disconnecting the green wire,” where the person reading the directions blows everything to kingdom come because the directions weren’t in order. We’re used to reading about events chronologically, and so your readers will generally understand what you did if you present that information in the same way. Also, since the Methods section does generally appear as a narrative (story), you want to avoid the “recipe” approach: “First, take a clean, dry 100 ml test tube from the rack. Next, add 50 ml of distilled water.” You should be reporting what did happen, not telling the reader how to perform the experiment: “50 ml of distilled water was poured into a clean, dry 100 ml test tube.” Hint: most of the time, the recipe approach comes from copying down the steps of the procedure from your lab manual, so you may want to draft the Methods section initially without consulting your manual. Later, of course, you can go back and fill in any part of the procedure you inadvertently overlooked.
  • Past tense: Remember that you’re describing what happened, so you should use past tense to refer to everything you did during the experiment. Writers are often tempted to use the imperative (“Add 5 g of the solid to the solution”) because that’s how their lab manuals are worded; less frequently, they use present tense (“5 g of the solid are added to the solution”). Instead, remember that you’re talking about an event which happened at a particular time in the past, and which has already ended by the time you start writing, so simple past tense will be appropriate in this section (“5 g of the solid were added to the solution” or “We added 5 g of the solid to the solution”).
  • Active: We heated the solution to 80°C. (The subject, “we,” performs the action, heating.)
  • Passive: The solution was heated to 80°C. (The subject, “solution,” doesn’t do the heating–it is acted upon, not acting.)

Increasingly, especially in the social sciences, using first person and active voice is acceptable in scientific reports. Most readers find that this style of writing conveys information more clearly and concisely. This rhetorical choice thus brings two scientific values into conflict: objectivity versus clarity. Since the scientific community hasn’t reached a consensus about which style it prefers, you may want to ask your lab instructor.

How do I write a strong Results section?

Here’s a paradox for you. The Results section is often both the shortest (yay!) and most important (uh-oh!) part of your report. Your Materials and Methods section shows how you obtained the results, and your Discussion section explores the significance of the results, so clearly the Results section forms the backbone of the lab report. This section provides the most critical information about your experiment: the data that allow you to discuss how your hypothesis was or wasn’t supported. But it doesn’t provide anything else, which explains why this section is generally shorter than the others.

Before you write this section, look at all the data you collected to figure out what relates significantly to your hypothesis. You’ll want to highlight this material in your Results section. Resist the urge to include every bit of data you collected, since perhaps not all are relevant. Also, don’t try to draw conclusions about the results—save them for the Discussion section. In this section, you’re reporting facts. Nothing your readers can dispute should appear in the Results section.

Most Results sections feature three distinct parts: text, tables, and figures. Let’s consider each part one at a time.

This should be a short paragraph, generally just a few lines, that describes the results you obtained from your experiment. In a relatively simple experiment, one that doesn’t produce a lot of data for you to repeat, the text can represent the entire Results section. Don’t feel that you need to include lots of extraneous detail to compensate for a short (but effective) text; your readers appreciate discrimination more than your ability to recite facts. In a more complex experiment, you may want to use tables and/or figures to help guide your readers toward the most important information you gathered. In that event, you’ll need to refer to each table or figure directly, where appropriate:

“Table 1 lists the rates of solubility for each substance”

“Solubility increased as the temperature of the solution increased (see Figure 1).”

If you do use tables or figures, make sure that you don’t present the same material in both the text and the tables/figures, since in essence you’ll just repeat yourself, probably annoying your readers with the redundancy of your statements.

Feel free to describe trends that emerge as you examine the data. Although identifying trends requires some judgment on your part and so may not feel like factual reporting, no one can deny that these trends do exist, and so they properly belong in the Results section. Example:

“Heating the solution increased the rate of solubility of polar solids by 45% but had no effect on the rate of solubility in solutions containing non-polar solids.”

This point isn’t debatable—you’re just pointing out what the data show.

As in the Materials and Methods section, you want to refer to your data in the past tense, because the events you recorded have already occurred and have finished occurring. In the example above, note the use of “increased” and “had,” rather than “increases” and “has.” (You don’t know from your experiment that heating always increases the solubility of polar solids, but it did that time.)

You shouldn’t put information in the table that also appears in the text. You also shouldn’t use a table to present irrelevant data, just to show you did collect these data during the experiment. Tables are good for some purposes and situations, but not others, so whether and how you’ll use tables depends upon what you need them to accomplish.

Tables are useful ways to show variation in data, but not to present a great deal of unchanging measurements. If you’re dealing with a scientific phenomenon that occurs only within a certain range of temperatures, for example, you don’t need to use a table to show that the phenomenon didn’t occur at any of the other temperatures. How useful is this table?

A table labeled Effect of Temperature on Rate of Solubility with temperature of solvent values in 10-degree increments from -20 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius that does not show a corresponding rate of solubility value until 50 degrees Celsius.

As you can probably see, no solubility was observed until the trial temperature reached 50°C, a fact that the text part of the Results section could easily convey. The table could then be limited to what happened at 50°C and higher, thus better illustrating the differences in solubility rates when solubility did occur.

As a rule, try not to use a table to describe any experimental event you can cover in one sentence of text. Here’s an example of an unnecessary table from How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , by Robert A. Day:

A table labeled Oxygen requirements of various species of Streptomyces showing the names of organisms and two columns that indicate growth under aerobic conditions and growth under anaerobic conditions with a plus or minus symbol for each organism in the growth columns to indicate value.

As Day notes, all the information in this table can be summarized in one sentence: “S. griseus, S. coelicolor, S. everycolor, and S. rainbowenski grew under aerobic conditions, whereas S. nocolor and S. greenicus required anaerobic conditions.” Most readers won’t find the table clearer than that one sentence.

When you do have reason to tabulate material, pay attention to the clarity and readability of the format you use. Here are a few tips:

  • Number your table. Then, when you refer to the table in the text, use that number to tell your readers which table they can review to clarify the material.
  • Give your table a title. This title should be descriptive enough to communicate the contents of the table, but not so long that it becomes difficult to follow. The titles in the sample tables above are acceptable.
  • Arrange your table so that readers read vertically, not horizontally. For the most part, this rule means that you should construct your table so that like elements read down, not across. Think about what you want your readers to compare, and put that information in the column (up and down) rather than in the row (across). Usually, the point of comparison will be the numerical data you collect, so especially make sure you have columns of numbers, not rows.Here’s an example of how drastically this decision affects the readability of your table (from A Short Guide to Writing about Chemistry , by Herbert Beall and John Trimbur). Look at this table, which presents the relevant data in horizontal rows:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in rows horizontally.

It’s a little tough to see the trends that the author presumably wants to present in this table. Compare this table, in which the data appear vertically:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in columns vertically.

The second table shows how putting like elements in a vertical column makes for easier reading. In this case, the like elements are the measurements of length and height, over five trials–not, as in the first table, the length and height measurements for each trial.

  • Make sure to include units of measurement in the tables. Readers might be able to guess that you measured something in millimeters, but don’t make them try.
  • Don’t use vertical lines as part of the format for your table. This convention exists because journals prefer not to have to reproduce these lines because the tables then become more expensive to print. Even though it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be sending your Biology 11 lab report to Science for publication, your readers still have this expectation. Consequently, if you use the table-drawing option in your word-processing software, choose the option that doesn’t rely on a “grid” format (which includes vertical lines).

How do I include figures in my report?

Although tables can be useful ways of showing trends in the results you obtained, figures (i.e., illustrations) can do an even better job of emphasizing such trends. Lab report writers often use graphic representations of the data they collected to provide their readers with a literal picture of how the experiment went.

When should you use a figure?

Remember the circumstances under which you don’t need a table: when you don’t have a great deal of data or when the data you have don’t vary a lot. Under the same conditions, you would probably forgo the figure as well, since the figure would be unlikely to provide your readers with an additional perspective. Scientists really don’t like their time wasted, so they tend not to respond favorably to redundancy.

If you’re trying to decide between using a table and creating a figure to present your material, consider the following a rule of thumb. The strength of a table lies in its ability to supply large amounts of exact data, whereas the strength of a figure is its dramatic illustration of important trends within the experiment. If you feel that your readers won’t get the full impact of the results you obtained just by looking at the numbers, then a figure might be appropriate.

Of course, an undergraduate class may expect you to create a figure for your lab experiment, if only to make sure that you can do so effectively. If this is the case, then don’t worry about whether to use figures or not—concentrate instead on how best to accomplish your task.

Figures can include maps, photographs, pen-and-ink drawings, flow charts, bar graphs, and section graphs (“pie charts”). But the most common figure by far, especially for undergraduates, is the line graph, so we’ll focus on that type in this handout.

At the undergraduate level, you can often draw and label your graphs by hand, provided that the result is clear, legible, and drawn to scale. Computer technology has, however, made creating line graphs a lot easier. Most word-processing software has a number of functions for transferring data into graph form; many scientists have found Microsoft Excel, for example, a helpful tool in graphing results. If you plan on pursuing a career in the sciences, it may be well worth your while to learn to use a similar program.

Computers can’t, however, decide for you how your graph really works; you have to know how to design your graph to meet your readers’ expectations. Here are some of these expectations:

  • Keep it as simple as possible. You may be tempted to signal the complexity of the information you gathered by trying to design a graph that accounts for that complexity. But remember the purpose of your graph: to dramatize your results in a manner that’s easy to see and grasp. Try not to make the reader stare at the graph for a half hour to find the important line among the mass of other lines. For maximum effectiveness, limit yourself to three to five lines per graph; if you have more data to demonstrate, use a set of graphs to account for it, rather than trying to cram it all into a single figure.
  • Plot the independent variable on the horizontal (x) axis and the dependent variable on the vertical (y) axis. Remember that the independent variable is the condition that you manipulated during the experiment and the dependent variable is the condition that you measured to see if it changed along with the independent variable. Placing the variables along their respective axes is mostly just a convention, but since your readers are accustomed to viewing graphs in this way, you’re better off not challenging the convention in your report.
  • Label each axis carefully, and be especially careful to include units of measure. You need to make sure that your readers understand perfectly well what your graph indicates.
  • Number and title your graphs. As with tables, the title of the graph should be informative but concise, and you should refer to your graph by number in the text (e.g., “Figure 1 shows the increase in the solubility rate as a function of temperature”).
  • Many editors of professional scientific journals prefer that writers distinguish the lines in their graphs by attaching a symbol to them, usually a geometric shape (triangle, square, etc.), and using that symbol throughout the curve of the line. Generally, readers have a hard time distinguishing dotted lines from dot-dash lines from straight lines, so you should consider staying away from this system. Editors don’t usually like different-colored lines within a graph because colors are difficult and expensive to reproduce; colors may, however, be great for your purposes, as long as you’re not planning to submit your paper to Nature. Use your discretion—try to employ whichever technique dramatizes the results most effectively.
  • Try to gather data at regular intervals, so the plot points on your graph aren’t too far apart. You can’t be sure of the arc you should draw between the plot points if the points are located at the far corners of the graph; over a fifteen-minute interval, perhaps the change occurred in the first or last thirty seconds of that period (in which case your straight-line connection between the points is misleading).
  • If you’re worried that you didn’t collect data at sufficiently regular intervals during your experiment, go ahead and connect the points with a straight line, but you may want to examine this problem as part of your Discussion section.
  • Make your graph large enough so that everything is legible and clearly demarcated, but not so large that it either overwhelms the rest of the Results section or provides a far greater range than you need to illustrate your point. If, for example, the seedlings of your plant grew only 15 mm during the trial, you don’t need to construct a graph that accounts for 100 mm of growth. The lines in your graph should more or less fill the space created by the axes; if you see that your data is confined to the lower left portion of the graph, you should probably re-adjust your scale.
  • If you create a set of graphs, make them the same size and format, including all the verbal and visual codes (captions, symbols, scale, etc.). You want to be as consistent as possible in your illustrations, so that your readers can easily make the comparisons you’re trying to get them to see.

How do I write a strong Discussion section?

The discussion section is probably the least formalized part of the report, in that you can’t really apply the same structure to every type of experiment. In simple terms, here you tell your readers what to make of the Results you obtained. If you have done the Results part well, your readers should already recognize the trends in the data and have a fairly clear idea of whether your hypothesis was supported. Because the Results can seem so self-explanatory, many students find it difficult to know what material to add in this last section.

Basically, the Discussion contains several parts, in no particular order, but roughly moving from specific (i.e., related to your experiment only) to general (how your findings fit in the larger scientific community). In this section, you will, as a rule, need to:

Explain whether the data support your hypothesis

  • Acknowledge any anomalous data or deviations from what you expected

Derive conclusions, based on your findings, about the process you’re studying

  • Relate your findings to earlier work in the same area (if you can)

Explore the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings

Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for each of these objectives.

This statement is usually a good way to begin the Discussion, since you can’t effectively speak about the larger scientific value of your study until you’ve figured out the particulars of this experiment. You might begin this part of the Discussion by explicitly stating the relationships or correlations your data indicate between the independent and dependent variables. Then you can show more clearly why you believe your hypothesis was or was not supported. For example, if you tested solubility at various temperatures, you could start this section by noting that the rates of solubility increased as the temperature increased. If your initial hypothesis surmised that temperature change would not affect solubility, you would then say something like,

“The hypothesis that temperature change would not affect solubility was not supported by the data.”

Note: Students tend to view labs as practical tests of undeniable scientific truths. As a result, you may want to say that the hypothesis was “proved” or “disproved” or that it was “correct” or “incorrect.” These terms, however, reflect a degree of certainty that you as a scientist aren’t supposed to have. Remember, you’re testing a theory with a procedure that lasts only a few hours and relies on only a few trials, which severely compromises your ability to be sure about the “truth” you see. Words like “supported,” “indicated,” and “suggested” are more acceptable ways to evaluate your hypothesis.

Also, recognize that saying whether the data supported your hypothesis or not involves making a claim to be defended. As such, you need to show the readers that this claim is warranted by the evidence. Make sure that you’re very explicit about the relationship between the evidence and the conclusions you draw from it. This process is difficult for many writers because we don’t often justify conclusions in our regular lives. For example, you might nudge your friend at a party and whisper, “That guy’s drunk,” and once your friend lays eyes on the person in question, she might readily agree. In a scientific paper, by contrast, you would need to defend your claim more thoroughly by pointing to data such as slurred words, unsteady gait, and the lampshade-as-hat. In addition to pointing out these details, you would also need to show how (according to previous studies) these signs are consistent with inebriation, especially if they occur in conjunction with one another. To put it another way, tell your readers exactly how you got from point A (was the hypothesis supported?) to point B (yes/no).

Acknowledge any anomalous data, or deviations from what you expected

You need to take these exceptions and divergences into account, so that you qualify your conclusions sufficiently. For obvious reasons, your readers will doubt your authority if you (deliberately or inadvertently) overlook a key piece of data that doesn’t square with your perspective on what occurred. In a more philosophical sense, once you’ve ignored evidence that contradicts your claims, you’ve departed from the scientific method. The urge to “tidy up” the experiment is often strong, but if you give in to it you’re no longer performing good science.

Sometimes after you’ve performed a study or experiment, you realize that some part of the methods you used to test your hypothesis was flawed. In that case, it’s OK to suggest that if you had the chance to conduct your test again, you might change the design in this or that specific way in order to avoid such and such a problem. The key to making this approach work, though, is to be very precise about the weakness in your experiment, why and how you think that weakness might have affected your data, and how you would alter your protocol to eliminate—or limit the effects of—that weakness. Often, inexperienced researchers and writers feel the need to account for “wrong” data (remember, there’s no such animal), and so they speculate wildly about what might have screwed things up. These speculations include such factors as the unusually hot temperature in the room, or the possibility that their lab partners read the meters wrong, or the potentially defective equipment. These explanations are what scientists call “cop-outs,” or “lame”; don’t indicate that the experiment had a weakness unless you’re fairly certain that a) it really occurred and b) you can explain reasonably well how that weakness affected your results.

If, for example, your hypothesis dealt with the changes in solubility at different temperatures, then try to figure out what you can rationally say about the process of solubility more generally. If you’re doing an undergraduate lab, chances are that the lab will connect in some way to the material you’ve been covering either in lecture or in your reading, so you might choose to return to these resources as a way to help you think clearly about the process as a whole.

This part of the Discussion section is another place where you need to make sure that you’re not overreaching. Again, nothing you’ve found in one study would remotely allow you to claim that you now “know” something, or that something isn’t “true,” or that your experiment “confirmed” some principle or other. Hesitate before you go out on a limb—it’s dangerous! Use less absolutely conclusive language, including such words as “suggest,” “indicate,” “correspond,” “possibly,” “challenge,” etc.

Relate your findings to previous work in the field (if possible)

We’ve been talking about how to show that you belong in a particular community (such as biologists or anthropologists) by writing within conventions that they recognize and accept. Another is to try to identify a conversation going on among members of that community, and use your work to contribute to that conversation. In a larger philosophical sense, scientists can’t fully understand the value of their research unless they have some sense of the context that provoked and nourished it. That is, you have to recognize what’s new about your project (potentially, anyway) and how it benefits the wider body of scientific knowledge. On a more pragmatic level, especially for undergraduates, connecting your lab work to previous research will demonstrate to the TA that you see the big picture. You have an opportunity, in the Discussion section, to distinguish yourself from the students in your class who aren’t thinking beyond the barest facts of the study. Capitalize on this opportunity by putting your own work in context.

If you’re just beginning to work in the natural sciences (as a first-year biology or chemistry student, say), most likely the work you’ll be doing has already been performed and re-performed to a satisfactory degree. Hence, you could probably point to a similar experiment or study and compare/contrast your results and conclusions. More advanced work may deal with an issue that is somewhat less “resolved,” and so previous research may take the form of an ongoing debate, and you can use your own work to weigh in on that debate. If, for example, researchers are hotly disputing the value of herbal remedies for the common cold, and the results of your study suggest that Echinacea diminishes the symptoms but not the actual presence of the cold, then you might want to take some time in the Discussion section to recapitulate the specifics of the dispute as it relates to Echinacea as an herbal remedy. (Consider that you have probably already written in the Introduction about this debate as background research.)

This information is often the best way to end your Discussion (and, for all intents and purposes, the report). In argumentative writing generally, you want to use your closing words to convey the main point of your writing. This main point can be primarily theoretical (“Now that you understand this information, you’re in a better position to understand this larger issue”) or primarily practical (“You can use this information to take such and such an action”). In either case, the concluding statements help the reader to comprehend the significance of your project and your decision to write about it.

Since a lab report is argumentative—after all, you’re investigating a claim, and judging the legitimacy of that claim by generating and collecting evidence—it’s often a good idea to end your report with the same technique for establishing your main point. If you want to go the theoretical route, you might talk about the consequences your study has for the field or phenomenon you’re investigating. To return to the examples regarding solubility, you could end by reflecting on what your work on solubility as a function of temperature tells us (potentially) about solubility in general. (Some folks consider this type of exploration “pure” as opposed to “applied” science, although these labels can be problematic.) If you want to go the practical route, you could end by speculating about the medical, institutional, or commercial implications of your findings—in other words, answer the question, “What can this study help people to do?” In either case, you’re going to make your readers’ experience more satisfying, by helping them see why they spent their time learning what you had to teach them.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Beall, Herbert, and John Trimbur. 2001. A Short Guide to Writing About Chemistry , 2nd ed. New York: Longman.

Blum, Deborah, and Mary Knudson. 1997. A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers . New York: Oxford University Press.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Briscoe, Mary Helen. 1996. Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications , 2nd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Council of Science Editors. 2014. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers , 8th ed. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Davis, Martha. 2012. Scientific Papers and Presentations , 3rd ed. London: Academic Press.

Day, Robert A. 1994. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , 4th ed. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

Porush, David. 1995. A Short Guide to Writing About Science . New York: Longman.

Williams, Joseph, and Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace , 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Write a Scientific Paper: Practical Guidelines

Edgard delvin.

1 Centre de recherche, CHU Sainte-Justine

2 Département de Biochimie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada

Tahir S. Pillay

3 Department of Chemical Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria

4 Division of Chemical Pathology, University of Cape Town

5 National Health Laboratory Service, CTshwane Academic Division, Pretoria, South Africa

Anthony Newman

6 Life Sciences Department, Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Precise, accurate and clear writing is essential for communicating in health sciences, as publication is an important component in the university criteria for academic promotion and in obtaining funding to support research. In spite of this, the development of writing skills is a subject infrequently included in the curricula of faculties of medicine and allied health sciences. Therefore clinical investigators require tools to fill this gap. The present paper presents a brief historical background to medical publication and practical guidelines for writing scientific papers for acceptance in good journals.

INTRODUCTION

A scientific paper is the formal lasting record of a research process. It is meant to document research protocols, methods, results and conclusions derived from an initial working hypothesis. The first medical accounts date back to antiquity. Imhotep, Pharaoh of the 3 rd Dynasty, could be considered the founder of ancient Egyptian medicine as he has been credited with being the original author of what is now known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus ( Figure 1 ). The Papyrus, by giving some details on cures and anatomical observations, sets the basis of the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of numerous diseases. Closer to the Common Era, in 460 BCE, Hippocrates wrote 70 books on medicine. In 1020, the Golden age of the Muslim Culture, Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna ( Figure 2a ), recorded the Canon of medicine that was to become the most used medical text in Europe and Middle East for almost half a millennium. This was followed in the beginning of the 12 th Century bytheextensivetreatiseofMaimonides( Figure 2b ) (Moses ben Maimon) on Greek and Middle Eastern medicine. Of interest, by the end of the 11 th Century Trotula di Ruggiero, a woman physician, wrote several influential books on women’s ailment. A number of other hallmark treatises also became more accessible, thanks to the introduction of the printing press that allowed standardization of the texts. One example is the De Humani Corporis Fabrica by Vesalius which contains hundreds of illustrations of human dissection. Thomas A Lang provides an excellent concise history of scientific publications [ 1 ]. These were the days when writing and publishing scientific or philosophical works were the privilege of the few and hence there was no or little competition and no recorded peer reviewing system. Times have however changed, and contemporary scientists have to compose with an increasingly harsh competition in attracting editors and publishers attention. As an example, the number of reports and reviews on obesity and diabetes has increased from 400 to close to 4000/year and 50 to 600/year respectively over a period of 20 years ( Figure 3 ). The present article, essentially based on TA Lang’s guide for writing a scientific paper [ 1 ], will summarize the steps involved in the process of writing a scientific report and in increasing the likelihood of its acceptance.

This manuscript, written in 1600 BCE, is regarded as a copy of several earlier works ( 3000 BCE). It is part of a textbook on surgery the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of numerous ailments. BCE: Before the Common Era.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus (≈3000 BCE)

Figure 2a Avicenna 973-1037 C.E.Figure 2b Maimonides, 1135-1204 C.E.

Avicenna and Maimonides

Orange columns: original research papers; Green columns: reviews

Annual publication load in the field of obesity and diabetes over 20 years.

Reasons for publishing are varied. One may write to achieve a post-graduate degree, to obtain funding for pursuing research or for academic promotion. While all 3 reasons are perfectly legitimate, one must ask whether they are sufficient to be considered by editors, publishers and reviewers. Why then should the scientist write? The main reason is to provide to the scientific community data based on hypotheses that are innovative and thus to advance the understanding in a specific domain. One word of caution however, is that if a set of experiments has not been done or reported, it does not mean that it should be. It may simply reflect a lack of interest in it.

DECIDING ON PUBLISHING AND TARGETING THE JOURNAL

In order to assist with the decision process, pres-ent your work orally first to colleagues in your field who may be more experienced in publishing. This step will help you in gauging whether your work is publishable and in shaping the paper.

Targeting the journal, in which you want to present your data, is also a critical step and should be done before starting to write. One hint is to look for journals that have published similar work to yours, and that aims readers most likely to be interested in your research. This will allow your article to be well read and cited. These journals are also those that you are most likely to read on a regular basis and to cite abundantly. The next step is to decide whether you submit your manuscript to a top-ranking impact factor journal or to a journal of lower prestige. Although it is tempting to test the waters, or to obtain reviewers comments, be realistic about the contribution your work provides and submit to a journal with an appropriate rank.

Do not forget that each rejection delays publication and that the basin of reviewers within your specialty is shallow. Thus repeated submission to different journals could likely result in having your work submitted for review to the same re-viewer.

DECIDING ON THE TYPE OF MANUSCRIPT

There are several types of scientific reports: observational, experimental, methodological, theoretical and review. Observational studies include 1) single-case report, 2) collective case reports on a series of patients having for example common signs and symptoms or being followed-up with similar protocols, 3) cross-sectional, 4) cohort studies, and 5) case-control studies. The latter 3 could be perceived as epidemiological studies as they may help establishing the prevalence of a condition, and identify a defined population with and without a particular condition (disease, injury, surgical complication). Experimental reports deal with research that tests a research hypothesis through an established protocol, and, in the case of health sciences, formulate plausible explanations for changes in biological systems. Methodological reports address for example advances in analytical technology, statistical methods and diagnostic approach. Theoretical reports suggest new working hypotheses and principles that have to be supported or disproved through experimental protocols. The review category can be sub-classified as narrative, systematic and meta-analytic. Narrative reviews are often broad overviews that could be biased as they are based on the personal experience of an expert relying on articles of his or her own choice. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are based on reproducible procedures and on high quality data. Researchers systematically identify and analyze all data collected in articles that test the same working hypothesis, avoiding selection bias, and report the data in a systematic fashion. They are particularly helpful in asking important questions in the field of healthcare and are often the initial step for innovative research. Rules or guidelines in writing such report must be followed if a quality systematic review is to be published.

For clinical research trials and systematic reviews or meta-analyses, use the Consort Statement (Consolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials) and the PRISMA Statement (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses) respectively [ 2 , 3 ]. This assures the editors and the reviewers that essential elements of the trials and of the reviews were tackled. It also speeds the peer review process. There are several other Statements that apply to epidemiological studies [ 4 ], non-randomized clinical trials [ 5 ], diagnostic test development ( 6 ) and genetic association studies ( 7 ). The Consortium of Laboratory Medicine Journal Editors has also published guidelines for reporting industry-sponsored laboratory research ( 8 ).

INITIAL STEPS IN THE PROCESS OF WRITING A SCIENTIFIC DOCUMENT

Literature review is the initial and essential step before starting your study and writing the scientific report based on it. In this process use multiple databases, multiple keyword combinations. It will allow you to track the latest development in your field and thus avoid you to find out that someone else has performed the study before you, and hence decrease the originality of your study. Do not forget that high-ranking research journals publish results of enough importance and interest to merit their publication.

Determining the authorship and the order of authorship, an ethical issue, is the second essential step, and is unfortunately often neglected. This step may avoid later conflicts as, despite existing guidelines, it remains a sensitive issue owing to personal biases and the internal politics of institutions. The International Committee of Medical Editors has adopted the following guidelines for the biomedical sciences ( 9 ).

“Authorship credit should be based only on: 1) Substantial contributions to the conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) Final approval of the version to be published. Conditions 1, 2 and 3 must be all met. Acquisition of funding, the collections of data, or general supervision of the research group, by themselves, do not justify authorship.” ( 9 , 10 )

The order of authorship should reflect the individual contribution to the research and to the publication, from most to least ( 11 ). The first author usually carries out the lead for the project reported. However the last author is often mistakenly perceived as the senior author. This is perpetuated from the European tradition and is discouraged. As there are divergent conventions among journals, the order of authorship order may or may not reflect the individual contributions; with the exception that the first author should be the one most responsible for the work.

WRITING EFFECTIVELY

Effective writing requires that the text helps the readers 1) understand the content and the context, 2) remember what the salient points are, 3) find the information rapidly and, 4) use or apply the information given. These cardinal qualities should be adorned with the precise usage of the language, clarity of the text, inclu-siveness of the information, and conciseness. Effective writing also means that you have to focus on the potential readers’ needs. Readers in science are informed individuals who are not passive, and who will formulate their own opinion of your writing whether or not the meaning is clear. Therefore you need to know who your audience is. The following 4 questions should help you writing a reader-based text, meaning written to meet the information needs of readers [ 12 ].

What do you assume your readers already know? In other words, which terms and concepts can you use without explanation, and which do you have to define?

What do they want to know? Readers in science will read only if they think they will learn something of value.

What do they need to know? Your text must contain all the information necessary for the reader to understand it, even if you think this information id obvious to them.

What do they think they know that is not so? Correcting misconceptions can be an important function of communication, and persuading readers to change their minds can be a challenging task.

WRITING THE SCIENTIFIC PAPER

Babbs and Tacker ’ s advice to write as much of the paper before performing the research project or experimental protocol may, at first sight, seem unexpected and counterintuitive [ 13 ], but in fact it is exactly what is being done when writing a research grant application. It will allow you to define the authorship alluded to before. The following section will briefly review the structure of the different sections of a manuscript and describe their purpose.

Reading the instructions to authors of the Journal you have decided to submit your manuscript is the first important step. They provide you with the specific requirements such as the way of listing the authors, type of abstract, word, figure or table limits and citation style. The Mulford Library of University of Toledo website contains instructions to authors for over 3000 journals ( http://mulford.meduoiho.edu/instr/ ).

The general organization of an article follows the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion). These may however vary. For instance, in clinical research or epidemiology studies, the methods section will include details on the subjects included, and there will be a statement of the limitation of the study. Although conclusions may not always be part of the structure, we believe that it should, even in methodological reports.

The tile page provides essential information so that the editor, reviewers, and readers will identify the manuscript and the authors at a glance as well as enabling them to classify the field to which the article pertains.

The title page must contain the following:

  • The tile of the article – it is an important part of the manuscript as it is the most often read and will induce the interested readers to pursue further. Therefore the title should be precise, accurate, specific and truthful;
  • Each author’s given name (it may be the full name or initials) and family name;
  • Each author’s affiliation;
  • Some journals ask for highest academic degree;
  • A running title that is usually limited to a number of characters. It must relate to the full title;
  • Key words that will serve for indexing;
  • For clinical studies, the trial’s registration number;
  • The name of the corresponding author with full contact information.

The abstract is also an important section of your manuscript. Importantly, the abstract is the part of the article that your peers will see when consulting publication databases such as PubMed. It is the advertisement to your work and will strongly influence the editor deciding whether it will be submitted to reviewers or not. It will also help the readers decide to read the full article. Hence it has to be comprehensible on its own. Writing an abstract is challenging. You have to carefully select the content and, while being concise, assure to deliver the essence of your manuscript.

Without going into details, there are 3 types of abstracts: descriptive, informative and structured. The descriptive abstract is particularly used for theoretical, methodological or review articles. It usually consists of a single paragraph of 150 words or less. The informative abstract, the most common one, contains specific information given in the article and, are organized with an introduction (background, objectives), methods, results and discussion with or without conclusion. They usually are 150 to 250 words in length. The structured abstract is in essence an informative abstract with sections labeled with headings. They may also be longer and are limited to 250 to 300 words. Recent technology also allows for graphical or even video abstracts. The latter are interesting in the context of cell biology as they enable the investigator to illustrate ex vivo experiment results (phagocytosis process for example).

Qualities of abstracts:

  • Understood without reading the full paper. Shoul dcontain no abbreviations.lf abbreviations are used, they must be defined. This however removes space for more important information;
  • Contains information consistent with the full report. Conclusions in the abstract must match those given in the full report;
  • Is attractive and contains information needed to decide whether to read the full report.

Introduction

The introduction has 3 main goals: to establish the need and importance of your research, to indicate how you have filled the knowledge gap in your field and to give your readers a hint of what they will learn when reading your paper. To fulfil these goals, a four-part introduction consisting of a background statement, a problem statement, an activity statement and a forecasting statement, is best suited. Poorly defined background information and problem setting are the 2 most common weaknesses encountered in introductions. They stem from the false perception that peer readers know what the issue is and why the study to solve it is necessary. Although not a strict rule, the introduction in clinical science journals should target only references needed to establish the rationale for the study and the research protocol. This differ from more basic science or cell biology journals, for which a longer and elaborate introduction may be justified because the research at hand consists of several approaches each requiring background and justification.

The 4-part introduction consists of:

  • A background statement that provides the context and the approach of the research;
  • A problem statement that describes the nature, scope and importance of the problem or the knowledge gap;
  • An activity statement, that details the research question, sets the hypothesis and actions undertaken for the investigation;
  • A forecasting statement telling the readers whattheywillfìndwhen readingyourarticle [ 14 ].

Methods section

This section may be named “Materials and Methods”, “Experimental section” or “Patients and Methods” depending upon the type of journal. Its purpose to allow your readers to provide enough information on the methods used for your research and to judge on their adequacy. Although clinical and “basic” research protocols differ, the principles involved in describing the methods share similar features. Hence, the breadth of what is being studied and how the study can be performed is common to both. What differ are the specific settings. For example, when a study is conducted on humans, you must provide, up front, assurance that it has received the approval of you Institution Ethics Review Board (IRB) and that participants have provided full and informed consent. Similarly when the study involves animals, you must affirm that you have the agreement from your Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). These are too often forgotten, and Journals (most of them) abiding to the rules of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) will require such statement. Although journals publishing research reports in more fundamental science may not require such assurance, they do however also follow to strict ethics rules related to scientific misconduct or fraud such as data fabrication, data falsification. For clinical research papers, you have to provide information on how the participants were selected, identify the possible sources of bias and confounding factors and how they were diminished.

In terms of the measurements, you have to clearly identify the materials used as well as the suppliers with their location. You should also be unambiguous when describing the analytical method. If the method has already been published, give a brief account and refer to the original publication (not a review in which the method is mentioned without a description). If you have modified it, you have to provide a detailed account of the modifications and you have to validate its accuracy, precision and repeatability. Mention the units in which results are reported and, if necessary, include the conversion factors [mass units versus “système international” (S.I.)]. In clinical research, surrogate end-points are often used as biomarkers. Under those circumstances, you must show their validity or refer to a study that has already shown that are valid.

In cases of clinical trials, the Methods section should include the study design, the patient selection mode, interventions, type of outcomes.

Statistics are important in assuring the quality of the research project. Hence, you should consult a biostatistician at the time of devising the research protocol and not after having performed the experiments or the clinical trial.

The components of the section on statistics should include:

  • The way the data will be reported (mean, median, centiles for continuous data);
  • Details on participant assignments to the different groups (random allocation, consecutive entry);
  • Statistical comparison tools (parametric or non parametric statistics, paired or unpaired t-tests for normally distributed data and so on);
  • The statistical power calculation when determining the sample size to obtain valid and significant comparisons together with the a level;
  • The statistical software package used in the analysis.

Results section

The main purpose of the results section is to report the data that were collected and their relationship. It should also provide information on the modifications that have taken place because of unforeseen events leading to a modification of the initial protocol (loss of participants, reagent substitution, loss of data).

  • Report results as tables and figures whenever possible, avoid duplication in the text. The text should summarize the findings;
  • Report the data with the appropriate descriptive statistics;
  • Report any unanticipated events that could affect the results;
  • Report a complete account of observations and explanations for missing data (patient lost).

The discussion should set your research in context, reinforce its importance and show how your results have contributed to the further understanding of the problem posed. This should appear in the concluding remarks. The following organization could be helpful.

  • Briefly summarize the main results of your study in one or two paragraphs, and how they support your working hypothesis;
  • Provide an interpretation of your results and show how they logically fit in an overall scheme (biological or clinical);
  • Describe how your results compare with those of other investigators, explain the differences observed;
  • Discuss how your results may lead to a new hypothesis and further experimentation, or how they could enhance the diagnostic procedures.
  • Provide the limitations of your study and steps taken to reduce them. This could be placed in the concluding remarks.

Acknowledgements

The acknowledgements are important as they identify and thank the contributors to the study, who do not meet the criteria as co-authors. They also include the recognition of the granting agency. In this case the grant award number and source is usually included.

Declaration of competing interests

Competing interests arise when the author has more than one role that may lead to a situation where there is a conflict of interest. This is observed when the investigator has a simultaneous industrial consulting and academic position. In that case the results may not be agreeable to the industrial sponsor, who may impose a veto on publication or strongly suggest modifications to the conclusions. The investigator must clear this issue before starting the contracted research. In addition, the investigator may own shares or stock in the company whose product forms the basis of the study. Such conflicts of interest must be declared so that they are apparent to the readers.

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Thomas A Lang, for his advice in the preparation of this manuscript.

  • The Scientist University

The Fundamentals of Academic Science Writing

Writing is an essential skill for scientists, and learning how to write effectively starts with good fundamentals and lots of practice..

Nathan Ni, PhD Headshot

Nathan Ni holds a PhD from Queens University. He is a science editor for The Scientist’s Creative Services Team who strives to better understand and communicate the relationships between health and disease.

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Learn about our editorial policies.

A person sitting in a laboratory writing notes with a pen in a notebook.

Writing is a big part of being a scientist, whether in the form of manuscripts, grants, reports, protocols, presentations, or even emails. However, many people look at writing as separate from science—a scientist writes, but scientists are not regarded as writers. 1 This outdated assertion means that writing and communication has been historically marginalized when it comes to training and educating new scientists. In truth, being a professional writer is part of being a scientist . 1 In today’s hypercompetitive academic environment, scientists need to be as proficient with the pen as they are with the pipette in order to showcase their work. 

Using the Active Voice

Stereotypical academic writing is rigid, dry, and mechanical, delivering prose that evokes memories of high school and undergraduate laboratory reports. The hallmark of this stereotype is passive voice overuse. In writing, the passive voice is when the action comes at the end of a clause—for example, “the book was opened”. In scientific writing, it is particularly prevalent when detailing methodologies and results. How many times have we seen something like “citric acid was added to the solution, resulting in a two-fold reduction in pH” rather than “adding citric acid to the solution reduced the pH two-fold”?

Scientists should write in the active voice as much as possible. However, the active voice tends to place much more onus on the writer’s perspective, something that scientists have historically been instructed to stay away from. For example, “we treated the cells with phenylephrine” places much more emphasis on the operator than “the cells were treated with phenylephrine.” Furthermore, pronoun usage in academic writing is traditionally discouraged, but it is much harder, especially for those with non-native English proficiency, to properly use active voice without them. 

Things are changing though, and scientists are recognizing the importance of giving themselves credit. Many major journals, including Nature , Science , PLoS One , and PNAS allow pronouns in their manuscripts, and prominent style guides such as APA even recommend using first-person pronouns, as traditional third-person writing can be ambiguous. 2 It is vital that a manuscript clearly and definitively highlights and states what the authors specifically did that was so important or novel, in contrast to what was already known. A simple “we found…” statement in the abstract and the introduction goes a long way towards giving readers the hook that they need to read further.

Keeping Sentences Simple

Writing in the active voice also makes it easier to organize manuscripts and construct arguments. Active voice uses fewer words than passive voice to explain the same concept. It also introduces argument components sequentially—subject, claim, and then evidence—whereas passive voice introduces claim and evidence before the subject. Compare, for example, “T cell abundance did not differ between wildtype and mutant mice” versus “there was no difference between wildtype and mutant mice in terms of T cell abundance.” T cell abundance, as the measured parameter, is the most important part of the sentence, but it is only introduced at the very end of the latter example.

The sequential nature of active voice therefore makes it easier to not get bogged down in overloading the reader with clauses and adhering to a general principle of “one sentence, one concept (or idea, or argument).” Consider the following sentence: 

Research on CysLT 2 R , expressed in humans in umbilical vein endothelial cells, macrophages, platelets, the cardiac Purkinje system, and coronary endothelial cells , had been hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents , the majority of work instead using the nonselective cysLT antagonist/partial agonist Bay-u9773 or genetic models of CysLT 2 R expression modulation) .

The core message of this sentence is that CysLT 2 R research is hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents, but that message is muddled by the presence of two other major pieces of information: where CysLT 2 R is expressed and what researchers used to study CysLT 2 R instead of selective pharmacological agents. Because this sentence contains three main pieces of information, it is better to break it up into three separate sentences for clarity.

In humans, CysLT 2 R is expressed in umbilical vein endothelial cells, macrophages, platelets, the cardiac Purkinje system, and coronary endothelial cells . CysLT 2 R research has been hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents . Instead, the majority of work investigating the receptor has used either the nonselective cysLT antagonist/partial agonist Bay-u9773 or genetic models of CysLT 2 R expression modulation.

The Right Way to Apply Jargon

There is another key advantage to organizing sentences in this simple manner: it lets scientists manage how jargon is introduced to the reader. Jargon—special words used within a specific field or on a specific topic—is necessary in scientific writing. It is critical for succinctly describing key elements and explaining key concepts. But too much jargon can make a manuscript unreadable, either because the reader does not understand the terminology or because they are bogged down in reading all of the definitions. 

The key to using jargon is to make it as easy as possible for the audience. General guidelines instruct writers to define new terms only when they are first used. However, it is cumbersome for a reader to backtrack considerable distances in a manuscript to look up a definition. If a term is first introduced in the introduction but not mentioned again until the discussion, the writer should re-define the term in a more casual manner. For example: “PI3K can be reversibly inhibited by LY294002 and irreversibly inhibited by wortmannin” in the introduction, accompanied by “when we applied the PI3K inhibitor LY294002” for the discussion. This not only makes things easier for the reader, but it also re-emphasizes what the scientist did and the results they obtained.

Practice Makes Better

Finally, the most important fundamental for science writing is to not treat it like a chore or a nuisance. Just as a scientist optimizes a bench assay through repeated trial and error, combined with literature reviews on what steps others have implemented, a scientist should practice, nurture, and hone their writing skills through repeated drafting, editing, and consultation. Do not be afraid to write. Putting pen to paper can help organize one’s thoughts, expose next steps for exploration, or even highlight additional experiments required to patch knowledge or logic gaps in existing studies. 

Looking for more information on scientific writing? Check out The Scientist’s TS SciComm  section. Looking for some help putting together a manuscript, a figure, a poster, or anything else? The Scientist’s Scientific Services  may have the professional help that you need.

  • Schimel J. Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited And Proposals That Get Funded . Oxford University Press; 2012.
  • First-person pronouns. American Psychological Association. Updated July 2022. Accessed March 2024. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/grammar/first-person-pronouns  

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Report writing: scientific reports.

  • Scientific Reports
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Scientific and lab reports

A good scientific report has a clear organisational structure that is divided into headings and sub-headings. The outline below details typical sections of a standard scientific report.

The structure and scientific conventions you should use in your report will be based on your department or subject field requirements. Therefore, it is always best to check your departmental guidelines or module/assignment instructions first.

Scientific reports often adopt the  IMRaD  format: I ntroduction, M ethods, R esults, and D iscussion.

The summary below outlines the standard components of a scientific report:  

The abstract is a short summary of your project. Here, you should state your research questions and aims and provide a brief description of your methodology. It also includes an overview of your most significant findings. It is best to write this last after finalising the report. 

  • Introduction

This is where you set the scene for your report. The introduction should clearly articulate the purpose and aim (and, possibly, objectives) of the report, along with providing the background context for the report's topic and area of research. A scientific report may have an hypothesis in addition or in stead of aims and objectives. It may also provide any definitions or explanations for the terms used in the report or theoretical underpinnings of the research so that the reader has a clear understanding of what the research is based upon. It may be useful to also indicate any limitations to the scope of the report and identify the parameters of the research.

The methods section includes any information on the methods, tools and equipment used to get the data and evidence for your report. You should justify your method (that is, explain why your method was chosen), acknowledge possible problems encountered during the research, and present the limitations of your methodology.

If you are required to have a separate results and discussion section, then the results section should only include a summary of the findings, rather than an analysis of them - leave the critical analysis of the results for the discussion section. Presenting your results may take the form of graphs, tables, or any necessary diagrams of the gathered data. It is best to present your results in a logical order, making them as clear and understandable as possible through concise titles, brief summaries of the findings, and what the diagrams/charts/graphs or tables are showing to the reader.

This section is where the data gathered and your results are truly put to work. It is the main body of your report in which you should critically analyse what the results mean in relation to the aims and objectives (and/or, in scientific writing, hypotheses) put forth at the beginning of the report. You should follow a logical order, and can structure this section in sub-headings.

The conclusion should not include any new material but instead show a summary of your main arguments and findings. It is a chance to remind the reader of the key points within your report, the significance of the findings and the most central issues or arguments raised from the research. The conclusion may also include recommendations for further research, or how the present research may be carried out more effectively in future.

Similar to your essays, a report still requires a bibliography of all the published resources you have referenced within your report. Check your module handbook for the referencing style you should use as there are different styles depending on your degree. If it is the standard Westminster Harvard Referencing style, then follow these guidelines and remember to be consistent.

how to write a short scientific report

Scientific Writing Style

Scientific report/lab writing and essay writing differ in style. Compared to essay writing styles, scientific report writing styles expect the following:

  • A lean and direct approach to the words chosen: do not use words unnecessarily, be concise, and always consider the purpose of each and every word.
  • Each sentence must serve a purpose , so treat each sentence as important in the role it performs within the report.  
  • The focus is on measurement and observation, and conveying the evidence with clarity , we therefore want to avoid using our opinions or suppositions : be objective and avoid the use of superlatives, emotive language, or wishy washy phrases, such as 'somewhat,' 'potentially,' 'possibly,' 'nearly,' and 'may be.' 
  • It is important to not only begin with a question, but also the method by which you will answer that question: pre-plan and be sure of the methods you're using so that your approach is organised and systematic. Your way of answering the question must be reproducible in order to check the validity of the results and conclusions, and produce 'intersubjectively accessible knowledge.
  • It is important to show your evidence , as this is what your conclusions will be based on. Be critical of the evidence, don't just tell the reader, but show the reader what it means by questioning how the evidence supports the answer to the question. 
  • Maintain a rigid structure to your writing that reflects the scientific method that underlines the report: check the specific guidelines of the assignment and thoroughly follow these. If, however, you are not provided with a required structure, consider following the IMRaD structure and adapt where needed.

Recommendation: Check out the further resources for more advice, AND also take a look through scientific articles and research - use your reading effectively ! 

Reading scientific papers is an excellent way of not only developing your knowledge of a subject, but also developing your scientific writing practices and gaining a greater understanding of what is to be expected. When reading, be sure to keep in mind the author's use of language and phrases, ways of presenting and discussing evidence, and ways of organising, structuring, and formatting material, as you may wish to emulate or imitate (NOT plagiarise or copy) the styles you read.

Further Resources

Science Writing Resources for Learning by The University of British Columbia

Scientific Writing Resource by the Duke Graduate School

Scientific Writing by the Royal Literary Fund

Successful Scientific Writing  by Janice R. Matthews, John M. Bowen and Robert W. Matthews

Writing for Science Students (Palgrave Study Skills) by Jennifer Boyle

The Scientist's Guide to Writing: How to Write More Easily and Effectively Throughout Your Scientific Career by Stephen B. Heard

Writing for Biomedical Sciences Students (Macmillan Study Skills)  by Harry Witchel

Successful Scientific Writing: A Step-By-Step Guide for the Biological and Medical Sciences  by Janice R. Matthews

Date Handling and Analysis (Fundamentals of Biomedical Science)  by Andrew Blann

How to Write a Scientific Paper: An Academic Self-Help Guide for PhD Students  by Jari Saramäki

Free and Purchasable Courses:

Writing in the Sciences run by Coursera

Science Writing run by The University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education

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Formatting Science Reports

This section describes an organizational structure commonly used to report experimental research in many scientific disciplines, the IMRAD format: I ntroduction, M ethods, R esults, And D iscussion.

When and when not to use the IMRAD format

Although most scientific reports use the IMRAD format, there are some exceptions.

This format is usually not used in reports describing other kinds of research, such as field or case studies, in which headings are more likely to differ according to discipline. Although the main headings are standard for many scientific fields, details may vary; check with your instructor, or, if submitting an article to a journal, refer to the instructions to authors.

Developing a Title

Titles should.

  • Describe contents clearly and precisely, so that readers can decide whether to read the report
  • Provide key words for indexing

Titles should NOT

  • Include wasted words such as “studies on,” “an investigation of”
  • Use abbreviations and jargon
  • Use “cute” language

Good Titles

The Relationship of Luteinizing Hormone to Obesity in the Zucker Rat

Poor Titles

An Investigation of Hormone Secretion and Weight in Rats Fat Rats: Are Their Hormones Different?

The Abstract

The guidelines below address issues to consider when writing an abstract.

What is the report about, in miniature and without specific details?

  • State main objectives. (What did you investigate? Why?)
  • Describe methods. (What did you do?)
  • Summarize the most important results. (What did you find out?)
  • State major conclusions and significance. (What do your results mean? So what?)

What to avoid:

  • Do not include references to figures, tables, or sources.
  • Do not include information not in report.

Additional tips:

  • Find out maximum length (may vary from 50 to 300+ words).
  • Process: Extract key points from each section. Condense in successive revisions.

The Introduction

Guidelines for effective scientific report introductions.

What is the problem?

  • Describe the problem investigated.
  • Summarize relevant research to provide context, key terms, and concepts so your reader can understand the experiment.

Why is it important?

  • Review relevant research to provide rationale. (What conflict or unanswered question, untested population, untried method in existing research does your experiment address? What findings of others are you challenging or extending?)

What solution (or step toward a solution) do you propose?

  • Briefly describe your experiment: hypothesis(es), research question(s); general experimental design or method; justification of method if alternatives exist.
  • Move from general to specific: problem in real world/research literature –> your experiment.
  • Engage your reader: answer the questions, “What did you do?” “Why should I care?”
  • Make clear the links between problem and solution, question asked and research design, prior research and your experiment.
  • Be selective, not exhaustive, in choosing studies to cite and amount of detail to include. (In general, the more relevant an article is to your study, the more space it deserves and the later in the Introduction it appears.)
  • Ask your instructor whether to summarize results and/or conclusions in the Introduction.

Methods Section

Below are some questions to consider for effective methods sections in scientific reports.

How did you study the problem?

  • Briefly explain the general type of scientific procedure you used.

What did you use?

(May be subheaded as Materials)

  • Describe what materials, subjects, and equipment (chemicals, experimental animals, apparatus, etc.) you used. (These may be subheaded Animals, Reagents, etc.)

How did you proceed?

(May be subheaded as Methods or Procedures)

  • Explain the steps you took in your experiment. (These may be subheaded by experiment, types of assay, etc.)
  • Provide enough detail for replication. For a journal article, include, for example, genus, species, strain of organisms; their source, living conditions, and care; and sources (manufacturer, location) of chemicals and apparatus.
  • Order procedures chronologically or by type of procedure (subheaded) and chronologically within type.
  • Use past tense to describe what you did.
  • Quantify when possible: concentrations, measurements, amounts (all metric); times (24-hour clock); temperatures (centigrade)
  • Don’t include details of common statistical procedures.
  • Don’t mix results with procedures.

Results Section

The section below offers some questions asked for effective results sections in scientific reports.

What did you observe?

For each experiment or procedure:

  • Briefly describe experiment without detail of Methods section (a sentence or two).
  • Representative: most common
  • Best Case: best example of ideal or exception
  • from most to least important
  • from simple to complex
  • organ by organ; chemical class by chemical class
  • Use past tense to describe what happened.
  • Don’t simply repeat table data; select .
  • Don’t interpret results.
  • Avoid extra words: “It is shown in Table 1 that X induced Y” –> “X induced Y (Table 1).”

Discussion Section

The table below offers some questions effective discussion sections in scientific reports address.

What do your observations mean?

  • Summarize the most important findings at the beginning.

What conclusions can you draw?

For each major result:

  • Describe the patterns, principles, relationships your results show.
  • Explain how your results relate to expectations and to literature cited in your Introduction. Do they agree, contradict, or are they exceptions to the rule?
  • Explain plausibly any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions.
  • Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions.

How do your results fit into a broader context?

  • Suggest the theoretical implications of your results.
  • Suggest practical applications of your results?
  • Extend your findings to other situations or other species.
  • Give the big picture: do your findings help us understand a broader topic?
  • Move from specific to general: your finding(s) –> literature, theory, practice.
  • Don’t ignore or bury the major issue. Did the study achieve the goal (resolve the problem, answer the question, support the hypothesis) presented in the Introduction?
  • Give evidence for each conclusion.
  • Discuss possible reasons for expected and unexpected findings.
  • Don’t overgeneralize.
  • Don’t ignore deviations in your data.
  • Avoid speculation that cannot be tested in the foreseeable future.

how to write a short scientific report

Academic and Professional Writing

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Short report

Short reports are suitable for the presentation of research that extends previously published research, including the reporting of additional controls and confirmatory results in other settings, as well as negative results. Authors must clearly acknowledge any work upon which they are building, both published and unpublished.

Short reports should be no longer than 2500 words*.

Implementation Science strongly encourages that all datasets on which the conclusions of the paper rely should be available to readers. We encourage authors to ensure that their datasets are either deposited in publicly available repositories (where available and appropriate) or presented in the main manuscript or additional supporting files whenever possible. Please see Springer Nature’s  information on recommended repositories .

*The word count includes the words from the main text, ie “Introduction” to the end of “Conclusions”. It doesn’t include abstracts, tables, figures, etc.

'Contributions to the literature' section

All manuscripts submitted to  Implementation Science  must include a bulleted statement describing what the paper, if published, would add to the literature in implementation science. The statement should consist of three to five bullet points of no more than 100 words in total. Authors should not simply restate their findings or conclusions; the statement must contextualize the paper in the full implementation science literature and provide a succinct statement about what it adds. The statement will be useful in assessing priority for publication and, once having undergone peer review and acceptance with the manuscript, will be included at the beginning of the published article both in the HTML and PDF formats. The statement should be in lay language and understandable to all readers, written for readers of moderate English literacy. The statement should be inserted immediately after the abstract within the manuscript file under the heading 'Contributions to the literature.' To view a published example, please see here . 

Reporting standards

Implementation Science supports the complete and transparent reporting of research. The Editors require the submission of a populated checklist from the relevant reporting guideline(s) for all manuscripts submitted to the journal.

Every manuscript submitted should include a checklist appropriate for the study design or type of report, and note that in some cases it may be appropriate to include more than one checklist. For example, manuscripts reporting testing of an implementation intervention should include either the TIDIeR or STARi checklists for the intervention, as well as a checklist appropriate to the evaluation study design (for example, CONSORT for randomized controlled trials).

A library of reporting guidelines can be found via the EQUATOR Network . The completed checklist(s) should be provided as an Additional file and referenced in the text.

Authors should use their discretion in selecting the appropriate checklist(s) from the EQUATOR Network website. During the submission process, authors will be requested to briefly indicate the reason for their decision to select the checklist(s) used. Submissions received without these elements will be returned to the authors as incomplete. If the Editors deem the submitted checklist insufficient, they may request completion of an additional checklist before sending the manuscript out for review.

It is understood that for some studies certain aspects of the report may not comply fully with the pre-specified checklist. The checklist will not be used as a tool for judging the suitability of manuscripts for publication in  Implementation Science , but is intended as an aid to authors to clearly, completely, and transparently let reviewers and readers know what authors did and found. Using these guidelines in writing the report, completing the checklist, and constructing a flow diagram are likely to optimize the quality of reporting and make the peer review process more efficient.

Preparing your manuscript

The information below details the section headings that you should include in your manuscript and what information should be within each section.

Please note that your manuscript must include a 'Declarations' section including all of the subheadings (please see below for more information).

The title page should:

  • "A versus B in the treatment of C: a randomized controlled trial", "X is a risk factor for Y: a case control study", "What is the impact of factor X on subject Y: A systematic review"
  • or for non-clinical or non-research studies a description of what the article reports
  • if a collaboration group should be listed as an author, please list the Group name as an author. If you would like the names of the individual members of the Group to be searchable through their individual PubMed records, please include this information in the “Acknowledgements” section in accordance with the instructions below
  • Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT , do not currently satisfy our authorship criteria . Notably an attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, which cannot be effectively applied to LLMs. Use of an LLM should be properly documented in the Methods section (and if a Methods section is not available, in a suitable alternative part) of the manuscript.
  • indicate the corresponding author

The Abstract should not exceed 350 words. Please minimize the use of abbreviations and do not cite references in the abstract. Reports of randomized controlled trials should follow the CONSORT extension for abstracts. The abstract must include the following separate sections:

  • Background: the context and purpose of the study
  • Methods: how the study was performed and statistical tests used
  • Results: the main findings
  • Conclusions: brief summary and potential implications
  • Trial registration: If your article reports the results of a health care intervention on human participants, it must be registered in an appropriate registry and the registration number and date of registration should be stated in this section. If it was not registered prospectively (before enrollment of the first participant), you should include the words 'retrospectively registered'. See our editorial policies for more information on trial registration

Three to ten keywords representing the main content of the article.

The Background section should explain the background to the study, its aims, a summary of the existing literature and why this study was necessary or its contribution to the field.

The methods section should include:

  • the aim, design and setting of the study
  • the characteristics of participants or description of materials
  • a clear description of all processes, interventions and comparisons. Generic drug names should generally be used. When proprietary brands are used in research, include the brand names in parentheses
  • the type of statistical analysis used, including a power calculation if appropriate

This should include the findings of the study including, if appropriate, results of statistical analysis which must be included either in the text or as tables and figures.

This section should discuss the implications of the findings in context of existing research and highlight limitations of the study.

Conclusions

This should state clearly the main conclusions and provide an explanation of the importance and relevance of the study reported.

List of abbreviations

If abbreviations are used in the text they should be defined in the text at first use, and a list of abbreviations should be provided.

Declarations

All manuscripts must contain the following sections under the heading 'Declarations':

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Consent for publication, availability of data and materials, competing interests, authors' contributions, acknowledgements.

  • Authors' information (optional)

Please see below for details on the information to be included in these sections.

If any of the sections are not relevant to your manuscript, please include the heading and write 'Not applicable' for that section. 

Manuscripts reporting studies involving human participants, human data or human tissue must:

  • include a statement on ethics approval and consent (even where the need for approval was waived)
  • include the name of the ethics committee that approved the study and the committee’s reference number if appropriate

Studies involving animals must include a statement on ethics approval and for experimental studies involving client-owned animals, authors must also include a statement on informed consent from the client or owner.

See our editorial policies for more information.

If your manuscript does not report on or involve the use of any animal or human data or tissue, please state “Not applicable” in this section.

If your manuscript contains any individual person’s data in any form (including any individual details, images or videos), consent for publication must be obtained from that person, or in the case of children, their parent or legal guardian. All presentations of case reports must have consent for publication.

You can use your institutional consent form or our consent form if you prefer. You should not send the form to us on submission, but we may request to see a copy at any stage (including after publication).

See our editorial policies for more information on consent for publication.

If your manuscript does not contain data from any individual person, please state “Not applicable” in this section.

All manuscripts must include an ‘Availability of data and materials’ statement. Data availability statements should include information on where data supporting the results reported in the article can be found including, where applicable, hyperlinks to publicly archived datasets analysed or generated during the study. By data we mean the minimal dataset that would be necessary to interpret, replicate and build upon the findings reported in the article. We recognise it is not always possible to share research data publicly, for instance when individual privacy could be compromised, and in such instances data availability should still be stated in the manuscript along with any conditions for access.

Authors are also encouraged to preserve search strings on searchRxiv https://searchrxiv.org/ , an archive to support researchers to report, store and share their searches consistently and to enable them to review and re-use existing searches. searchRxiv enables researchers to obtain a digital object identifier (DOI) for their search, allowing it to be cited. 

Data availability statements can take one of the following forms (or a combination of more than one if required for multiple datasets):

  • The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available in the [NAME] repository, [PERSISTENT WEB LINK TO DATASETS]
  • The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
  • All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article [and its supplementary information files].
  • The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due [REASON WHY DATA ARE NOT PUBLIC] but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
  • Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
  • The data that support the findings of this study are available from [third party name] but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. Data are however available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of [third party name].
  • Not applicable. If your manuscript does not contain any data, please state 'Not applicable' in this section.

More examples of template data availability statements, which include examples of openly available and restricted access datasets, are available here .

BioMed Central strongly encourages the citation of any publicly available data on which the conclusions of the paper rely in the manuscript. Data citations should include a persistent identifier (such as a DOI) and should ideally be included in the reference list. Citations of datasets, when they appear in the reference list, should include the minimum information recommended by DataCite and follow journal style. Dataset identifiers including DOIs should be expressed as full URLs. For example:

Hao Z, AghaKouchak A, Nakhjiri N, Farahmand A. Global integrated drought monitoring and prediction system (GIDMaPS) data sets. figshare. 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.853801

With the corresponding text in the Availability of data and materials statement:

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available in the [NAME] repository, [PERSISTENT WEB LINK TO DATASETS]. [Reference number]  

If you wish to co-submit a data note describing your data to be published in BMC Research Notes , you can do so by visiting our submission portal . Data notes support open data and help authors to comply with funder policies on data sharing. Co-published data notes will be linked to the research article the data support ( example ).

All financial and non-financial competing interests must be declared in this section.

See our editorial policies for a full explanation of competing interests. If you are unsure whether you or any of your co-authors have a competing interest please contact the editorial office.

Please use the authors initials to refer to each authors' competing interests in this section.

If you do not have any competing interests, please state "The authors declare that they have no competing interests" in this section.

All sources of funding for the research reported should be declared. If the funder has a specific role in the conceptualization, design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript, this should be declared.

The individual contributions of authors to the manuscript should be specified in this section. Guidance and criteria for authorship can be found in our editorial policies .

Please use initials to refer to each author's contribution in this section, for example: "FC analyzed and interpreted the patient data regarding the hematological disease and the transplant. RH performed the histological examination of the kidney, and was a major contributor in writing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript."

Please acknowledge anyone who contributed towards the article who does not meet the criteria for authorship including anyone who provided professional writing services or materials.

Authors should obtain permission to acknowledge from all those mentioned in the Acknowledgements section.

See our editorial policies for a full explanation of acknowledgements and authorship criteria.

If you do not have anyone to acknowledge, please write "Not applicable" in this section.

Group authorship (for manuscripts involving a collaboration group): if you would like the names of the individual members of a collaboration Group to be searchable through their individual PubMed records, please ensure that the title of the collaboration Group is included on the title page and in the submission system and also include collaborating author names as the last paragraph of the “Acknowledgements” section. Please add authors in the format First Name, Middle initial(s) (optional), Last Name. You can add institution or country information for each author if you wish, but this should be consistent across all authors.

Please note that individual names may not be present in the PubMed record at the time a published article is initially included in PubMed as it takes PubMed additional time to code this information.

Authors' information

This section is optional.

You may choose to use this section to include any relevant information about the author(s) that may aid the reader's interpretation of the article, and understand the standpoint of the author(s). This may include details about the authors' qualifications, current positions they hold at institutions or societies, or any other relevant background information. Please refer to authors using their initials. Note this section should not be used to describe any competing interests.

Footnotes can be used to give additional information, which may include the citation of a reference included in the reference list. They should not consist solely of a reference citation, and they should never include the bibliographic details of a reference. They should also not contain any figures or tables.

Footnotes to the text are numbered consecutively; those to tables should be indicated by superscript lower-case letters (or asterisks for significance values and other statistical data). Footnotes to the title or the authors of the article are not given reference symbols.

Always use footnotes instead of endnotes.

Examples of the Vancouver reference style are shown below.

See our editorial policies for author guidance on good citation practice

Web links and URLs: All web links and URLs, including links to the authors' own websites, should be given a reference number and included in the reference list rather than within the text of the manuscript. They should be provided in full, including both the title of the site and the URL, as well as the date the site was accessed, in the following format: The Mouse Tumor Biology Database. http://tumor.informatics.jax.org/mtbwi/index.do . Accessed 20 May 2013. If an author or group of authors can clearly be associated with a web link, such as for weblogs, then they should be included in the reference.

Example reference style:

Article within a journal

Smith JJ. The world of science. Am J Sci. 1999;36:234-5.

Article within a journal (no page numbers)

Rohrmann S, Overvad K, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Jakobsen MU, Egeberg R, Tjønneland A, et al. Meat consumption and mortality - results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. BMC Medicine. 2013;11:63.

Article within a journal by DOI

Slifka MK, Whitton JL. Clinical implications of dysregulated cytokine production. Dig J Mol Med. 2000; doi:10.1007/s801090000086.

Article within a journal supplement

Frumin AM, Nussbaum J, Esposito M. Functional asplenia: demonstration of splenic activity by bone marrow scan. Blood 1979;59 Suppl 1:26-32.

Book chapter, or an article within a book

Wyllie AH, Kerr JFR, Currie AR. Cell death: the significance of apoptosis. In: Bourne GH, Danielli JF, Jeon KW, editors. International review of cytology. London: Academic; 1980. p. 251-306.

OnlineFirst chapter in a series (without a volume designation but with a DOI)

Saito Y, Hyuga H. Rate equation approaches to amplification of enantiomeric excess and chiral symmetry breaking. Top Curr Chem. 2007. doi:10.1007/128_2006_108.

Complete book, authored

Blenkinsopp A, Paxton P. Symptoms in the pharmacy: a guide to the management of common illness. 3rd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Science; 1998.

Online document

Doe J. Title of subordinate document. In: The dictionary of substances and their effects. Royal Society of Chemistry. 1999. http://www.rsc.org/dose/title of subordinate document. Accessed 15 Jan 1999.

Online database

Healthwise Knowledgebase. US Pharmacopeia, Rockville. 1998. http://www.healthwise.org. Accessed 21 Sept 1998.

Supplementary material/private homepage

Doe J. Title of supplementary material. 2000. http://www.privatehomepage.com. Accessed 22 Feb 2000.

University site

Doe, J: Title of preprint. http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/mydata.html (1999). Accessed 25 Dec 1999.

Doe, J: Trivial HTTP, RFC2169. ftp://ftp.isi.edu/in-notes/rfc2169.txt (1999). Accessed 12 Nov 1999.

Organization site

ISSN International Centre: The ISSN register. http://www.issn.org (2006). Accessed 20 Feb 2007.

Dataset with persistent identifier

Zheng L-Y, Guo X-S, He B, Sun L-J, Peng Y, Dong S-S, et al. Genome data from sweet and grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). GigaScience Database. 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.5524/100012 .

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See  General formatting guidelines  for information on how to format figures, tables and additional files.

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Submission guidelines

Format of articles, cover letter, revised manuscripts, tex/latex files, writing your manuscript, copy editing services, acknowledgements, author contributions, competing interests, data availability, ethics declarations, approval for animal experiments, approval for human experiments, consent to participate/consent to publish.

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General figure guidelines, figures for peer review, figures for publication, statistical guidelines, chemical and biological nomenclature and abbreviations, gene nomenclature, characterisation of chemical and biomolecular materials, registered reports.

Scientific Reports publishes original research in two formats: Article and Registered Report. For Registered Reports, see section below . In most cases, we do not impose strict limits on word count or page number. However, we strongly recommend that you write concisely and stick to the following guidelines:

  • Articles should ideally be no more than 11 typeset pages
  • The main text should be no more than 4,500 words (not including Abstract, Methods, References and figure legends)
  • The title should be no more than 20 words, should describe the main message of the article using a single scientifically accurate sentence, and should not contain puns or idioms
  • The abstract should be no more than 200 words

For a definitive list of which limits are mandatory please visit the submission checklist page .

Please do not include any references in your Abstract. Make sure it serves both as a general introduction to the topic and as a brief, non-technical summary of the main results and their implications. Abstract should be unstructured, i.e. should not contain sections or subheadings.

We allow the use of up to 6 keywords/key phrases that can be used for indexing purposes. These should represent the main content of the submission.

Your manuscript text file should start with a title page that shows author affiliations and contact information, identifying the corresponding author with an asterisk. We recommend that each section includes an introduction of referenced text that expands on the background of the work. Some overlap with the Abstract is acceptable. Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT , do not currently satisfy our authorship criteria . Notably an attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, which cannot be effectively applied to LLMs. Use of an LLM should be properly documented in the Methods section (and if a Methods section is not available, in a suitable alternative part) of the manuscript. In response to emerging information, advice, guidance and policy around artificial intelligence (AI), we have created a dedicated AI section in our  Editorial Policy page . Please familiarize yourself with this content and comply with relevant policies.

For the main body of the text, there are no specific requirements. You can organise it in a way that best suits your research. However, the following structure will be suitable in many cases:

  • Introduction
  • Results (with subheadings)
  • Discussion (without subheadings)

You should then follow the main body of text with:

  • References (limited to 60 references, though not strictly enforced)
  • Acknowledgements (optional)
  • Data availability statement (mandatory)
  • Additional Information (including a Competing Interests Statement)
  • Figure legends (these are limited to 350 words per figure)
  • Tables (maximum size of one page)

Please note, footnotes should not be used. 

We do not automatically include page or line numbers in the materials sent to Editorial Board Members and reviewers. Please consider including those in your manuscript; this can help facilitate the evaluation of the paper and makes giving feedback on specific sections easier.

You may include a limited number of uncaptioned molecular structure graphics and numbered mathematical equations if necessary. Display items are limited to 8 ( figures and/or tables ). However, to enable typesetting of papers, we advise making the number of display items commensurate with your overall word length. So, for Articles of 2,000 words or less, we suggest including no more than 4 figures/tables. Please note that schemes should not be used and should be presented as figures instead.

Your submission must also include:

  • A cover letter
  • Individual figure files and optional supplementary information files

For first submissions (i.e. not revised manuscripts), you may incorporate the manuscript text and figures into a single file up to 3 MB in size. Whilst Microsoft Word is preferred we also accept LaTeX, or PDF format. Figures can be inserted in the text at the appropriate positions, or grouped at the end.

Supplementary information should be combined and supplied as a single separate file, preferably in PDF format.

A submission template is available in the Overleaf template gallery to help you prepare a LaTeX manuscript within the Scientific Reports formatting criteria.

In your cover letter, you should include:

  • The affiliation and contact information of your corresponding author
  • A brief explanation of why the work is appropriate for Scientific Reports
  • The names and contact information of any reviewers you consider suitable
  • The names of any referees you would like excluded from reviewing

Finally, you should state whether you have had any prior discussions with a Scientific Reports Editorial Board Member about the work described in your manuscript.

For revised manuscripts, you should provide all textual content in a single file, prepared using either Microsoft Word or LaTeX. Please note, we do not accept PDF files for the article text of revised manuscripts. Make sure you:

  • Format the manuscript file as single-column text without justification.
  • Number the pages using an Arabic numeral in the footer of each page.
  • Use the default Computer Modern fonts for your text, and the 'symbols' font for any Greek characters.
  • Supply any figures as individual files.
  • Combine and supply any Supplementary Information as a separate file, preferably in PDF format.
  • Include the title of the manuscript and author list in the first page of the Supplementary Information file.

If you do not wish to incorporate the manuscript text and figures into a single file, please provide all textual content in a separate single file, prepared using either Microsoft Word or LaTeX.

If you’re submitting LaTeX files, you can either use the standard ‘Article’ document class (or similar) or the wlscirep.cls file and template provided by Overleaf . For graphics, we recommend your use graphicx.sty. Use numerical references only for citations.

Our system cannot accept .bib files. If you prepare references using BibTeX (which is optional), please include the .bbl file with your submission (as a ‘LaTeX supplementary file’) in order for it to be processed correctly; this file is included automatically in the zip file generated by Overleaf for submissions. Please see this help article on Overleaf for more details.

Alternatively, you can make sure that the references (source code) are included within the manuscript file itself. As a final precaution, you should ensure that the complete .tex file compiles successfully on its own system with no errors or warnings, before submission.

Scientific Reports is read by a truly diverse range of scientists. Please therefore give careful thought to communicating your findings as clearly as possible.

Although you can assume a shared basic knowledge of science, please don’t expect that everyone will be familiar with the specialist language or concepts of your particular field. Therefore:

  • Avoid technical jargon wherever possible, explaining it clearly when it is unavoidable.
  • Keep abbreviations to a minimum, particularly when they are not standard.
  • If you must use an abbreviation, make sure you spell it out fully in the text or legend the first time it appears.
  • Clearly explain the background, rationale and main conclusions of your study.
  • Write titles and abstracts in language that will be readily understood by any scientist.

We strongly recommend that you ask a colleague with different expertise to review your manuscript before you submit it. This will help you to identify concepts and terminology that non-specialist readers may find hard to grasp.

We don’t provide in-depth copy editing as part of the production process. So, if you feel your manuscript would benefit from someone looking at the copy, please consider using a copy editing or language editing service. You can either do this before submission or at the revision stage. You can also get a fast, free grammar check of your manuscript that takes into account all aspects of readability in English.

We have two affiliates who can provide you with these services: Nature Research Editing Service and American Journal Experts . As a Scientific Reports author, you are entitled to a 10% discount on your first submission to either of these.

Claim 10% off English editing from Nature Research Editing Service

Claim 10% off American Journal Experts

Please note that the use of an editing service is at your own expense, and doesn’t ensure that your article will be selected for peer-review or accepted for publication.

We don't impose word limits on the description of methods. Make sure it includes adequate experimental and characterisation data for others to be able to reproduce your work. You should:

  • Include descriptions of standard protocols and experimental procedures.
  • Only identify commercial suppliers of reagents or instrumentation when the source is critical to the outcome of the experiments.
  • Identify sources for any kits you use in your procedures.
  • Include any experimental protocols that describe the synthesis of new compounds.
  • Use the systematic name of any new compound and put its bold Arabic numeral in the heading for the experimental protocol, indicating it thereafter by its assigned, bold numeral.
  • Describe the experimental protocol in detail, referring to amounts of reagents in parentheses, when possible (eg 1.03 g, 0.100 mmol).
  • Use standard abbreviations for reagents and solvents.
  • Clearly identify safety hazards posed by reagents or protocols.
  • Report isolated mass and percent yields at the end of each protocol.

If you’re reporting experiments on live vertebrates (or higher invertebrates), humans or human samples, you must include a statement of ethical approval in the Methods section (see our detailed requirements for further information on preparing these statements).

We don’t copy edit your references. Therefore, it’s essential you format them correctly, as they will be linked electronically to external databases where possible. At Scientific Reports , we use the standard Nature referencing style. So, when formatting your references, make sure they:

  • Run sequentially (and are always numerical).
  • Sit within square brackets.
  • Only have one publication linked to each number.
  • Only include papers or datasets that have been published or accepted by a named publication, recognised preprint server or data repository (if you include any preprints of accepted papers in your reference list, make sure you submit them with the manuscript).
  • Include published conference abstracts and numbered patents, if you wish.
  • Don’t include grant details and acknowledgements.

Sorry, we cannot accept BibTeX (.bib) bibliography files for references. If you are making your submission by LaTeX, it must either contain all references within the manuscript .tex file itself, or (if you’re using the Overleaf template) include the .bbl file generated during the compilation process as a ‘LaTeX supplementary file’ (see the "Manuscripts" section for more details).

In your reference list, you should:

  • Include all authors unless there are six or more, in which case only the first author should be given, followed by 'et al.'.
  • List authors by last name first, followed by a comma and initials (followed by full stops) of given names.
  • Use Roman text for Article and dataset titles, with only the first word of the title having an initial capital and written exactly as it appears in the work cited, ending with a full stop.
  • Use italics for book titles, giving all words in the title an initial capital.
  • Use italics for journal and data repository names, abbreviating them according to common usage (with full stops).
  • Use bold for volume numbers and the subsequent comma.
  • Give the full page range (or article number), where appropriate.

Published papers:

Printed journals Schott, D. H., Collins, R. N. & Bretscher, A. Secretory vesicle transport velocity in living cells depends on the myosin V lever arm length. J. Cell Biol . 156 , 35-39 (2002).

Online only Bellin, D. L. et al . Electrochemical camera chip for simultaneous imaging of multiple metabolites in biofilms . Nat. Commun . 7 , 10535; 10.1038/ncomms10535 (2016).

For papers with more than five authors include only the first author’s name followed by ‘ et al. ’.

Books: Smith, J. Syntax of referencing in How to reference books (ed. Smith, S.) 180-181 (Macmillan, 2013).

Online material:

Babichev, S. A., Ries, J. & Lvovsky, A. I. Quantum scissors: teleportation of single-mode optical states by means of a nonlocal single photon. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0208066 (2002).

Manaster, J. Sloth squeak. Scientific American Blog Network http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psi-vid/2014/04/09/sloth-squeak (2014).

Hao, Z., AghaKouchak, A., Nakhjiri, N. & Farahmand, A. Global integrated drought monitoring and prediction system (GIDMaPS) data sets.  figshare   https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.853801 (2014).

Please keep any acknowledgements brief, and don’t include thanks to anonymous referees and editors, or any effusive comments. You may acknowledge grant or contribution numbers. You should also acknowledge assistance from medical writers, proof-readers and editors.

You must supply an Author Contribution Statement as described in the Author responsibilities section of our Editorial and Publishing Policies .

Please be aware:

  • The author name you give as the corresponding author will be the main contact during the review process and should not change.
  • The information you provide in the submission system will be used as the source of truth when your paper is published.

You must supply a competing interests statement . If there is no conflict of interest, you should include a statement declaring this.

Your statement must be explicit and unambiguous, describing any potential competing interest (or lack thereof) for EACH contributing author. The information you provide in the submission system will be used as the source of truth when your paper is published.

Examples of declarations are:

Competing interests The author(s) declare no competing interests.

Competing interests Dr X's work has been funded by A. He has received compensation as a member of the scientific advisory board of B and owns stock in the company. He also has consulted for C and received compensation. Dr Y and Dr Z declare no potential conflict of interest.

You must include a Data Availability Statement in all submitted manuscripts (at the end of the main text, before the References section); see ' Availability of materials and data ' section for more information.

If your research includes human or animal subjects, you will need to include the appropriate ethics declarations in the Methods section of your manuscript.

For experiments involving live vertebrates and/or higher invertebrates, your Methods section must include a statement that:

  • Identifies the institutional and/or licensing committee that approved the experiments, including any relevant details.
  • Confirms that all experiments were performed in accordance with relevant named guidelines and regulations.
  • Confirms that the authors complied with the ARRIVE guidelines.

For experiments involving human subjects (or tissue samples), your Methods section must include a statement that:

  • Confirms that informed consent was obtained from all participants and/or their legal guardians.

Please note that:

  • Study participant names (and other personally identifiable information) must be removed from all text/figures/tables/images.
  • The use of coloured bars/shapes or blurring to obscure the eyes/facial region of study participants is not an acceptable means of anonymisation. For manuscripts that include information or images that could lead to identification of a study participant, your Methods section must include a statement that confirms informed consent was obtained to publish the information/image(s) in an online open access publication.

Supplementary Information

You should submit any Supplementary Information together with the manuscript so that we can send it to referees during peer-review. This will be published online with accepted manuscripts.

It’s vital that you carefully check your Supplementary Information before submission as any modification after your paper is published will require a formal correction.

Please avoid including any "data not shown" statements and instead make your data available via deposition in a public repository (see ' Availability of materials and data ' for more information).

If any data that is necessary to evaluate the claims of your paper is not available via a public depository, make sure you provide it as Supplementary Information.

We do not edit, typeset or proof Supplementary Information, so please present it clearly and succinctly at initial submission, making sure it conforms to the style and terminology of the rest of the paper.

To avoid any delays to publication, please follow the guidelines below for creation, citation and submission of your Supplementary Information:

You can combine multiple pieces of Supplementary Information and supply them as a single composite file. If you wish to keep larger information (e.g. supplementary videos, spreadsheets [.csv or .xlsx] or data files) as another separate file you may do so.

Designate each item as Supplementary Table, Figure, Video, Audio, Note, Data, Discussion, Equations or Methods, as appropriate. Number Supplementary Tables and Figures as, for example, "Supplementary Table S1". This numbering should be separate from that used in tables and figures appearing in the main article. Supplementary Note or Methods should not be numbered; titles for these are optional.

Refer to each piece of supplementary material at the appropriate point(s) in the main article. Be sure to include the word "Supplementary" each time one is mentioned. Please do not refer to individual panels of supplementary figures.

Use the following examples as a guide (note: abbreviate "Figure" as "Fig." when in the middle of a sentence): "Table 1 provides a selected subset of the most active compounds. The entire list of 96 compounds can be found as Supplementary Table S1 online." "The biosynthetic pathway of L-ascorbic acid in animals involves intermediates of the D-glucuronic acid pathway (see Supplementary Fig. S2 online). Figure 2 shows...".

Remember to include a brief title and legend (incorporated into the file to appear near the image) as part of every figure submitted, and a title as part of every table.

Keep file sizes as small as possible, with a maximum size of 50 MB, so that they can be downloaded quickly.

Supplementary video files should be provided in the standard video aspects: 4:3, 16:9, 21:9.

If you have any further questions about the submission and preparation of Supplementary Information, please email: [email protected] .

Please begin your figure legends with a brief title sentence for the whole figure and continue with a short description of what is shown in each panel. Use any symbols in sequence and minimise the methodological details as much as possible. Keep each legend total to no more than 350 words. Provide text for figure legends in numerical order after the references.

Please submit any tables in your main article document in an editable format (Word or TeX/LaTeX, as appropriate), and not as images. Tables that include statistical analysis of data should describe their standards of error analysis and ranges in a table legend.

Include any equations and mathematical expressions in the main text of the paper. Identify equations that are referred to in the text by parenthetical numbers, such as (1), and refer to them in the manuscript as "equation (1)" etc.

For submissions in a .doc or .docx format, please make sure that all equations are provided in an editable Word format. You can produce these with the equation editor included in Microsoft Word.

You are responsible for obtaining permission to publish any figures or illustrations that are protected by copyright, including figures published elsewhere and pictures taken by professional photographers. We cannot publish images downloaded from the internet without appropriate permission.

You should state the source of any images used. If you or one of your co-authors has drawn the images, please mention this in your acknowledgements. For software, you should state the name, version number and URL.

Number any figures separately with Arabic numerals in the order they occur in the text of the manuscript. Include error bars when appropriate. Include a description of the statistical treatment of error analysis in the figure legend.

Please do not use schemes. You should submit sequences of chemical reactions or experimental procedures as figures, with appropriate captions. You may include in the manuscript a limited number of uncaptioned graphics depicting chemical structures - each labelled with their name, by a defined abbreviation, or by the bold Arabic numeral.

Use a clear, sans-serif typeface (for example, Helvetica) for figure lettering. Use the same typeface in the same font size for all figures in your paper. For Greek letters, use a 'symbols' font. Put all display items on a white background, and avoid excessive boxing, unnecessary colour, spurious decorative effects (such as three-dimensional 'skyscraper' histograms) and highly pixelated computer drawings. Never truncate the vertical axis of histograms to exaggerate small differences. Ensure any labelling is of sufficient size and contrast to be legible, even after appropriate reduction. The thinnest lines in the final figure should be no smaller than one point wide. You will be sent a proof that will include figures.

  • Figures divided into parts should be labelled with a lower-case, bold letter ( a, b, c and so on) in the same type size as used elsewhere in the figure.
  • Lettering in figures should be in lower-case type, with only the first letter of each label capitalised.
  • Units should have a single space between the number and the unit, and follow SI nomenclature (for example, ms rather than msec) or the nomenclature common to a particular field.
  • Thousands should be separated by commas (1,000).
  • Unusual units or abbreviations should be spelled out in full or defined in the legend.
  • Scale bars should be used rather than magnification factors, with the length of the bar defined on the bar itself rather than in the legend.

In legends, please use visual cues rather than verbal explanations such as "open red triangles". Avoid unnecessary figures: data presented in small tables or histograms, for instance, can generally be stated briefly in the text instead. Figures should not contain more than one panel unless the parts are logically connected; each panel of a multipart figure should be sized so that the whole figure can be reduced by the same amount and reproduced at the smallest size at which essential details are visible.

At the initial submission stage, you may choose to upload separate figure files or to incorporate figures into the main article file, ensuring that any figures are of sufficient quality to be clearly legible.

When submitting a revised manuscript, you must upload all figures as separate figure files, ensuring that the image quality and formatting conforms to the specifications below.

You must supply each complete figure as a separate file upload. Multi-part/panel figures must be prepared and arranged as a single image file (including all sub-parts; a, b, c, etc.). Please do not upload each panel individually.

Please read the digital images integrity and standards section of our Editorial and Publishing Policies . When possible, we prefer to use original digital figures to ensure the highest-quality reproduction in the journal. When creating and submitting digital files, please follow the guidelines below. Failure to do so, or to adhere to the following guidelines, can significantly delay publication of your work.

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

1. Line art, graphs, charts and schematics

For optimal results, you should supply all line art, graphs, charts and schematics in vector format, such as EPS or AI. Please save or export it directly from the application in which it was made, making sure that data points and axis labels are clearly legible.

2. Photographic and bitmap images

Please supply all photographic and bitmap images in a bitmap image format such as tiff, jpg, or psd. If saving tiff files, please ensure that the compression option is selected to avoid very large file sizes. Please do not supply Word or Powerpoint files with placed images. Images can be supplied as RGB or CMYK (note: we will not convert image colour modes).

Figures that do not meet these standards will not reproduce well and may delay publication until we receive high-resolution images.

3. Chemical structures

Please produce Chemical structures using ChemDraw or a similar program. All chemical compounds must be assigned a bold, Arabic numeral in the order in which the compounds are presented in the manuscript text. Structures should then be exported into a 300 dpi RGB tiff file before being submitted.

4. Stereo images

You should present stereo diagrams for divergent 'wall-eyed' viewing, with the two panels separated by 5.5 cm. In the final accepted version of the manuscript, you should submit the stereo images at their final page size.

If your paper contains statistical testing, it should state the name of the statistical test, the n value for each statistical analysis, the comparisons of interest, a justification for the use of that test (including, for example, a discussion of the normality of the data when the test is appropriate only for normal data), the alpha level for all tests, whether the tests were one-tailed or two-tailed, and the actual P value for each test (not merely "significant" or "P < 0.05"). Please make it clear what statistical test was used to generate every P value. Use of the word "significant" should always be accompanied by a P value; otherwise, use "substantial," "considerable," etc.

Data sets should be summarised with descriptive statistics, which should include the n value for each data set, a clearly labelled measure of centre (such as the mean or the median), and a clearly labelled measure of variability (such as standard deviation or range).

Ranges are more appropriate than standard deviations or standard errors for small data sets. Graphs should include clearly labelled error bars. You must state whether a number that follows the ± sign is a standard error (s.e.m.) or a standard deviation (s.d.).

You must justify the use of a particular test and explain whether the data conforms to the assumptions of the tests. Three errors are particularly common:

  • Multiple comparisons: when making multiple statistical comparisons on a single data set, you should explain how you adjusted the alpha level to avoid an inflated Type I error rate, or you should select statistical tests appropriate for multiple groups (such as ANOVA rather than a series of t-tests).
  • Normal distribution: many statistical tests require that the data be approximately normally distributed; when using these tests, you should explain how you tested your data for normality. If the data does not meet the assumptions of the test, you should use a non-parametric alternative instead.
  • Small sample size: when the sample size is small (less than about 10), you should use tests appropriate to small samples or justify the use of large-sample tests.

You should identify molecular structures by bold, Arabic numerals assigned in order of presentation in the text. Once identified in the main text or a figure, you may refer to compounds by their name, by a defined abbreviation, or by the bold Arabic numeral (as long as the compound is referred to consistently as one of these three).

When possible, you should refer to chemical compounds and biomolecules using systematic nomenclature, preferably using IUPAC . You should use standard chemical and biological abbreviations. Make sure you define unconventional or specialist abbreviations at their first occurrence in the text.

You should use approved nomenclature for gene symbols, and employ symbols rather than italicised full names (for example Ttn, not titin). Please consult the appropriate nomenclature databases for correct gene names and symbols. A useful resource is Entrez Gene .

You can get approved human gene symbols from HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC), e-mail: [email protected] ; see also www.genenames.org .

You can get approved mouse symbols from The Jackson Laboratory, e-mail: [email protected] ; see also www.informatics.jax.org/mgihome/nomen .

For proposed gene names that are not already approved, please submit the gene symbols to the appropriate nomenclature committees as soon as possible, as these must be deposited and approved before publication of an article.

Avoid listing multiple names of genes (or proteins) separated by a slash, as in 'Oct4/Pou5f1', as this is ambiguous (it could mean a ratio, a complex, alternative names or different subunits). Use one name throughout and include the other at first mention: 'Oct4 (also known as Pou5f1)'.

Scientific Reports is committed to publishing technically sound research. Manuscripts submitted to the journal will be held to rigorous standards with respect to experimental methods and characterisation of new compounds.

You must provide adequate data to support your assignment of identity and purity for each new compound described in your manuscript. You should provide a statement confirming the source, identity and purity of known compounds that are central to the scientific study, even if they are purchased or resynthesised using published methods.

1. Chemical identity

Chemical identity for organic and organometallic compounds should be established through spectroscopic analysis. Standard peak listings (see formatting guidelines below) for 1H NMR and proton-decoupled 13C NMR should be provided for all new compounds. Other NMR data should be reported (31P NMR, 19F NMR, etc.) when appropriate. For new materials, you should also provide mass spectral data to support molecular weight identity. High-resolution mass spectral (HRMS) data is preferred. You may report UV or IR spectral data for the identification of characteristic functional groups, when appropriate. You should provide melting-point ranges for crystalline materials. You may report specific rotations for chiral compounds. You should provide references, rather than detailed procedures, for known compounds, unless their protocols represent a departure from or improvement on published methods.

2. Combinational compound libraries

When describing the preparation of combinatorial libraries, you should include standard characterisation data for a diverse panel of library components.

3. Biomolecular identity

For new biopolymeric materials (oligosaccharides, peptides, nucleic acids, etc.), direct structural analysis by NMR spectroscopic methods may not be possible. In these cases, you must provide evidence of identity based on sequence (when appropriate) and mass spectral characterisation.

4. Biological constructs

You should provide sequencing or functional data that validates the identity of their biological constructs (plasmids, fusion proteins, site-directed mutants, etc.) either in the manuscript text or the Methods section, as appropriate.

5. Sample purity

We request evidence of sample purity for each new compound. Methods for purity analysis depend on the compound class. For most organic and organometallic compounds, purity may be demonstrated by high-field 1H NMR or 13C NMR data, although elemental analysis (±0.4%) is encouraged for small molecules. You may use quantitative analytical methods including chromatographic (GC, HPLC, etc.) or electrophoretic analyses to demonstrate purity for small molecules and polymeric materials.

6. Spectral data

Please provide detailed spectral data for new compounds in list form (see below) in the Methods section. Figures containing spectra generally will not be published as a manuscript figure unless the data are directly relevant to the central conclusions of the paper. You are encouraged to include high-quality images of spectral data for key compounds in the Supplementary Information. You should list specific NMR assignments after integration values only if they were unambiguously determined by multidimensional NMR or decoupling experiments. You should provide information about how assignments were made in a general Methods section.

Example format for compound characterisation data. mp: 100-102 °C (lit. ref 99-101 °C); TLC (CHCl 3 :MeOH, 98:2 v/v): R f = 0.23; [α] D = -21.5 (0.1 M in n-hexane); 1 H NMR (400 MHz, CDCl 3 ): δ 9.30 (s, 1H), 7.55-7.41 (m, 6H), 5.61 (d, J = 5.5 Hz, 1H), 5.40 (d, J = 5.5 Hz, 1H), 4.93 (m, 1H), 4.20 (q, J = 8.5 Hz, 2H), 2.11 (s, 3H), 1.25 (t, J = 8.5 Hz, 3H); 13 C NMR (125 MHz, CDCl 3 ): δ 165.4, 165.0, 140.5, 138.7, 131.5, 129.2, 118.6, 84.2, 75.8, 66.7, 37.9, 20.1; IR (Nujol): 1765 cm- 1 ; UV/Vis: λ max 267 nm; HRMS (m/z): [M] + calcd. for C 20 H 15 C l2 NO 5 , 420.0406; found, 420.0412; analysis (calcd., found for C 20 H 15 C l2 NO 5 ): C (57.16, 57.22), H (3.60, 3.61), Cl (16.87, 16.88), N (3.33, 3.33), O (19.04, 19.09).

7. Crystallographic data for small molecules

If your manuscript is reporting new three-dimensional structures of small molecules from crystallographic analysis, you should include a .cif file and a structural figure with probability ellipsoids for publication as Supplementary Information. These must have been checked using the IUCR's CheckCIF routine, and you must include a PDF copy of the output with the submission, together with a justification for any alerts reported. You should submit crystallographic data for small molecules to the Cambridge Structural Database and the deposition number referenced appropriately in the manuscript. Full access must be provided on publication.

8. Macromolecular structural data

If your manuscript is reporting new structures, it should contain a table summarising structural and refinement statistics. Templates are available for such tables describing NMR and X-ray crystallography data. To facilitate assessment of the quality of the structural data, you should submit with the manuscript a stereo image of a portion of the electron density map (for crystallography papers) or of the superimposed lowest energy structures (≳10; for NMR papers). If the reported structure represents a novel overall fold, you should also provide a stereo image of the entire structure (as a backbone trace).

Registered Reports are original research articles which undergo peer-review prior to data collection and analyses. This format is designed to minimize publication bias and research bias in hypothesis-driven research, while also allowing the flexibility to conduct exploratory (unregistered) analyses and report serendipitous findings. If you intend to submit a Registered Report to Scientific Reports , please refer to detailed guidelines here .

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The Effects of Climate Change

The effects of human-caused global warming are happening now, are irreversible for people alive today, and will worsen as long as humans add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

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  • We already see effects scientists predicted, such as the loss of sea ice, melting glaciers and ice sheets, sea level rise, and more intense heat waves.
  • Scientists predict global temperature increases from human-made greenhouse gases will continue. Severe weather damage will also increase and intensify.

Earth Will Continue to Warm and the Effects Will Be Profound

Effects_page_triptych

Global climate change is not a future problem. Changes to Earth’s climate driven by increased human emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are already having widespread effects on the environment: glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking, river and lake ice is breaking up earlier, plant and animal geographic ranges are shifting, and plants and trees are blooming sooner.

Effects that scientists had long predicted would result from global climate change are now occurring, such as sea ice loss, accelerated sea level rise, and longer, more intense heat waves.

The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.

how to write a short scientific report

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Some changes (such as droughts, wildfires, and extreme rainfall) are happening faster than scientists previously assessed. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the United Nations body established to assess the science related to climate change — modern humans have never before seen the observed changes in our global climate, and some of these changes are irreversible over the next hundreds to thousands of years.

Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for many decades, mainly due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities.

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report, published in 2021, found that human emissions of heat-trapping gases have already warmed the climate by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since 1850-1900. 1 The global average temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C (about 3 degrees F) within the next few decades. These changes will affect all regions of Earth.

The severity of effects caused by climate change will depend on the path of future human activities. More greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more climate extremes and widespread damaging effects across our planet. However, those future effects depend on the total amount of carbon dioxide we emit. So, if we can reduce emissions, we may avoid some of the worst effects.

The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss the brief, rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.

Here are some of the expected effects of global climate change on the United States, according to the Third and Fourth National Climate Assessment Reports:

Future effects of global climate change in the United States:

sea level rise

U.S. Sea Level Likely to Rise 1 to 6.6 Feet by 2100

Global sea level has risen about 8 inches (0.2 meters) since reliable record-keeping began in 1880. By 2100, scientists project that it will rise at least another foot (0.3 meters), but possibly as high as 6.6 feet (2 meters) in a high-emissions scenario. Sea level is rising because of added water from melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms. Image credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

Sun shining brightly over misty mountains.

Climate Changes Will Continue Through This Century and Beyond

Global climate is projected to continue warming over this century and beyond. Image credit: Khagani Hasanov, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Satellite image of a hurricane.

Hurricanes Will Become Stronger and More Intense

Scientists project that hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates will increase as the climate continues to warm. Image credit: NASA

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More Droughts and Heat Waves

Droughts in the Southwest and heat waves (periods of abnormally hot weather lasting days to weeks) are projected to become more intense, and cold waves less intense and less frequent. Image credit: NOAA

2013 Rim Fire

Longer Wildfire Season

Warming temperatures have extended and intensified wildfire season in the West, where long-term drought in the region has heightened the risk of fires. Scientists estimate that human-caused climate change has already doubled the area of forest burned in recent decades. By around 2050, the amount of land consumed by wildfires in Western states is projected to further increase by two to six times. Even in traditionally rainy regions like the Southeast, wildfires are projected to increase by about 30%.

Changes in Precipitation Patterns

Climate change is having an uneven effect on precipitation (rain and snow) in the United States, with some locations experiencing increased precipitation and flooding, while others suffer from drought. On average, more winter and spring precipitation is projected for the northern United States, and less for the Southwest, over this century. Image credit: Marvin Nauman/FEMA

Crop field.

Frost-Free Season (and Growing Season) will Lengthen

The length of the frost-free season, and the corresponding growing season, has been increasing since the 1980s, with the largest increases occurring in the western United States. Across the United States, the growing season is projected to continue to lengthen, which will affect ecosystems and agriculture.

Heatmap showing scorching temperatures in U.S. West

Global Temperatures Will Continue to Rise

Summer of 2023 was Earth's hottest summer on record, 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit (F) (0.23 degrees Celsius (C)) warmer than any other summer in NASA’s record and 2.1 degrees F (1.2 C) warmer than the average summer between 1951 and 1980. Image credit: NASA

Satellite map of arctic sea ice.

Arctic Is Very Likely to Become Ice-Free

Sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean is expected to continue decreasing, and the Arctic Ocean will very likely become essentially ice-free in late summer if current projections hold. This change is expected to occur before mid-century.

U.S. Regional Effects

Climate change is bringing different types of challenges to each region of the country. Some of the current and future impacts are summarized below. These findings are from the Third 3 and Fourth 4 National Climate Assessment Reports, released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program .

  • Northeast. Heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose increasing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Farmers can explore new crop options, but these adaptations are not cost- or risk-free. Moreover, adaptive capacity , which varies throughout the region, could be overwhelmed by a changing climate. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.
  • Northwest. Changes in the timing of peak flows in rivers and streams are reducing water supplies and worsening competing demands for water. Sea level rise, erosion, flooding, risks to infrastructure, and increasing ocean acidity pose major threats. Increasing wildfire incidence and severity, heat waves, insect outbreaks, and tree diseases are causing widespread forest die-off.
  • Southeast. Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to the region’s economy and environment. Extreme heat will affect health, energy, agriculture, and more. Decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts.
  • Midwest. Extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also worsen a range of risks to the Great Lakes.
  • Southwest. Climate change has caused increased heat, drought, and insect outbreaks. In turn, these changes have made wildfires more numerous and severe. The warming climate has also caused a decline in water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, and triggered heat-related health impacts in cities. In coastal areas, flooding and erosion are additional concerns.

1. IPCC 2021, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis , the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

2. IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

3. USGCRP 2014, Third Climate Assessment .

4. USGCRP 2017, Fourth Climate Assessment .

Related Resources

how to write a short scientific report

A Degree of Difference

So, the Earth's average temperature has increased about 2 degrees Fahrenheit during the 20th century. What's the big deal?

how to write a short scientific report

What’s the difference between climate change and global warming?

“Global warming” refers to the long-term warming of the planet. “Climate change” encompasses global warming, but refers to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet, including rising sea levels; shrinking mountain glaciers; accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic; and shifts in flower/plant blooming times.

how to write a short scientific report

Is it too late to prevent climate change?

Humans have caused major climate changes to happen already, and we have set in motion more changes still. However, if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, the rise in global temperatures would begin to flatten within a few years. Temperatures would then plateau but remain well-elevated for many, many centuries.

Discover More Topics From NASA

Explore Earth Science

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Earth Science in Action

Earth Action

Earth Science Data

The sum of Earth's plants, on land and in the ocean, changes slightly from year to year as weather patterns shift.

Facts About Earth

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March 19, 2024

Evidence Does Not Support the Use of the Death Penalty

Capital punishment must come to an end. It does not deter crime, is not humane and has no moral or medical basis

By The Editors

A woman protesting, holding a sign showing the Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A death penalty vigil, held in 2021 outside an Indiana penitentiary.

Bryan Woolston/Reuters/Redux

It is long past time to abolish the death penalty in the U.S.

Capital punishment was halted in the U.S. in 1972 but reinstated in 1976, and since then, nearly 1,600 people have been executed. To whose gain? Study after study shows that the death penalty does not deter crime, puts innocent people to death , is racially biased , and is cruel and inhumane. It is state-sanctioned homicide, wholly ineffective, often botched, and a much more expensive punishment than life imprisonment. There is no ethical, scientifically supported, medically acceptable or morally justifiable way to carry it out.

The recent execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith demonstrates this barbarity. After a failed attempt at lethal injection by prison officials seemingly inexperienced in the placement of an IV, the state of Alabama killed Smith in January using nitrogen gas . The Alabama attorney general claimed that this method of execution was fast and humane , despite no supporting evidence. Eyewitnesses recounted that Smith thrashed during the nitrogen administration and took more than 20 minutes to die.

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Opposition to the death penalty is growing among the American public , and the Biden administration must follow through on its promise to end this horror. The Department of Justice must heed its own admission that the death penalty doesn’t stop crime, and our legislators must continue to take up the issue on the congressional floor. The few states that still condemn people to death must follow the lead of states that have considered the evidence and rejected capital punishment.

Programs such as the Innocence Project have shown, over and over, that innocent people have been sentenced to death. Since 1973 nearly 200 people on death row have been exonerated, based on appeals, the reopening of cases, and the entrance of new and sometimes previously suppressed evidence. People have recanted testimony, and supposedly airtight cases have been poked full of evidentiary holes.

Through the death penalty, the criminal justice system has killed at least 20 people now believed to have been innocent and uncounted others whose cases have not been reexamined . Too many of these victims have been Black or Hispanic. This is not justice. These are state-sanctioned hate crimes.

Using rigorous statistical and experimental control methods, both economics and criminal justice studies have consistently found that there is no evidence for deterrence of violent crimes in states that allow capital punishment. One such study, a 2009 paper by criminology researchers at the University of Dallas, outlines experimental and statistical flaws in econometrics-based death penalty studies that claim to find a correlated reduction in violent crime. The death penalty does not stop people from killing. Executions don’t make us safer.

The methods used to kill prisoners are inhumane. Electrocution fails , causing significant pain and suffering. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist who criticizes the use of medicines in carrying out the death penalty, has found (at the request of lawyers of death row inmates) that the lungs of prisoners who were killed by lethal injection were often heavy with fluid and froth that suggested they were struggling to breathe and felt like they were drowning. Nitrogen gas is used in some veterinary euthanasia, but based in part on the behavior of rats in its presence, it is “unacceptable” for mammals , according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. This means that Smith, as his lawyers claimed in efforts to stop his execution, became a human subject in an immoral experiment.

Courts have often decided, against the abundant evidence, that these killings are constitutional and do not fall under the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the 8th Amendment or, in Smith’s appeal , both the 8th Amendment and the due process protection clause of the 14th amendment.

A small number of prosecutors and judges in a few states, mostly in the South, are responsible for most of the death sentences being handed down in the U.S. today. It’s a power they should not be able to wield. Smith was sentenced to life in prison by a jury before the judge in his case overruled the jury and gave him the death sentence.

A furious urge for vengeance against those who have done wrong—or those we think have done wrong—is the biggest motivation for the death penalty. But this desire for violent retribution is the very impulse that our criminal justice system is made to check, not abet. Elected officials need to reform this aspect of our justice system at both the state and federal levels. Capital punishment does not stop crime and mocks both justice and humanity. The death penalty in the U.S. must come to an end.

This is an opinion and analysis article, and the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American .

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What the Data Says About Pandemic School Closures, Four Years Later

The more time students spent in remote instruction, the further they fell behind. And, experts say, extended closures did little to stop the spread of Covid.

Sarah Mervosh

By Sarah Mervosh ,  Claire Cain Miller and Francesca Paris

Four years ago this month, schools nationwide began to shut down, igniting one of the most polarizing and partisan debates of the pandemic.

Some schools, often in Republican-led states and rural areas, reopened by fall 2020. Others, typically in large cities and states led by Democrats, would not fully reopen for another year.

A variety of data — about children’s academic outcomes and about the spread of Covid-19 — has accumulated in the time since. Today, there is broad acknowledgment among many public health and education experts that extended school closures did not significantly stop the spread of Covid, while the academic harms for children have been large and long-lasting.

While poverty and other factors also played a role, remote learning was a key driver of academic declines during the pandemic, research shows — a finding that held true across income levels.

Source: Fahle, Kane, Patterson, Reardon, Staiger and Stuart, “ School District and Community Factors Associated With Learning Loss During the COVID-19 Pandemic .” Score changes are measured from 2019 to 2022. In-person means a district offered traditional in-person learning, even if not all students were in-person.

“There’s fairly good consensus that, in general, as a society, we probably kept kids out of school longer than we should have,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who helped write guidance for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommended in June 2020 that schools reopen with safety measures in place.

There were no easy decisions at the time. Officials had to weigh the risks of an emerging virus against the academic and mental health consequences of closing schools. And even schools that reopened quickly, by the fall of 2020, have seen lasting effects.

But as experts plan for the next public health emergency, whatever it may be, a growing body of research shows that pandemic school closures came at a steep cost to students.

The longer schools were closed, the more students fell behind.

At the state level, more time spent in remote or hybrid instruction in the 2020-21 school year was associated with larger drops in test scores, according to a New York Times analysis of school closure data and results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress , an authoritative exam administered to a national sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students.

At the school district level, that finding also holds, according to an analysis of test scores from third through eighth grade in thousands of U.S. districts, led by researchers at Stanford and Harvard. In districts where students spent most of the 2020-21 school year learning remotely, they fell more than half a grade behind in math on average, while in districts that spent most of the year in person they lost just over a third of a grade.

( A separate study of nearly 10,000 schools found similar results.)

Such losses can be hard to overcome, without significant interventions. The most recent test scores, from spring 2023, show that students, overall, are not caught up from their pandemic losses , with larger gaps remaining among students that lost the most ground to begin with. Students in districts that were remote or hybrid the longest — at least 90 percent of the 2020-21 school year — still had almost double the ground to make up compared with students in districts that allowed students back for most of the year.

Some time in person was better than no time.

As districts shifted toward in-person learning as the year went on, students that were offered a hybrid schedule (a few hours or days a week in person, with the rest online) did better, on average, than those in places where school was fully remote, but worse than those in places that had school fully in person.

Students in hybrid or remote learning, 2020-21

80% of students

Some schools return online, as Covid-19 cases surge. Vaccinations start for high-priority groups.

Teachers are eligible for the Covid vaccine in more than half of states.

Most districts end the year in-person or hybrid.

Source: Burbio audit of more than 1,200 school districts representing 47 percent of U.S. K-12 enrollment. Note: Learning mode was defined based on the most in-person option available to students.

Income and family background also made a big difference.

A second factor associated with academic declines during the pandemic was a community’s poverty level. Comparing districts with similar remote learning policies, poorer districts had steeper losses.

But in-person learning still mattered: Looking at districts with similar poverty levels, remote learning was associated with greater declines.

A community’s poverty rate and the length of school closures had a “roughly equal” effect on student outcomes, said Sean F. Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford, who led a district-level analysis with Thomas J. Kane, an economist at Harvard.

Score changes are measured from 2019 to 2022. Poorest and richest are the top and bottom 20% of districts by percent of students on free/reduced lunch. Mostly in-person and mostly remote are districts that offered traditional in-person learning for more than 90 percent or less than 10 percent of the 2020-21 year.

But the combination — poverty and remote learning — was particularly harmful. For each week spent remote, students in poor districts experienced steeper losses in math than peers in richer districts.

That is notable, because poor districts were also more likely to stay remote for longer .

Some of the country’s largest poor districts are in Democratic-leaning cities that took a more cautious approach to the virus. Poor areas, and Black and Hispanic communities , also suffered higher Covid death rates, making many families and teachers in those districts hesitant to return.

“We wanted to survive,” said Sarah Carpenter, the executive director of Memphis Lift, a parent advocacy group in Memphis, where schools were closed until spring 2021 .

“But I also think, man, looking back, I wish our kids could have gone back to school much quicker,” she added, citing the academic effects.

Other things were also associated with worse student outcomes, including increased anxiety and depression among adults in children’s lives, and the overall restriction of social activity in a community, according to the Stanford and Harvard research .

Even short closures had long-term consequences for children.

While being in school was on average better for academic outcomes, it wasn’t a guarantee. Some districts that opened early, like those in Cherokee County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, and Hanover County, Va., lost significant learning and remain behind.

At the same time, many schools are seeing more anxiety and behavioral outbursts among students. And chronic absenteeism from school has surged across demographic groups .

These are signs, experts say, that even short-term closures, and the pandemic more broadly, had lasting effects on the culture of education.

“There was almost, in the Covid era, a sense of, ‘We give up, we’re just trying to keep body and soul together,’ and I think that was corrosive to the higher expectations of schools,” said Margaret Spellings, an education secretary under President George W. Bush who is now chief executive of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Closing schools did not appear to significantly slow Covid’s spread.

Perhaps the biggest question that hung over school reopenings: Was it safe?

That was largely unknown in the spring of 2020, when schools first shut down. But several experts said that had changed by the fall of 2020, when there were initial signs that children were less likely to become seriously ill, and growing evidence from Europe and parts of the United States that opening schools, with safety measures, did not lead to significantly more transmission.

“Infectious disease leaders have generally agreed that school closures were not an important strategy in stemming the spread of Covid,” said Dr. Jeanne Noble, who directed the Covid response at the U.C.S.F. Parnassus emergency department.

Politically, though, there remains some disagreement about when, exactly, it was safe to reopen school.

Republican governors who pushed to open schools sooner have claimed credit for their approach, while Democrats and teachers’ unions have emphasized their commitment to safety and their investment in helping students recover.

“I do believe it was the right decision,” said Jerry T. Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which resisted returning to school in person over concerns about the availability of vaccines and poor ventilation in school buildings. Philadelphia schools waited to partially reopen until the spring of 2021 , a decision Mr. Jordan believes saved lives.

“It doesn’t matter what is going on in the building and how much people are learning if people are getting the virus and running the potential of dying,” he said.

Pandemic school closures offer lessons for the future.

Though the next health crisis may have different particulars, with different risk calculations, the consequences of closing schools are now well established, experts say.

In the future, infectious disease experts said, they hoped decisions would be guided more by epidemiological data as it emerged, taking into account the trade-offs.

“Could we have used data to better guide our decision making? Yes,” said Dr. Uzma N. Hasan, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at RWJBarnabas Health in Livingston, N.J. “Fear should not guide our decision making.”

Source: Fahle, Kane, Patterson, Reardon, Staiger and Stuart, “ School District and Community Factors Associated With Learning Loss During the Covid-19 Pandemic. ”

The study used estimates of learning loss from the Stanford Education Data Archive . For closure lengths, the study averaged district-level estimates of time spent in remote and hybrid learning compiled by the Covid-19 School Data Hub (C.S.D.H.) and American Enterprise Institute (A.E.I.) . The A.E.I. data defines remote status by whether there was an in-person or hybrid option, even if some students chose to remain virtual. In the C.S.D.H. data set, districts are defined as remote if “all or most” students were virtual.

An earlier version of this article misstated a job description of Dr. Jeanne Noble. She directed the Covid response at the U.C.S.F. Parnassus emergency department. She did not direct the Covid response for the University of California, San Francisco health system.

How we handle corrections

Sarah Mervosh covers education for The Times, focusing on K-12 schools. More about Sarah Mervosh

Claire Cain Miller writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot. She joined The Times in 2008 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. More about Claire Cain Miller

Francesca Paris is a Times reporter working with data and graphics for The Upshot. More about Francesca Paris

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    How to write a good report The goal and functions to a good scientific report. A report is part of the scientific work. Regardless of its form and style, the functions of a report are: information on the work performed, observed results and conclusions are drawn. For the author, the report is a concentrate, while for the recipient it is a whole.

  15. Formatting Science Reports

    This section describes an organizational structure commonly used to report experimental research in many scientific disciplines, the IMRAD format: Introduction, Methods, Results, And Discussion. Although the main headings are standard for many scientific fields, details may vary; check with your instructor, or, if submitting an article to a journal, refer to the instructions to authors.…

  16. How To Write A Lab Report

    Introduction. Your lab report introduction should set the scene for your experiment. One way to write your introduction is with a funnel (an inverted triangle) structure: Start with the broad, general research topic. Narrow your topic down your specific study focus. End with a clear research question.

  17. Short report

    Criteria. Short reports are suitable for the presentation of research that extends previously published research, including the reporting of additional controls and confirmatory results in other settings, as well as negative results. Authors must clearly acknowledge any work upon which they are building, both published and unpublished.

  18. How to Write a Scientific Lab Report: A Short-Term Intervention for

    KEYWORDS: higher education, lab reports INTRODUCTION Writing a scientificreport is a core skill that students develop during their undergraduate studies to effectivelycommunicate their findingsand the understanding of the lab experience.1 Moreover, the development of the scientific writing com-

  19. How to Write a Scientific Lab Report: A Short-Term Intervention for

    Scientific writing is an important skill that students develop during their undergraduate studies. The goal of this study is to evaluate whether developing a short-term intervention through a co-creation process can be effective for improving lab report writing skills and evaluate whether this approach is effective. The length and extent of interventions can often be dictated by the resources ...

  20. Submission guidelines

    So, for Articles of 2,000 words or less, we suggest including no more than 4 figures/tables. Please note that schemes should not be used and should be presented as figures instead. Your submission ...

  21. PDF How to write a scientific report

    Discussion. An essay about what you discovered during the experiment. Include: an introduction statement and define any terms. a body that compares and explains the primary and secondary data to the aim or hypothesis. explanations of what was difficult or what went wrong and how you overcome problems. ideas for further experiments.

  22. PDF Writing a Scientific Report in the Geological Sciences

    A scientific report is a piece of writing used to communicate research to an audience. This may be new research (i.e. an experiment testing a hypothesis) or a review (i.e. a summary of others' research on a specific topic). For most university students, the report will be in the form of a review, where a specific topic is assigned and the ...

  23. PDF Scientific Reports

    The Writing Center Scientific Reports What this handout is about This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you've performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we'll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you'll get a clearer, more

  24. The Effects of Climate Change

    The IPCC's Sixth Assessment report, published in 2021, found that human emissions of heat-trapping gases have already warmed the climate by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit ... The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss ...

  25. Evidence Does Not Support the Use of the Death Penalty

    This article was originally published with the title " The Death Penalty Must Be Abolished " in Scientific American Magazine Vol. 330 No. 4 (April 2024), p. 66 doi:10.1038 ...

  26. What the Data Says About Pandemic School Closures, Four Years Later

    The more time students spent in remote instruction, the further they fell behind. And, experts say, extended closures did little to stop the spread of Covid.