Lab 1- Intro to Research Report Writing

Lab 1- Intro to Research Report Writing - Lab 1...

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Unformatted text preview: Lab 1: Introduction to Research Report Writing Modified from: Goldstein, J. M, C. M. McCormick, S. L. Madson, G. W. Barrett, and J. D. Lang. 2007. Field Ecology: An Integrative Levels-oi—Organization Approach. Athens: institute of Ecology, University of Georgia (unpubl. menu). 10? p. Purpose: Science is usually taught as an iterative process of observing the world, formulating hypotheses, testing them with critical experiments, analyzing results, re- formulating hypotheses, and so on. I. Introduction Part of the task of communicating scientific results is awareness of your intended audience. Are you trying to get your information across to the general public, other scientists in general, or other specialists in a small field of research? For tab reports, the audience is often the instructor or teaching assistant. Once you have decided to whom you will report your findings, you need to decide the manner of communication. Some common forms of scientific communication include a poster presentation or a lecture at a symposium. To reach the widest appropriate audience possible, however, most scientists attempt to publish their research in an appropriate journal. I focus on writing in journal format to a scientific audience in this overview, however, most of the given format carries over to other lab reports (eg., citation format). II. Guidelines for Writing a Research Report A. Style Scientific writing is very different from most other writing assignments you’ve had. Good science writing is clear and concise. This is NOT an English paper. You are not being asked for flowery metaphors and creative vocabulary. Your grade does NOT increase in proportion to the length of your paper. YES, your paper may be less entertaining to read, but you are writing to convey information, not to entertain. After all, when you consult a manual, you want the directions to be clear, direct and to the point. You do not want to wade through meandering thoughts. Remember that you are being graded on making your work understandable and for following the scientific method. Your challenge is to be thorough without writing extensively. Fact vs. Opinion Every time you write a statement that is not your original idea, you must cite it. For example, you would include citations when writing, “The introduction of exotic species in northern Georgia has resulted in the extinction of twelve native plant species (Smith and Jones 1996).", or, "The main pigments that contribute to leaf color in white oaks are chlorophyll and xanthophyll (Harvey and Wallbanger 1987).” You do not need to cite facts that are generally known or ideas that are your opinions. See pages 5-7 for more specific examples of citation formats. B. The Title Page Your title should tell the (potential) reader, in the fewest possible words. the content of your paper. It should include what you have done or tested, the name of the organisms that were studied and the attributes measured (unless that list is lengthy). if your research has particular regional relevance or is restricted to a certain region, then you should include the location as well. C. Abstract The abstract is a synopsis of your whole paper. People read abstracts to know what you will cover in your paper and what are your most important results. A person looking for information about a topic will often decide whether or not to read the rest of your paper based upon your abstract (after being drawn in by the title, of course). For this reason, it is important to write an abstract that summarizes your work and points to why it is important. Abstracts are usually written as one paragraph and restricted in length (approximately 250 words), so they need to be written concisely. What you should include: 1) A brief introduction to your subject andi’or background information about your topic. 2) The objective of your study. 3) Your hypotheses. 4) A brief summary of your methods. 5) Your most important results (be sure to include results that address your hypotheses). 6) Follow your results with why these results are important, such as, your data was previously unknown to science. 7) Draw a conclusion from your study and leave your reader with a take home message. What you should NOT include: 1) Long. detailed background information with citations. 2) A full description of your methods. 3) All of your results. 4) A detailed discussion with citations. D. The Introduction Section This section focuses on a summary of what questions you asked and why you asked them. Remember to include the relevance of your question to the larger societal and scientific viewpoint. What you should include: 1) The relevance of your question to the larger societal and scientific pictures of the world. 2) Background theory that led you to your questions. The background information that you provide will be intertwined with your justification of the experiment, both social and In.) scientific. Here you will cite previous findings and ideas that support your objective and lend credence to your hypothesis. 3) Statement of your objective. 4) Statement of your hypothesis. You use a hypothesis to help answer a question. A scientific hypothesis is an "educated guess" whereby you propose and idea that can be tested with observations or experiments. A valid hypothesis must be testable (through observations) and falsifiable (it is possible to show the hypothesis is incorrect). To know that you have a testable and falsifiable hypothesis you should be able to create an experiment that will either disprove or support your hypothesis. Your hypothesis should be a statement of cause and effect, stated as if already known, and not couched in vague or possible terms. Therefore, do not use “I think” or “i believe” or "It‘s possible" when stating your hypothesis. Please do not use an "If then format to state your hypothesis. but instead reserve that form for your predictions. Keep your hypotheses simple and straightforward. If there are multiple effects or multiple causes, then list each as separate hypotheses. While you do not have to state it, be aware in your own mind of what is your null hypothesis. it is also appropriate to have multiple hypotheses, if a variety of scenarios, besides the null hypothesis, are possible. For example, H1: The burning out of the refrigerator bulb creates an electric surge that trips the kitchen circuit breaker. H2: An electric surge through the kitchen circuit breaker will burn out the refrigerator bulb. Hg: (Null) There is no relationship between the tripped kitchen circuit breaker and the burned out refrigerator bulb. 5) Specific predictions generated by your testable hypothesis, which are also testable. 6) Very briefly, state. in a general manner, how your predictions were tested. Do not go into detail. What you should NOT include 1) Details of your methods or analysis. 2) Summary of your results or mention of tableslfigures in the results. 3) Discussion of your results. E. The Methods Section This section focuses on details of when, where, and how you conducted your research. The reader should be able to replicate what you have done from your descriptions. What you should include: 1) The date(s) the experiment(s) were conducted. 2) The location(s) where the experiment(s) were conducted. 3) The conditions under which the experiment(s) were conducted. 4) The design of your study (treatments, controls, replication, sample effort, etc). 5) Describe how the research was carried out. 6) What variables you are going to test and names of the statistical tests you will use for _ your analyses. Lu What you should NOT include: 1) 2) 3) Restatement of theory, background, or hypotheses mentioned in Introduction. Summary of your results, mention of tables or figures. Discussion of your results. F. The Results Section This section is a TEXT section. just like the other sections. Here you summarize your findings in narrative form and support your statements by referring to relevant figures, or, occasionally, tables. What you should include: 1) 2) Your results written out in plain English. Results simply state what your data, show after analysis. a) Figures or tables. Please note the emphasis on figures. Figures present the data in a format that is usually more comprehensible. b) Every time you state a result you must support it by citing the figure or table with its associated data. Correct ways to cite Figures or Tables include: "Bluebirds consumed more prey items than robins (Table 2)." "Data in Table 2 show bluebirds consumed more prey items than robins." “Table 2 contains the number of prey items consumed by bluebirds and robins. Bluebirds consumed more prey items than robins.” But don't forget that one of your aims is to be concise! c) Figures are labeled below. whereas tables are labeled above. d) Every Figure or Table should be labeled with a number, followed by a caption. Captions should be explicit, not vague. You should be able to understand a Table or Figure without any other text from the article. Every figure or graph needs an explanation of its symbols. This may be written as text following the title. Be sure to label your axes carefully and include units of measurement (such as g, cm, days, etc...). What you should NOT include: 1) 2) 3) 4) Restatement of theory or background. Restatement of the methods. formulas. Discussion of your results. This is NOT the place to discuss: a) whether or not your resultis) have supported your prediction(s), b) why they didldid not support your prediction(s). or c) problems with experimental design, etc... G. The Discussion Section This section will usuain be your longest section. Here, you discuss your findings in light of your predictions and larger theory. In this section it is acceptable to refer back to all appropriate information in the report. Organize your thoughts and support them by referring to preceding material as needed. What you should include: 1) Restatement of your objective and hypotheses. 2) Whether or not your results support your predictions (restate your results generally and explain how they relate to the predictions. 3) Discuss your findings relative to the infomation in your Introduction, including the associated theory and the broader picture of science. 4) include comparisons to similar research (i.e.. other peer reviewed studies). 5) Discuss potential problems with experiment (methodology, experimental design). 6) Suggest ways to improve research (methodology, experimental design). Again, stick to the biggies, not the little things that can't be helped no matter how hard one may try. 7) Conclude your discussion with a brief reminder of what you have found and it’s relevance to science and society (i.e., tie everything together). Think of this as your thirty-second sound bite. What do you want your readers to remember as your exit line? (And this refers to your science, not smart-alec remarks.) What you should NOT include: You should not rewrite the lab report in this section. H. The Literature Cited (Bibliography) Section In this section it is important to be consistent. We suggest you choose an ecology or biology journal, which contains articles similar to your research, and follow their format for literature citation. You may also consult style manuals (see reference for manual by Council of Biology Editor below). Please note that papers in science do NOT use the same literature citation system as the humanities. Style Manual Committee, Council of Biology Editors. 1994. Scientific style and format: the CBE manual for authors, editors. and publishers, 6'h edition. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. 841 p. Citations from the World Wide Web are not appropriate and will not be credited. While you are welcome to read papers or articles on the w, you must be able to cite a hard copy source in existence elsewhere, using one of the citation formats below. We do not use citations from the www because they often change and are not reliable for referencing. Provided below are samples of citations as cited in the journal Ecology. The number that follow the author's name is the year the article is written. This differs from other citation formats where you would cite the page number. Even when citing books, use the year and not the page number. U1 1) \Nlthin the text a) Single author: Previous studies contend that mashed potatoes make up the center of the earth (Jones 2001). b) Two authors: Previous studies contend that mashed potatoes make up the center of the earth (Jones and Smith 2001). 0) Multiple authors: Previous studies contend that mashed potatoes make up the center of the earth (Jones et al. 2001). ' d) Multiple papers: Place articles in order by date; Previous studies contend that mashed potatoes make up the center of the earth (Jones et al. 2001, Doe 2006). e) Emphasis on author: According Jones et al. (2001) mashed potatoes make up the center of the earth. 2) \Nlthin the bibliography In your literature cited section place articles in alphabetical order by the last name of the first author. Doe, E. F. 2006. Molten lava or mashed potatoes? An analysis of core samples from the center of the earth. Journal of Earth Science 128: 25-36. Jones, A. B. and C. D. Smith. 2001. Molten lava or mashed potatoes? An analysis of core samples from the center of the earth. Journal of Earth Science 128: 25-36. Rolfson, G. H., C. D. Smith, E. F. Doe, and A. B. Jones. 2004. Molten lava or mashed potatoes? An analysis of core samples from the center of the earth. Journal of Earth Science 128: 25—36. a) Journal article: Single author Doe, E. F. 2006. Molten iava or mashed potatoes? An analysis of core samples from the center of the earth. Journal of Earth Science 128: 2586. Two authors Jones, A. B. and C. D. Smith. 2001. Molten lava or mashed potatoes? An analysis of core samples from the center of the earth. Journal of Earth Science 128: 25-36. Multiple authors Rolfson, G. H., C. D. Smith, E. F. Doe, and A. B. Jones. 2004. Molten lava or mashed potatoes? An analysis of core samples from the center of the earth. Journal of Earth Science 128: 25-36. b) Book: Jones. A. B. 2001. Molten lava or mashed potatoes? New York: John Wiley and Sons. 253 p. (unless you are citing a whole chapter, see below, include the total number of pages in the book and not just the page number you are citing from) 0) Book chapter: Jones, A. B. 2001. Molten lava or mashed potatoes? An analysis of core samples from the center of the earth. In: Cooker iJ, Brideshead KL. editors. Earth science and food. 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons. p 81-89. 1. Common Mistakes 1) Data is a plural word. 2) Latin names must be italicized or underlined. The genus name is always capitalized and the specific name is not, e.g. Homo sapiens or Homo sapiens. 3) The term "significant" should only be used in reference to a statistical difference. ...
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This note was uploaded on 04/01/2008 for the course ECOL 1000 taught by Professor Altizer during the Spring '08 term at UGA.

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Lab 1- Intro to Research Report Writing - Lab 1...

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