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Report writing guidance


Report Structure


All scientific reports are broken down into 8 sections as follows:

Most reports will usually also have appendices, which support the main sections.You are expected to write an error appendix for your reports unless told otherwise (more information on error appendix page limits can be found on the layout tab).

  • Error Appendix



The abstract comes first, and is a short paragraph giving a summary to the reader of the major methods and results presented in the report.An abstract should:

  • Make sense on it's own. Don't refer to tables, equations, ect...that appear in the report. If you reference anything it will need the full bibliographical reference.
  • Contain the key results, as numbers if possible.
  • Be short and concise (200 words or less).


The aim of the introduction is to place your report into a broader context. It should discuss:

  • The history of the subject, related work by other scientists, any potential application
  • Relevant theory or equations
  • The motivation and objective of the report, and sometimes it's conclusions


The purpose of the method is to describe your apparatus and methodology.Usually you will describe the apparatus first, which is often best done with the help of a labelled diagram (NB: Do not use diagrams from your lab script).You should be writing your methodology so that a reader who is familiar with the apparatus used understands how to reproduce your measurements. Avoid going into unecessary detail or providing a chronological narrative of the individual steps you took. It's usually better to explain the logic behind what you are trying to do and how you acheived it.You can also describe the method you used to analyze your data or how you estimated your experimental errors.


This sections is where you give your results. It should contain a brief description of any calculations needed to get from the raw data to the final results, but any theory should be talked about in the Introduction or Method.Your results should be presented in a table or a figure which needs to be directly referred to in the text (e.g. "These results are summarised in Table 1"). For more on figures click here. Figure and tables take up a lot of space - consider whether you can plot multiple lines on one graph. Similarly, do not dump all of your raw data into a table to prove everything you say. Consider how to get your information across in a clear and concise manner - such as with a graph, a couple of numbers or a few lines of text.Any number that you produce needs to have it's associated error. Remember: do not quote your results to more significant figures than allowed by their errors. For more on errors click here.


Here, you analyze the physical meaning of your results. You might choose to:

  • Look at their implications
  • Compare them to accepted values
  • Examine and compare your method and results to those of other scientists, and discuss possible improvements (these need to be practical).
  • Discuss any errors your may have ommitted and how this would affect your results

While this section allows for a little more freedom then the others, it is important that it stays rooted in logic and evidence. If you make a statement, you should back it up with some evidence.Having a structure and a sense of direction within your Discussion is also important. It's better to talk in depth about a couple of big problems or implications that you've isolated than to list off a large number of wild theories.


The Conclusion should aim to round off your discussion section with a summary of your main results and their implications. Generally speaking, you will want to avoid introducing new concepts in this section.Ideally, you should discuss how your results link back to the motivation you gave in the Introduction


A short section acknowledging any contributions made by others, financial or adademic, towards the paper. You probably won't need to use this section until later in the course (Level 4 or higher).


This section is a list of the sources cited in the rest of the article with full bibliographical information. Do not included anything that you haven't cited in your work.For more on references, click here.

Error Appendix

In this section, you are expected to detail your error propagation. You must start with the errors you know (either random or apparatus/method related) and propagate them through to the error you quoted on your final results.There is no need to quote numerical values, but you need to show all the steps in the propagation so the marker knows that your method was correct.Importantly, this appendix should only contain the calculations you have made to get the errors quoted in your text. Discussions on the sources of the errors or explanations on how the original errors were evaluated should be in Method, Results or Discussion.For more on errors click here.