How to Write a Scientific Report on Drosophila Essay
This report is very much a practice run to get you used to this style of report writing, rather than simply filling in lab sheets. It should not be a long report (no longer than these notes, in fact). Scientific writing is not like writing essays in other genre. In many ways it is easier! There are three important rules to scientific writing and if you adhere to these, the rest is quite easy:
- Sentences are short and use no superfluous words. Try to limit each sentence to one idea at a time. Avoid repeating concepts. Repetition is redundant and has no place in a scientific report.
- The flow of sentences is logical and follows a process of building knowledge or understanding from foundations to a pinnacle conclusion. If important information is left out or is placed in an ambiguous fashion, the house of knowledge, with your arguments and even reputation, will crumble under the scrutiny of your peers.
- The scientific argument, presentation of results, discussion and conclusions are presented so that the reader is guided through the deductive process in a clear and concise manner. The reader should at no time feel uncertain about any step in the process. What you discuss in the Discussion relates directly to the Results and to the ideas, questions, hypotheses, expressed in the Introduction.
Sections you should include in your Report.
The Title of a scientific paper should be brief but should also inform reader about the content of the paper. It should contain the name of the organism studied and wherever possible should state the study specifics. For example, a title Feeding Habits of Drosophila Mutants. s brief and informative, whereas; A study of Feeding. is less useful since no information is included about the experiment or organism and many potential readers will not bother to read the paper. Note that titles of scientific papers are sometimes quite long compared with other writing genres.
The Abstract is a precis or abridged summary of the scientific paper. The purpose of an Abstract is to supply potential readers with sufficient information so that they can determine if the paper is of interest to them and therefore worth reading. Abstracts are usually only a paragraph long. They are generally difficult to write well and should be left until last. In this Abstract you should only mention the techniques used in very broad terms (you will explain in more detail in the Methods section). It should state what you were investigating, your question, and what you found. You do not need to provide the evidence supporting your statements here. This Abstract should only be 2 to 3 sentences long.
In this report the introduction should be 2 to 3 paragraphs. It should clearly describe the question you have investigated (see lab sheets). You should also provide some background information on inheritance. The Introduction must contain some references (cited in the Introduction and referenced at the end in the usual way – Harvard or APA; refer to handouts from Week 2 Endnote tutorial). In this case you may cite your text book, other text books, and on-line sources. Only a couple of references are required for this report. In future reports this will extend to peer reviewed journals.
Materials and Methods
This section describes as clearly and completely as possible what you did, so that someone else can come along later and repeat the experiment from your report. (A paper can become quite famous because of the Methods they described rather than the results they reported). You may describe the how flies were kept and fed as a standard technique, so you don’t need to include many specific details. In general, standard techniques (well known in the field can be described in this way). More unusual techniques may need to be reported in significant detail.
But you should explain in some more specific detail what flies were crossed. This section must be written in the past tense: it is a description of what you did. This section must be written in prose: full sentences and proper paragraph structure, and not numbered or dot points. The Methods Section is often written in the passive voice (The flies were kept in small food vials). For this report the first person form is acceptable (We kept the flies in small food vials). For this report this section should be 2 to 3 paragraphs long.
In this section data from the experiments, and not discussion, suppositions, or conclusions from the data, are presented. [Note that data is plural: hence ‘data are presented’ and not ‘data is presented’. The singular form is datum; but rarely used. ] Data may have been analysed to some extent and presented as averages in Tables or as Graphs. The Methods section or the legends of the tables and graphs should give some indication of what analysis was done. For this report you will be presenting raw data in the form of numbers of flies exhibiting certain mutations.
These should be presented as Figures or Tables, with a Figure Legend placed below Figures and a Table Legend placed above tables (see below). You do not need to base the report on all the data you collected. You must include text in the Results section which describes the main trends shown in the results figures and tables, and which refers the reader to the figures or tables. The figure or table which this descriptive text refers to is placed, immediately after the text, in the report.
Descriptive Text Example
The greatest number of yeast cells in each Neubauer Hemocytometer grid cell occurred at 25oC (Table 1). The yeast growth trend increased between 10 and 25oC and then fell as the temperature increased (Figure 1). Table Example: (Note the legend above the table). Table 1: Growth of yeast cells at different temperatures expressed as number of yeast cells within a single Neubauer Hemocytometer grid cell. The mean ± the standard deviation is shown Temperature (oC)| Cell count| Std Dev| 10| 62| 14| 2| 94| 7| 25| 106| 6| 50| 47| 17| Figure Example: (Note the legend below the figure). Figure 1. The effect of temperature on the growth of yeast as expressed by number of yeast cells within a single Neubauer Hemocytometer grid cell. The mean ± 1 std. dev. is shown It is often not necessary to provide both a table of results and a graph. Usually one of the two is sufficient. They are both shown here just as an example of each type.
This is the most important part of the paper and usually the most fun to write.
It is here that you attempt to explain and compare your results with those in the peer-reviewed literature. It is important that you structure your argument around the hypothesis that the study was designed to test or question it was designed to investigate. In this report your Discussion must refer back to the Question asked in the Introduction. The Discussion and Introduction are thus linked. Always end this section with a paragraph summarising what you think are the most important conclusions that can be drawn from your work.
For this report the Discussion should be 2 to 4 paragraphs long. For this report you may include some new citations in this section but this is not required.
Every reference cited in the text must be included in the reference list. The reference list must contain only references that were cited in the text. A general reading list, which you are not providing, would be called a Bibliography. Journals usually have very specific referencing styles that must be followed without exception. For this report you should use any of the Harvard or APA styles.