Written Reports

Mid-Internship and Final Reports

Each intern must write a mid-term report that will be further expanded into the final report. Both reports must follow the following scientific report outline. The page guidelines are located within the Internship manual. Assignment and due date will be announced for each paper on Blackboard with Blackboard submission. Please submit a PDF. It is strongly urged not to use .doc, .docx or .odt since formatting may not be preserved for the referees. It is also personally offensive if the paper is submitted in .pages as no one will be able to read it. Ensure that you delineate each section with the appropriate Heading for that section. This does not apply to the Title which does not require a declaration of “Title”.

Title

A description of the main idea or question of the research. This can also highlight a key finding or question.

Abstract

A brief summary of the main question, methods and findings. This is usually the last thing written but the first thing presented in order to grab the attention of the reader.

A rough breakdown of an abstract would contain about:

  • 3 sentences worth of introduction with the key question
  • 2 sentences of major methodology
  • 3-6 sentences of the major results and conclusions drawn from them

Lengths will vary, but using this framework, you will not deviate too far from having a reader lose interest.

Introduction

The Introduction is a section that provides the background information relevant to generating a scientific argument or hypothesis to be researched. In order to have any validity, your evidence must have scientific validity in the source of primary sources from peer reviewed journals.What were the previous observations or prior knowledge used to come to these ideas? If you are describing a phenomenon or disease in general, you may use a review article which is not a scientific report, but a summary of other reports. You should NOT use websites as sources in this case unless there is a news item that will elucidate some fact or figure and popular opinion is relevant in drawing a single argument. You should also be reading the primary literature to explore your project. In this case, you should assemble at least 15 primary sources that are useful towards introducing the background of your problem and that support your hypothesis. You should also learn to manage these references in a reference manager such as Zotero or Mendeley (see References for more information).  State the actual hypotheses to be tested and how it will further the understanding of the issue.

Materials and Methods

This section is a little like a cooking recipe. The main steps taken should be summarized as standard prose in a manner that anyone could follow and repeat. This is written in the past tense and 3rd person. Do not write in the first person as *you* have nothing to do with the experiments. Explain “What was done with which reagents?” If you are performing a computational project that requires a lot of code, do not place it here. This section should be the summary of the methods implemented. You will want to include your code in an appendix since this will not add to the page count and incur penalties by the referees.

You may include some diagrams of workflows here, but it is poor practice to use screenshots of your code or options for analysis. This section might have citations of websites if this is where tools are located. However, do not rely on the website as the sole citation since there will often be a  peer-reviewed paper for the tool. That will be a primary source for citation since it provides the scientific relevance.

Results

This section is descriptive of what was observed. Figures and tables serve as a summary of the results to illustrate the data. They also serve as guides to outline the text of the section.  Ensure that each figure has a number and figure legend. Slowly describe each figure or table with greater detail than what appears in the legends. Expand these points into sentences and paragraphs. Present the data as fully as possible, including stuff that at the moment does not quite make sense. This is written in the past tense and 3rd person. Conclusions are not provided in this section as they are made from analyzing the information and synthesizing the results.

Images

Learn to use image manipulation software correctly. Do not squish images or have them be illegible. Learn the difference between a raster or bitmap graphic (jpg, gif, png) and a vector graphic (eps, svg, pdf). Learn basic skills in raster editing software: Photoshop or The GIMP (free). Learn basic vector editing skills in editors: Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape (free). Excessively large images should also be placed into the appendix or supplement.

Discussions/Conclusions

Discussions are the conclusions made through analyzing the results. At this time, you will be able to re-emphasize the original hypotheses made in the introduction. Indicate whether or not the hypotheses were demonstrated sufficiently. If this is not the case, offer alternatives and interpretations. Can you improve or modify your hypotheses? Explain how multiple lines of evidence corroborate each other and help to further the understanding of the problem. Continue to cite and reference primary sources to bolster your argument.

Mid-term

At the time of the mid-term report, it is not expected that you have completed acquiring data. It may also be the case that you haven’t acquired any data at all by this point. The Results  & Discussions sections will therefore be a section regarding the things that you will project/expect to see. What are your expectations? What difficulties have you come across in acquiring results that should be of note here. It is not expected that these sections remain remotely the same as in the final paper.

References

Prior knowledge requires demonstration of strength or validity. The references should be from primary sources and should illustrate the point of the statement. The section is presented in numerous formats as a bibliography, but citations are inserted near the text where knowledge or statements are displayed. Use a reference Manager to insert citations and format the bibliography. Excellent free reference manager with a plug-in to common word processors and web browsers include Zotero (free) or Mendeley (gratis). Reference managers not only aid you in managing the papers that are relevant to your report, but they greatly facilitate the insertion of citations and creation of a bibliography with minimal effort. It has been a tradition for students to have exactly 4 citations in their reports and this is mostly due to the fear of continuously rearranging the citations. You must have many more as stated in the directions for introduction. There are numerous ways to style citations and bibliographies. By convention, the manual states to use the traditional MLA or APA styles. However, it further elaborates to use the style of any scientific journal. By using your reference manager, you may choose from any styles that are available in their libraries (Nature, Cell, Science, etc).

Zotero

Mendeley

Appendices

In some contexts, there may be supplementary data that does not fit into the results section or extended alterations to methodology that can not fit into the Methods section. In these cases, you may provide appendices. A prime time to utilize appendices is for methodologies that involve a lot of code. The code is useful for reproduction of the methods or for later modification, but would expand the content and provide for dry reading. Also, excessively large figures or tables or expansion/enlargement of key points in figures should be placed here.

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