Guidelines for preparing a research report
Organization of the Research Report
Most scientific research reports, irrespective of the field, parallel the method of scientific reasoning. That
is: the problem is defined, a hypothesis is created, experiments are devised to test the hypothesis,
experiments are conducted, and conclusions are drawn. This framework is consistent with the
following organization of a research report:
Experimental Details or Theoretical Analysis
Conclusions and Summary
Title and Title Page
The title should reflect the content and emphasis of the project described in the report. It should be as
short as possible and include essential key words. The authors name (e.g., Mary B. Chung) should follow
the title on a separate line, followed by the authors affiliation (e.g., Department of Chemistry, Central
State College, Central, Arkansas, 67123), the date, and possibly the origin of the report (e.g., In partial
fulfillment of a Senior Thesis Project under the supervision of Professor Danielle F. Green, June, 1997).
All of the above could appear on a single cover page.
The abstract should, in the briefest terms possible, describe the topic, the scope, the principal findings,
and the conclusions. It should be written last to reflect accurately the content of the report. Briefly State
the problem or the purpose of the research, indicate the theoretical or experimental plan used, summarize
the principle finds and point out major conclusions. The length of abstracts vary, but seldom exceed 200
words. A primary objective of an abstract is to communicate to the reader the essence of the paper. The
reader will then be the judge of whether to read the full report or not. Were the report to appear in the
primary literature, the abstract would serve as a key source of indexing terms and key words to be used in
"A good introduction is a clear statement of the problem or project and why you are studying it." (The
ACS Style Guide. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 1986.) The nature of the problem and
why it is of interest should be conveyed in the opening paragraphs. This section should describe clearly
but briefly the background information on the problem, what has been done before (with proper literature
citations), and the objectives of the current project.
Why is this experiment important? Include the key question am I trying to answer? Include the key concepts?
Experimental Details or Theoretical Analysis
This section should describe what was actually done. It is a succinct exposition of the laboratory
notebook, describing procedures, techniques, instrumentation, special precautions, and so on. It should
be sufficiently detailed that other experienced researchers would be able to repeat the work and obtain
What is my technique/method? The apparatus should be included in this section. The apparatus should be drawn using
ChemSketch. See Figure 1 for an example.
Figure 1: Alkylation Reaction Setup
In this section, relevant data, observations, and findings are summarized. Tabulation of data, equations,
charts, and figures can be used effectively to present results clearly and concisely. Schemes to show
reaction sequences may be used here or elsewhere in the report.
What are my most important data/results? (You may have tables, pictures, diagrams, charts, structures, equations, etc.) What is the most effective format for presentation? See Table 1.
Table 1: Temperature Studies
The crux of the report is the analysis and interpretation of the results. What do the results mean? How do
they relate to the objectives of the project? To what extent have they resolved the problem?
1. Review data/results a. Compare with literature value, if applicable (are they similar or very different) b. Compare results with different trials, if applicable (are they similar or very
c. Compare your results with other group results, if applicable (are they similar or very different)
d. Look for oddities like violations of conservation of mass (over or under 100% recovery)
2. Go back to detailed experimental and look for places where error could have occurred.
3. Explain 4. Refer to questions asked in the project.
Conclusions and Summary A separate section outlining the main conclusions of the project is appropriate if conclusions have not
already been stated in the "Discussion" section. Directions for future work are also suitably expressed
here. A lengthy report, or one in which the findings are complex, usually benefits from a paragraph
summarizing the main features of the report - the objectives, the findings, and the conclusions.
Did I answer the key question? o If yes, what did I conclude? (Reflect on the article you chose for the Logic of an Article
assignment. Are their conclusions/inferences different from yours? How?)
o If no, what did I conclude? And what other approach/study/experiment should I try?
References Literature references should be collated at the end of the report and cited in one of the formats described
in The ACS Style Guide or standard journals. Do not mix formats. All references should be checked
against the original literature.
Preparing the Report
Students should use graphics software which allows numerical data to be graphed, chemical structures to
be drawn, and mathematical equations to be represented. These are essential tools of the technical writer.
All reports should routinely be checked for spelling (spell check programs are helpful), and all
manuscripts should be carefully proofread before being submitted.