Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between a lab report and a research paper.

The purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method with a hands-on lab experiment. Course instructors will often provide you with an experimental design and procedure. Your task is to write up how you actually performed the experiment and evaluate the outcome.

In contrast, a research paper requires you to independently develop an original argument. It involves more in-depth research and interpretation of sources and data.

A lab report is usually shorter than a research paper.

Frequently asked questions: Academic writing

A rhetorical tautology is the repetition of an idea of concept using different words.

Rhetorical tautologies occur when additional words are used to convey a meaning that has already been expressed or implied. For example, the phrase “armed gunman” is a tautology because a “gunman” is by definition “armed.”

A logical tautology is a statement that is always true because it includes all logical possibilities.

Logical tautologies often take the form of “either/or” statements (e.g., “It will rain, or it will not rain”) or employ circular reasoning (e.g., “she is untrustworthy because she can’t be trusted”).

You may have seen both “appendices” or “appendixes” as pluralizations of “ appendix .” Either spelling can be used, but “appendices” is more common (including in APA Style ). Consistency is key here: make sure you use the same spelling throughout your paper.

The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but it usually contains the following:

  • Title: expresses the topic of your study
  • Abstract: summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
  • Introduction: establishes the context needed to understand the topic
  • Method: describes the materials and procedures used in the experiment
  • Results: reports all descriptive and inferential statistical analyses
  • Discussion: interprets and evaluates results and identifies limitations
  • Conclusion: sums up the main findings of your experiment
  • References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA)
  • Appendices: contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures

A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment . Lab reports are commonly assigned in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis , dissertation or research paper .

If you’ve gone over the word limit set for your assignment, shorten your sentences and cut repetition and redundancy during the editing process. If you use a lot of long quotes , consider shortening them to just the essentials.

If you need to remove a lot of words, you may have to cut certain passages. Remember that everything in the text should be there to support your argument; look for any information that’s not essential to your point and remove it.

To make this process easier and faster, you can use a paraphrasing tool . With this tool, you can rewrite your text to make it simpler and shorter. If that’s not enough, you can copy-paste your paraphrased text into the summarizer . This tool will distill your text to its core message.

Revising, proofreading, and editing are different stages of the writing process .

  • Revising is making structural and logical changes to your text—reformulating arguments and reordering information.
  • Editing refers to making more local changes to things like sentence structure and phrasing to make sure your meaning is conveyed clearly and concisely.
  • Proofreading involves looking at the text closely, line by line, to spot any typos and issues with consistency and correct them.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.

In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion . The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation , or research proposal .

Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.

Whether you’re publishing a blog, submitting a research paper , or even just writing an important email, there are a few techniques you can use to make sure it’s error-free:

  • Take a break : Set your work aside for at least a few hours so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.
  • Proofread a printout : Staring at a screen for too long can cause fatigue – sit down with a pen and paper to check the final version.
  • Use digital shortcuts : Take note of any recurring mistakes (for example, misspelling a particular word, switching between US and UK English , or inconsistently capitalizing a term), and use Find and Replace to fix it throughout the document.

If you want to be confident that an important text is error-free, it might be worth choosing a professional proofreading service instead.

Editing and proofreading are different steps in the process of revising a text.

Editing comes first, and can involve major changes to content, structure and language. The first stages of editing are often done by authors themselves, while a professional editor makes the final improvements to grammar and style (for example, by improving sentence structure and word choice ).

Proofreading is the final stage of checking a text before it is published or shared. It focuses on correcting minor errors and inconsistencies (for example, in punctuation and capitalization ). Proofreaders often also check for formatting issues, especially in print publishing.

The cost of proofreading depends on the type and length of text, the turnaround time, and the level of services required. Most proofreading companies charge per word or page, while freelancers sometimes charge an hourly rate.

For proofreading alone, which involves only basic corrections of typos and formatting mistakes, you might pay as little as $0.01 per word, but in many cases, your text will also require some level of editing , which costs slightly more.

It’s often possible to purchase combined proofreading and editing services and calculate the price in advance based on your requirements.

There are many different routes to becoming a professional proofreader or editor. The necessary qualifications depend on the field – to be an academic or scientific proofreader, for example, you will need at least a university degree in a relevant subject.

For most proofreading jobs, experience and demonstrated skills are more important than specific qualifications. Often your skills will be tested as part of the application process.

To learn practical proofreading skills, you can choose to take a course with a professional organization such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders . Alternatively, you can apply to companies that offer specialized on-the-job training programmes, such as the Scribbr Academy .

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You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Citation Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github .

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Types of journal articles

It is helpful to familiarise yourself with the different types of articles published by journals. Although it may appear there are a large number of types of articles published due to the wide variety of names they are published under, most articles published are one of the following types; Original Research, Review Articles, Short reports or Letters, Case Studies, Methodologies.

Original Research:

This is the most common type of journal manuscript used to publish full reports of data from research. It may be called an  Original Article, Research Article, Research, or just  Article, depending on the journal. The Original Research format is suitable for many different fields and different types of studies. It includes full Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections.

Short reports or Letters:

These papers communicate brief reports of data from original research that editors believe will be interesting to many researchers, and that will likely stimulate further research in the field. As they are relatively short the format is useful for scientists with results that are time sensitive (for example, those in highly competitive or quickly-changing disciplines). This format often has strict length limits, so some experimental details may not be published until the authors write a full Original Research manuscript. These papers are also sometimes called Brief communications .

Review Articles:

Review Articles provide a comprehensive summary of research on a certain topic, and a perspective on the state of the field and where it is heading. They are often written by leaders in a particular discipline after invitation from the editors of a journal. Reviews are often widely read (for example, by researchers looking for a full introduction to a field) and highly cited. Reviews commonly cite approximately 100 primary research articles.

TIP: If you would like to write a Review but have not been invited by a journal, be sure to check the journal website as some journals to not consider unsolicited Reviews. If the website does not mention whether Reviews are commissioned it is wise to send a pre-submission enquiry letter to the journal editor to propose your Review manuscript before you spend time writing it.  

Case Studies:

These articles report specific instances of interesting phenomena. A goal of Case Studies is to make other researchers aware of the possibility that a specific phenomenon might occur. This type of study is often used in medicine to report the occurrence of previously unknown or emerging pathologies.

Methodologies or Methods

These articles present a new experimental method, test or procedure. The method described may either be completely new, or may offer a better version of an existing method. The article should describe a demonstrable advance on what is currently available.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Scientific Reports

What this handout is about.

This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you’ve performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we’ll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you’ll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation. Readers of this handout may also find our handout on writing in the sciences useful.

Background and pre-writing

Why do we write research reports.

You did an experiment or study for your science class, and now you have to write it up for your teacher to review. You feel that you understood the background sufficiently, designed and completed the study effectively, obtained useful data, and can use those data to draw conclusions about a scientific process or principle. But how exactly do you write all that? What is your teacher expecting to see?

To take some of the guesswork out of answering these questions, try to think beyond the classroom setting. In fact, you and your teacher are both part of a scientific community, and the people who participate in this community tend to share the same values. As long as you understand and respect these values, your writing will likely meet the expectations of your audience—including your teacher.

So why are you writing this research report? The practical answer is “Because the teacher assigned it,” but that’s classroom thinking. Generally speaking, people investigating some scientific hypothesis have a responsibility to the rest of the scientific world to report their findings, particularly if these findings add to or contradict previous ideas. The people reading such reports have two primary goals:

  • They want to gather the information presented.
  • They want to know that the findings are legitimate.

Your job as a writer, then, is to fulfill these two goals.

How do I do that?

Good question. Here is the basic format scientists have designed for research reports:

  • Introduction

Methods and Materials

This format, sometimes called “IMRAD,” may take slightly different shapes depending on the discipline or audience; some ask you to include an abstract or separate section for the hypothesis, or call the Discussion section “Conclusions,” or change the order of the sections (some professional and academic journals require the Methods section to appear last). Overall, however, the IMRAD format was devised to represent a textual version of the scientific method.

The scientific method, you’ll probably recall, involves developing a hypothesis, testing it, and deciding whether your findings support the hypothesis. In essence, the format for a research report in the sciences mirrors the scientific method but fleshes out the process a little. Below, you’ll find a table that shows how each written section fits into the scientific method and what additional information it offers the reader.

Thinking of your research report as based on the scientific method, but elaborated in the ways described above, may help you to meet your audience’s expectations successfully. We’re going to proceed by explicitly connecting each section of the lab report to the scientific method, then explaining why and how you need to elaborate that section.

Although this handout takes each section in the order in which it should be presented in the final report, you may for practical reasons decide to compose sections in another order. For example, many writers find that composing their Methods and Results before the other sections helps to clarify their idea of the experiment or study as a whole. You might consider using each assignment to practice different approaches to drafting the report, to find the order that works best for you.

What should I do before drafting the lab report?

The best way to prepare to write the lab report is to make sure that you fully understand everything you need to about the experiment. Obviously, if you don’t quite know what went on during the lab, you’re going to find it difficult to explain the lab satisfactorily to someone else. To make sure you know enough to write the report, complete the following steps:

  • What are we going to do in this lab? (That is, what’s the procedure?)
  • Why are we going to do it that way?
  • What are we hoping to learn from this experiment?
  • Why would we benefit from this knowledge?
  • Consult your lab supervisor as you perform the lab. If you don’t know how to answer one of the questions above, for example, your lab supervisor will probably be able to explain it to you (or, at least, help you figure it out).
  • Plan the steps of the experiment carefully with your lab partners. The less you rush, the more likely it is that you’ll perform the experiment correctly and record your findings accurately. Also, take some time to think about the best way to organize the data before you have to start putting numbers down. If you can design a table to account for the data, that will tend to work much better than jotting results down hurriedly on a scrap piece of paper.
  • Record the data carefully so you get them right. You won’t be able to trust your conclusions if you have the wrong data, and your readers will know you messed up if the other three people in your group have “97 degrees” and you have “87.”
  • Consult with your lab partners about everything you do. Lab groups often make one of two mistakes: two people do all the work while two have a nice chat, or everybody works together until the group finishes gathering the raw data, then scrams outta there. Collaborate with your partners, even when the experiment is “over.” What trends did you observe? Was the hypothesis supported? Did you all get the same results? What kind of figure should you use to represent your findings? The whole group can work together to answer these questions.
  • Consider your audience. You may believe that audience is a non-issue: it’s your lab TA, right? Well, yes—but again, think beyond the classroom. If you write with only your lab instructor in mind, you may omit material that is crucial to a complete understanding of your experiment, because you assume the instructor knows all that stuff already. As a result, you may receive a lower grade, since your TA won’t be sure that you understand all the principles at work. Try to write towards a student in the same course but a different lab section. That student will have a fair degree of scientific expertise but won’t know much about your experiment particularly. Alternatively, you could envision yourself five years from now, after the reading and lectures for this course have faded a bit. What would you remember, and what would you need explained more clearly (as a refresher)?

Once you’ve completed these steps as you perform the experiment, you’ll be in a good position to draft an effective lab report.


How do i write a strong introduction.

For the purposes of this handout, we’ll consider the Introduction to contain four basic elements: the purpose, the scientific literature relevant to the subject, the hypothesis, and the reasons you believed your hypothesis viable. Let’s start by going through each element of the Introduction to clarify what it covers and why it’s important. Then we can formulate a logical organizational strategy for the section.

The inclusion of the purpose (sometimes called the objective) of the experiment often confuses writers. The biggest misconception is that the purpose is the same as the hypothesis. Not quite. We’ll get to hypotheses in a minute, but basically they provide some indication of what you expect the experiment to show. The purpose is broader, and deals more with what you expect to gain through the experiment. In a professional setting, the hypothesis might have something to do with how cells react to a certain kind of genetic manipulation, but the purpose of the experiment is to learn more about potential cancer treatments. Undergraduate reports don’t often have this wide-ranging a goal, but you should still try to maintain the distinction between your hypothesis and your purpose. In a solubility experiment, for example, your hypothesis might talk about the relationship between temperature and the rate of solubility, but the purpose is probably to learn more about some specific scientific principle underlying the process of solubility.

For starters, most people say that you should write out your working hypothesis before you perform the experiment or study. Many beginning science students neglect to do so and find themselves struggling to remember precisely which variables were involved in the process or in what way the researchers felt that they were related. Write your hypothesis down as you develop it—you’ll be glad you did.

As for the form a hypothesis should take, it’s best not to be too fancy or complicated; an inventive style isn’t nearly so important as clarity here. There’s nothing wrong with beginning your hypothesis with the phrase, “It was hypothesized that . . .” Be as specific as you can about the relationship between the different objects of your study. In other words, explain that when term A changes, term B changes in this particular way. Readers of scientific writing are rarely content with the idea that a relationship between two terms exists—they want to know what that relationship entails.

Not a hypothesis:

“It was hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between the temperature of a solvent and the rate at which a solute dissolves.”


“It was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases.”

Put more technically, most hypotheses contain both an independent and a dependent variable. The independent variable is what you manipulate to test the reaction; the dependent variable is what changes as a result of your manipulation. In the example above, the independent variable is the temperature of the solvent, and the dependent variable is the rate of solubility. Be sure that your hypothesis includes both variables.

Justify your hypothesis

You need to do more than tell your readers what your hypothesis is; you also need to assure them that this hypothesis was reasonable, given the circumstances. In other words, use the Introduction to explain that you didn’t just pluck your hypothesis out of thin air. (If you did pluck it out of thin air, your problems with your report will probably extend beyond using the appropriate format.) If you posit that a particular relationship exists between the independent and the dependent variable, what led you to believe your “guess” might be supported by evidence?

Scientists often refer to this type of justification as “motivating” the hypothesis, in the sense that something propelled them to make that prediction. Often, motivation includes what we already know—or rather, what scientists generally accept as true (see “Background/previous research” below). But you can also motivate your hypothesis by relying on logic or on your own observations. If you’re trying to decide which solutes will dissolve more rapidly in a solvent at increased temperatures, you might remember that some solids are meant to dissolve in hot water (e.g., bouillon cubes) and some are used for a function precisely because they withstand higher temperatures (they make saucepans out of something). Or you can think about whether you’ve noticed sugar dissolving more rapidly in your glass of iced tea or in your cup of coffee. Even such basic, outside-the-lab observations can help you justify your hypothesis as reasonable.

Background/previous research

This part of the Introduction demonstrates to the reader your awareness of how you’re building on other scientists’ work. If you think of the scientific community as engaging in a series of conversations about various topics, then you’ll recognize that the relevant background material will alert the reader to which conversation you want to enter.

Generally speaking, authors writing journal articles use the background for slightly different purposes than do students completing assignments. Because readers of academic journals tend to be professionals in the field, authors explain the background in order to permit readers to evaluate the study’s pertinence for their own work. You, on the other hand, write toward a much narrower audience—your peers in the course or your lab instructor—and so you must demonstrate that you understand the context for the (presumably assigned) experiment or study you’ve completed. For example, if your professor has been talking about polarity during lectures, and you’re doing a solubility experiment, you might try to connect the polarity of a solid to its relative solubility in certain solvents. In any event, both professional researchers and undergraduates need to connect the background material overtly to their own work.

Organization of this section

Most of the time, writers begin by stating the purpose or objectives of their own work, which establishes for the reader’s benefit the “nature and scope of the problem investigated” (Day 1994). Once you have expressed your purpose, you should then find it easier to move from the general purpose, to relevant material on the subject, to your hypothesis. In abbreviated form, an Introduction section might look like this:

“The purpose of the experiment was to test conventional ideas about solubility in the laboratory [purpose] . . . According to Whitecoat and Labrat (1999), at higher temperatures the molecules of solvents move more quickly . . . We know from the class lecture that molecules moving at higher rates of speed collide with one another more often and thus break down more easily [background material/motivation] . . . Thus, it was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases [hypothesis].”

Again—these are guidelines, not commandments. Some writers and readers prefer different structures for the Introduction. The one above merely illustrates a common approach to organizing material.

How do I write a strong Materials and Methods section?

As with any piece of writing, your Methods section will succeed only if it fulfills its readers’ expectations, so you need to be clear in your own mind about the purpose of this section. Let’s review the purpose as we described it above: in this section, you want to describe in detail how you tested the hypothesis you developed and also to clarify the rationale for your procedure. In science, it’s not sufficient merely to design and carry out an experiment. Ultimately, others must be able to verify your findings, so your experiment must be reproducible, to the extent that other researchers can follow the same procedure and obtain the same (or similar) results.

Here’s a real-world example of the importance of reproducibility. In 1989, physicists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman announced that they had discovered “cold fusion,” a way of producing excess heat and power without the nuclear radiation that accompanies “hot fusion.” Such a discovery could have great ramifications for the industrial production of energy, so these findings created a great deal of interest. When other scientists tried to duplicate the experiment, however, they didn’t achieve the same results, and as a result many wrote off the conclusions as unjustified (or worse, a hoax). To this day, the viability of cold fusion is debated within the scientific community, even though an increasing number of researchers believe it possible. So when you write your Methods section, keep in mind that you need to describe your experiment well enough to allow others to replicate it exactly.

With these goals in mind, let’s consider how to write an effective Methods section in terms of content, structure, and style.

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing this section isn’t what you should talk about, but what you shouldn’t talk about. Writers often want to include the results of their experiment, because they measured and recorded the results during the course of the experiment. But such data should be reserved for the Results section. In the Methods section, you can write that you recorded the results, or how you recorded the results (e.g., in a table), but you shouldn’t write what the results were—not yet. Here, you’re merely stating exactly how you went about testing your hypothesis. As you draft your Methods section, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much detail? Be precise in providing details, but stay relevant. Ask yourself, “Would it make any difference if this piece were a different size or made from a different material?” If not, you probably don’t need to get too specific. If so, you should give as many details as necessary to prevent this experiment from going awry if someone else tries to carry it out. Probably the most crucial detail is measurement; you should always quantify anything you can, such as time elapsed, temperature, mass, volume, etc.
  • Rationale: Be sure that as you’re relating your actions during the experiment, you explain your rationale for the protocol you developed. If you capped a test tube immediately after adding a solute to a solvent, why did you do that? (That’s really two questions: why did you cap it, and why did you cap it immediately?) In a professional setting, writers provide their rationale as a way to explain their thinking to potential critics. On one hand, of course, that’s your motivation for talking about protocol, too. On the other hand, since in practical terms you’re also writing to your teacher (who’s seeking to evaluate how well you comprehend the principles of the experiment), explaining the rationale indicates that you understand the reasons for conducting the experiment in that way, and that you’re not just following orders. Critical thinking is crucial—robots don’t make good scientists.
  • Control: Most experiments will include a control, which is a means of comparing experimental results. (Sometimes you’ll need to have more than one control, depending on the number of hypotheses you want to test.) The control is exactly the same as the other items you’re testing, except that you don’t manipulate the independent variable-the condition you’re altering to check the effect on the dependent variable. For example, if you’re testing solubility rates at increased temperatures, your control would be a solution that you didn’t heat at all; that way, you’ll see how quickly the solute dissolves “naturally” (i.e., without manipulation), and you’ll have a point of reference against which to compare the solutions you did heat.

Describe the control in the Methods section. Two things are especially important in writing about the control: identify the control as a control, and explain what you’re controlling for. Here is an example:

“As a control for the temperature change, we placed the same amount of solute in the same amount of solvent, and let the solution stand for five minutes without heating it.”

Structure and style

Organization is especially important in the Methods section of a lab report because readers must understand your experimental procedure completely. Many writers are surprised by the difficulty of conveying what they did during the experiment, since after all they’re only reporting an event, but it’s often tricky to present this information in a coherent way. There’s a fairly standard structure you can use to guide you, and following the conventions for style can help clarify your points.

  • Subsections: Occasionally, researchers use subsections to report their procedure when the following circumstances apply: 1) if they’ve used a great many materials; 2) if the procedure is unusually complicated; 3) if they’ve developed a procedure that won’t be familiar to many of their readers. Because these conditions rarely apply to the experiments you’ll perform in class, most undergraduate lab reports won’t require you to use subsections. In fact, many guides to writing lab reports suggest that you try to limit your Methods section to a single paragraph.
  • Narrative structure: Think of this section as telling a story about a group of people and the experiment they performed. Describe what you did in the order in which you did it. You may have heard the old joke centered on the line, “Disconnect the red wire, but only after disconnecting the green wire,” where the person reading the directions blows everything to kingdom come because the directions weren’t in order. We’re used to reading about events chronologically, and so your readers will generally understand what you did if you present that information in the same way. Also, since the Methods section does generally appear as a narrative (story), you want to avoid the “recipe” approach: “First, take a clean, dry 100 ml test tube from the rack. Next, add 50 ml of distilled water.” You should be reporting what did happen, not telling the reader how to perform the experiment: “50 ml of distilled water was poured into a clean, dry 100 ml test tube.” Hint: most of the time, the recipe approach comes from copying down the steps of the procedure from your lab manual, so you may want to draft the Methods section initially without consulting your manual. Later, of course, you can go back and fill in any part of the procedure you inadvertently overlooked.
  • Past tense: Remember that you’re describing what happened, so you should use past tense to refer to everything you did during the experiment. Writers are often tempted to use the imperative (“Add 5 g of the solid to the solution”) because that’s how their lab manuals are worded; less frequently, they use present tense (“5 g of the solid are added to the solution”). Instead, remember that you’re talking about an event which happened at a particular time in the past, and which has already ended by the time you start writing, so simple past tense will be appropriate in this section (“5 g of the solid were added to the solution” or “We added 5 g of the solid to the solution”).
  • Active: We heated the solution to 80°C. (The subject, “we,” performs the action, heating.)
  • Passive: The solution was heated to 80°C. (The subject, “solution,” doesn’t do the heating–it is acted upon, not acting.)

Increasingly, especially in the social sciences, using first person and active voice is acceptable in scientific reports. Most readers find that this style of writing conveys information more clearly and concisely. This rhetorical choice thus brings two scientific values into conflict: objectivity versus clarity. Since the scientific community hasn’t reached a consensus about which style it prefers, you may want to ask your lab instructor.

How do I write a strong Results section?

Here’s a paradox for you. The Results section is often both the shortest (yay!) and most important (uh-oh!) part of your report. Your Materials and Methods section shows how you obtained the results, and your Discussion section explores the significance of the results, so clearly the Results section forms the backbone of the lab report. This section provides the most critical information about your experiment: the data that allow you to discuss how your hypothesis was or wasn’t supported. But it doesn’t provide anything else, which explains why this section is generally shorter than the others.

Before you write this section, look at all the data you collected to figure out what relates significantly to your hypothesis. You’ll want to highlight this material in your Results section. Resist the urge to include every bit of data you collected, since perhaps not all are relevant. Also, don’t try to draw conclusions about the results—save them for the Discussion section. In this section, you’re reporting facts. Nothing your readers can dispute should appear in the Results section.

Most Results sections feature three distinct parts: text, tables, and figures. Let’s consider each part one at a time.

This should be a short paragraph, generally just a few lines, that describes the results you obtained from your experiment. In a relatively simple experiment, one that doesn’t produce a lot of data for you to repeat, the text can represent the entire Results section. Don’t feel that you need to include lots of extraneous detail to compensate for a short (but effective) text; your readers appreciate discrimination more than your ability to recite facts. In a more complex experiment, you may want to use tables and/or figures to help guide your readers toward the most important information you gathered. In that event, you’ll need to refer to each table or figure directly, where appropriate:

“Table 1 lists the rates of solubility for each substance”

“Solubility increased as the temperature of the solution increased (see Figure 1).”

If you do use tables or figures, make sure that you don’t present the same material in both the text and the tables/figures, since in essence you’ll just repeat yourself, probably annoying your readers with the redundancy of your statements.

Feel free to describe trends that emerge as you examine the data. Although identifying trends requires some judgment on your part and so may not feel like factual reporting, no one can deny that these trends do exist, and so they properly belong in the Results section. Example:

“Heating the solution increased the rate of solubility of polar solids by 45% but had no effect on the rate of solubility in solutions containing non-polar solids.”

This point isn’t debatable—you’re just pointing out what the data show.

As in the Materials and Methods section, you want to refer to your data in the past tense, because the events you recorded have already occurred and have finished occurring. In the example above, note the use of “increased” and “had,” rather than “increases” and “has.” (You don’t know from your experiment that heating always increases the solubility of polar solids, but it did that time.)

You shouldn’t put information in the table that also appears in the text. You also shouldn’t use a table to present irrelevant data, just to show you did collect these data during the experiment. Tables are good for some purposes and situations, but not others, so whether and how you’ll use tables depends upon what you need them to accomplish.

Tables are useful ways to show variation in data, but not to present a great deal of unchanging measurements. If you’re dealing with a scientific phenomenon that occurs only within a certain range of temperatures, for example, you don’t need to use a table to show that the phenomenon didn’t occur at any of the other temperatures. How useful is this table?

A table labeled Effect of Temperature on Rate of Solubility with temperature of solvent values in 10-degree increments from -20 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius that does not show a corresponding rate of solubility value until 50 degrees Celsius.

As you can probably see, no solubility was observed until the trial temperature reached 50°C, a fact that the text part of the Results section could easily convey. The table could then be limited to what happened at 50°C and higher, thus better illustrating the differences in solubility rates when solubility did occur.

As a rule, try not to use a table to describe any experimental event you can cover in one sentence of text. Here’s an example of an unnecessary table from How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , by Robert A. Day:

A table labeled Oxygen requirements of various species of Streptomyces showing the names of organisms and two columns that indicate growth under aerobic conditions and growth under anaerobic conditions with a plus or minus symbol for each organism in the growth columns to indicate value.

As Day notes, all the information in this table can be summarized in one sentence: “S. griseus, S. coelicolor, S. everycolor, and S. rainbowenski grew under aerobic conditions, whereas S. nocolor and S. greenicus required anaerobic conditions.” Most readers won’t find the table clearer than that one sentence.

When you do have reason to tabulate material, pay attention to the clarity and readability of the format you use. Here are a few tips:

  • Number your table. Then, when you refer to the table in the text, use that number to tell your readers which table they can review to clarify the material.
  • Give your table a title. This title should be descriptive enough to communicate the contents of the table, but not so long that it becomes difficult to follow. The titles in the sample tables above are acceptable.
  • Arrange your table so that readers read vertically, not horizontally. For the most part, this rule means that you should construct your table so that like elements read down, not across. Think about what you want your readers to compare, and put that information in the column (up and down) rather than in the row (across). Usually, the point of comparison will be the numerical data you collect, so especially make sure you have columns of numbers, not rows.Here’s an example of how drastically this decision affects the readability of your table (from A Short Guide to Writing about Chemistry , by Herbert Beall and John Trimbur). Look at this table, which presents the relevant data in horizontal rows:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in rows horizontally.

It’s a little tough to see the trends that the author presumably wants to present in this table. Compare this table, in which the data appear vertically:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in columns vertically.

The second table shows how putting like elements in a vertical column makes for easier reading. In this case, the like elements are the measurements of length and height, over five trials–not, as in the first table, the length and height measurements for each trial.

  • Make sure to include units of measurement in the tables. Readers might be able to guess that you measured something in millimeters, but don’t make them try.
  • Don’t use vertical lines as part of the format for your table. This convention exists because journals prefer not to have to reproduce these lines because the tables then become more expensive to print. Even though it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be sending your Biology 11 lab report to Science for publication, your readers still have this expectation. Consequently, if you use the table-drawing option in your word-processing software, choose the option that doesn’t rely on a “grid” format (which includes vertical lines).

How do I include figures in my report?

Although tables can be useful ways of showing trends in the results you obtained, figures (i.e., illustrations) can do an even better job of emphasizing such trends. Lab report writers often use graphic representations of the data they collected to provide their readers with a literal picture of how the experiment went.

When should you use a figure?

Remember the circumstances under which you don’t need a table: when you don’t have a great deal of data or when the data you have don’t vary a lot. Under the same conditions, you would probably forgo the figure as well, since the figure would be unlikely to provide your readers with an additional perspective. Scientists really don’t like their time wasted, so they tend not to respond favorably to redundancy.

If you’re trying to decide between using a table and creating a figure to present your material, consider the following a rule of thumb. The strength of a table lies in its ability to supply large amounts of exact data, whereas the strength of a figure is its dramatic illustration of important trends within the experiment. If you feel that your readers won’t get the full impact of the results you obtained just by looking at the numbers, then a figure might be appropriate.

Of course, an undergraduate class may expect you to create a figure for your lab experiment, if only to make sure that you can do so effectively. If this is the case, then don’t worry about whether to use figures or not—concentrate instead on how best to accomplish your task.

Figures can include maps, photographs, pen-and-ink drawings, flow charts, bar graphs, and section graphs (“pie charts”). But the most common figure by far, especially for undergraduates, is the line graph, so we’ll focus on that type in this handout.

At the undergraduate level, you can often draw and label your graphs by hand, provided that the result is clear, legible, and drawn to scale. Computer technology has, however, made creating line graphs a lot easier. Most word-processing software has a number of functions for transferring data into graph form; many scientists have found Microsoft Excel, for example, a helpful tool in graphing results. If you plan on pursuing a career in the sciences, it may be well worth your while to learn to use a similar program.

Computers can’t, however, decide for you how your graph really works; you have to know how to design your graph to meet your readers’ expectations. Here are some of these expectations:

  • Keep it as simple as possible. You may be tempted to signal the complexity of the information you gathered by trying to design a graph that accounts for that complexity. But remember the purpose of your graph: to dramatize your results in a manner that’s easy to see and grasp. Try not to make the reader stare at the graph for a half hour to find the important line among the mass of other lines. For maximum effectiveness, limit yourself to three to five lines per graph; if you have more data to demonstrate, use a set of graphs to account for it, rather than trying to cram it all into a single figure.
  • Plot the independent variable on the horizontal (x) axis and the dependent variable on the vertical (y) axis. Remember that the independent variable is the condition that you manipulated during the experiment and the dependent variable is the condition that you measured to see if it changed along with the independent variable. Placing the variables along their respective axes is mostly just a convention, but since your readers are accustomed to viewing graphs in this way, you’re better off not challenging the convention in your report.
  • Label each axis carefully, and be especially careful to include units of measure. You need to make sure that your readers understand perfectly well what your graph indicates.
  • Number and title your graphs. As with tables, the title of the graph should be informative but concise, and you should refer to your graph by number in the text (e.g., “Figure 1 shows the increase in the solubility rate as a function of temperature”).
  • Many editors of professional scientific journals prefer that writers distinguish the lines in their graphs by attaching a symbol to them, usually a geometric shape (triangle, square, etc.), and using that symbol throughout the curve of the line. Generally, readers have a hard time distinguishing dotted lines from dot-dash lines from straight lines, so you should consider staying away from this system. Editors don’t usually like different-colored lines within a graph because colors are difficult and expensive to reproduce; colors may, however, be great for your purposes, as long as you’re not planning to submit your paper to Nature. Use your discretion—try to employ whichever technique dramatizes the results most effectively.
  • Try to gather data at regular intervals, so the plot points on your graph aren’t too far apart. You can’t be sure of the arc you should draw between the plot points if the points are located at the far corners of the graph; over a fifteen-minute interval, perhaps the change occurred in the first or last thirty seconds of that period (in which case your straight-line connection between the points is misleading).
  • If you’re worried that you didn’t collect data at sufficiently regular intervals during your experiment, go ahead and connect the points with a straight line, but you may want to examine this problem as part of your Discussion section.
  • Make your graph large enough so that everything is legible and clearly demarcated, but not so large that it either overwhelms the rest of the Results section or provides a far greater range than you need to illustrate your point. If, for example, the seedlings of your plant grew only 15 mm during the trial, you don’t need to construct a graph that accounts for 100 mm of growth. The lines in your graph should more or less fill the space created by the axes; if you see that your data is confined to the lower left portion of the graph, you should probably re-adjust your scale.
  • If you create a set of graphs, make them the same size and format, including all the verbal and visual codes (captions, symbols, scale, etc.). You want to be as consistent as possible in your illustrations, so that your readers can easily make the comparisons you’re trying to get them to see.

How do I write a strong Discussion section?

The discussion section is probably the least formalized part of the report, in that you can’t really apply the same structure to every type of experiment. In simple terms, here you tell your readers what to make of the Results you obtained. If you have done the Results part well, your readers should already recognize the trends in the data and have a fairly clear idea of whether your hypothesis was supported. Because the Results can seem so self-explanatory, many students find it difficult to know what material to add in this last section.

Basically, the Discussion contains several parts, in no particular order, but roughly moving from specific (i.e., related to your experiment only) to general (how your findings fit in the larger scientific community). In this section, you will, as a rule, need to:

Explain whether the data support your hypothesis

  • Acknowledge any anomalous data or deviations from what you expected

Derive conclusions, based on your findings, about the process you’re studying

  • Relate your findings to earlier work in the same area (if you can)

Explore the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings

Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for each of these objectives.

This statement is usually a good way to begin the Discussion, since you can’t effectively speak about the larger scientific value of your study until you’ve figured out the particulars of this experiment. You might begin this part of the Discussion by explicitly stating the relationships or correlations your data indicate between the independent and dependent variables. Then you can show more clearly why you believe your hypothesis was or was not supported. For example, if you tested solubility at various temperatures, you could start this section by noting that the rates of solubility increased as the temperature increased. If your initial hypothesis surmised that temperature change would not affect solubility, you would then say something like,

“The hypothesis that temperature change would not affect solubility was not supported by the data.”

Note: Students tend to view labs as practical tests of undeniable scientific truths. As a result, you may want to say that the hypothesis was “proved” or “disproved” or that it was “correct” or “incorrect.” These terms, however, reflect a degree of certainty that you as a scientist aren’t supposed to have. Remember, you’re testing a theory with a procedure that lasts only a few hours and relies on only a few trials, which severely compromises your ability to be sure about the “truth” you see. Words like “supported,” “indicated,” and “suggested” are more acceptable ways to evaluate your hypothesis.

Also, recognize that saying whether the data supported your hypothesis or not involves making a claim to be defended. As such, you need to show the readers that this claim is warranted by the evidence. Make sure that you’re very explicit about the relationship between the evidence and the conclusions you draw from it. This process is difficult for many writers because we don’t often justify conclusions in our regular lives. For example, you might nudge your friend at a party and whisper, “That guy’s drunk,” and once your friend lays eyes on the person in question, she might readily agree. In a scientific paper, by contrast, you would need to defend your claim more thoroughly by pointing to data such as slurred words, unsteady gait, and the lampshade-as-hat. In addition to pointing out these details, you would also need to show how (according to previous studies) these signs are consistent with inebriation, especially if they occur in conjunction with one another. To put it another way, tell your readers exactly how you got from point A (was the hypothesis supported?) to point B (yes/no).

Acknowledge any anomalous data, or deviations from what you expected

You need to take these exceptions and divergences into account, so that you qualify your conclusions sufficiently. For obvious reasons, your readers will doubt your authority if you (deliberately or inadvertently) overlook a key piece of data that doesn’t square with your perspective on what occurred. In a more philosophical sense, once you’ve ignored evidence that contradicts your claims, you’ve departed from the scientific method. The urge to “tidy up” the experiment is often strong, but if you give in to it you’re no longer performing good science.

Sometimes after you’ve performed a study or experiment, you realize that some part of the methods you used to test your hypothesis was flawed. In that case, it’s OK to suggest that if you had the chance to conduct your test again, you might change the design in this or that specific way in order to avoid such and such a problem. The key to making this approach work, though, is to be very precise about the weakness in your experiment, why and how you think that weakness might have affected your data, and how you would alter your protocol to eliminate—or limit the effects of—that weakness. Often, inexperienced researchers and writers feel the need to account for “wrong” data (remember, there’s no such animal), and so they speculate wildly about what might have screwed things up. These speculations include such factors as the unusually hot temperature in the room, or the possibility that their lab partners read the meters wrong, or the potentially defective equipment. These explanations are what scientists call “cop-outs,” or “lame”; don’t indicate that the experiment had a weakness unless you’re fairly certain that a) it really occurred and b) you can explain reasonably well how that weakness affected your results.

If, for example, your hypothesis dealt with the changes in solubility at different temperatures, then try to figure out what you can rationally say about the process of solubility more generally. If you’re doing an undergraduate lab, chances are that the lab will connect in some way to the material you’ve been covering either in lecture or in your reading, so you might choose to return to these resources as a way to help you think clearly about the process as a whole.

This part of the Discussion section is another place where you need to make sure that you’re not overreaching. Again, nothing you’ve found in one study would remotely allow you to claim that you now “know” something, or that something isn’t “true,” or that your experiment “confirmed” some principle or other. Hesitate before you go out on a limb—it’s dangerous! Use less absolutely conclusive language, including such words as “suggest,” “indicate,” “correspond,” “possibly,” “challenge,” etc.

Relate your findings to previous work in the field (if possible)

We’ve been talking about how to show that you belong in a particular community (such as biologists or anthropologists) by writing within conventions that they recognize and accept. Another is to try to identify a conversation going on among members of that community, and use your work to contribute to that conversation. In a larger philosophical sense, scientists can’t fully understand the value of their research unless they have some sense of the context that provoked and nourished it. That is, you have to recognize what’s new about your project (potentially, anyway) and how it benefits the wider body of scientific knowledge. On a more pragmatic level, especially for undergraduates, connecting your lab work to previous research will demonstrate to the TA that you see the big picture. You have an opportunity, in the Discussion section, to distinguish yourself from the students in your class who aren’t thinking beyond the barest facts of the study. Capitalize on this opportunity by putting your own work in context.

If you’re just beginning to work in the natural sciences (as a first-year biology or chemistry student, say), most likely the work you’ll be doing has already been performed and re-performed to a satisfactory degree. Hence, you could probably point to a similar experiment or study and compare/contrast your results and conclusions. More advanced work may deal with an issue that is somewhat less “resolved,” and so previous research may take the form of an ongoing debate, and you can use your own work to weigh in on that debate. If, for example, researchers are hotly disputing the value of herbal remedies for the common cold, and the results of your study suggest that Echinacea diminishes the symptoms but not the actual presence of the cold, then you might want to take some time in the Discussion section to recapitulate the specifics of the dispute as it relates to Echinacea as an herbal remedy. (Consider that you have probably already written in the Introduction about this debate as background research.)

This information is often the best way to end your Discussion (and, for all intents and purposes, the report). In argumentative writing generally, you want to use your closing words to convey the main point of your writing. This main point can be primarily theoretical (“Now that you understand this information, you’re in a better position to understand this larger issue”) or primarily practical (“You can use this information to take such and such an action”). In either case, the concluding statements help the reader to comprehend the significance of your project and your decision to write about it.

Since a lab report is argumentative—after all, you’re investigating a claim, and judging the legitimacy of that claim by generating and collecting evidence—it’s often a good idea to end your report with the same technique for establishing your main point. If you want to go the theoretical route, you might talk about the consequences your study has for the field or phenomenon you’re investigating. To return to the examples regarding solubility, you could end by reflecting on what your work on solubility as a function of temperature tells us (potentially) about solubility in general. (Some folks consider this type of exploration “pure” as opposed to “applied” science, although these labels can be problematic.) If you want to go the practical route, you could end by speculating about the medical, institutional, or commercial implications of your findings—in other words, answer the question, “What can this study help people to do?” In either case, you’re going to make your readers’ experience more satisfying, by helping them see why they spent their time learning what you had to teach them.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Beall, Herbert, and John Trimbur. 2001. A Short Guide to Writing About Chemistry , 2nd ed. New York: Longman.

Blum, Deborah, and Mary Knudson. 1997. A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers . New York: Oxford University Press.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Briscoe, Mary Helen. 1996. Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications , 2nd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Council of Science Editors. 2014. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers , 8th ed. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Davis, Martha. 2012. Scientific Papers and Presentations , 3rd ed. London: Academic Press.

Day, Robert A. 1994. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , 4th ed. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

Porush, David. 1995. A Short Guide to Writing About Science . New York: Longman.

Williams, Joseph, and Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace , 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.

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Formatting Science Reports

This section describes an organizational structure commonly used to report experimental research in many scientific disciplines, the IMRAD format: I ntroduction, M ethods, R esults, And D iscussion.

When and when not to use the IMRAD format

Although most scientific reports use the IMRAD format, there are some exceptions.

This format is usually not used in reports describing other kinds of research, such as field or case studies, in which headings are more likely to differ according to discipline. Although the main headings are standard for many scientific fields, details may vary; check with your instructor, or, if submitting an article to a journal, refer to the instructions to authors.

Developing a Title

Titles should.

  • Describe contents clearly and precisely, so that readers can decide whether to read the report
  • Provide key words for indexing

Titles should NOT

  • Include wasted words such as “studies on,” “an investigation of”
  • Use abbreviations and jargon
  • Use “cute” language

Good Titles

The Relationship of Luteinizing Hormone to Obesity in the Zucker Rat

Poor Titles

An Investigation of Hormone Secretion and Weight in Rats Fat Rats: Are Their Hormones Different?

The Abstract

The guidelines below address issues to consider when writing an abstract.

What is the report about, in miniature and without specific details?

  • State main objectives. (What did you investigate? Why?)
  • Describe methods. (What did you do?)
  • Summarize the most important results. (What did you find out?)
  • State major conclusions and significance. (What do your results mean? So what?)

What to avoid:

  • Do not include references to figures, tables, or sources.
  • Do not include information not in report.

Additional tips:

  • Find out maximum length (may vary from 50 to 300+ words).
  • Process: Extract key points from each section. Condense in successive revisions.

The Introduction

Guidelines for effective scientific report introductions.

What is the problem?

  • Describe the problem investigated.
  • Summarize relevant research to provide context, key terms, and concepts so your reader can understand the experiment.

Why is it important?

  • Review relevant research to provide rationale. (What conflict or unanswered question, untested population, untried method in existing research does your experiment address? What findings of others are you challenging or extending?)

What solution (or step toward a solution) do you propose?

  • Briefly describe your experiment: hypothesis(es), research question(s); general experimental design or method; justification of method if alternatives exist.
  • Move from general to specific: problem in real world/research literature –> your experiment.
  • Engage your reader: answer the questions, “What did you do?” “Why should I care?”
  • Make clear the links between problem and solution, question asked and research design, prior research and your experiment.
  • Be selective, not exhaustive, in choosing studies to cite and amount of detail to include. (In general, the more relevant an article is to your study, the more space it deserves and the later in the Introduction it appears.)
  • Ask your instructor whether to summarize results and/or conclusions in the Introduction.

Methods Section

Below are some questions to consider for effective methods sections in scientific reports.

How did you study the problem?

  • Briefly explain the general type of scientific procedure you used.

What did you use?

(May be subheaded as Materials)

  • Describe what materials, subjects, and equipment (chemicals, experimental animals, apparatus, etc.) you used. (These may be subheaded Animals, Reagents, etc.)

How did you proceed?

(May be subheaded as Methods or Procedures)

  • Explain the steps you took in your experiment. (These may be subheaded by experiment, types of assay, etc.)
  • Provide enough detail for replication. For a journal article, include, for example, genus, species, strain of organisms; their source, living conditions, and care; and sources (manufacturer, location) of chemicals and apparatus.
  • Order procedures chronologically or by type of procedure (subheaded) and chronologically within type.
  • Use past tense to describe what you did.
  • Quantify when possible: concentrations, measurements, amounts (all metric); times (24-hour clock); temperatures (centigrade)
  • Don’t include details of common statistical procedures.
  • Don’t mix results with procedures.

Results Section

The section below offers some questions asked for effective results sections in scientific reports.

What did you observe?

For each experiment or procedure:

  • Briefly describe experiment without detail of Methods section (a sentence or two).
  • Representative: most common
  • Best Case: best example of ideal or exception
  • from most to least important
  • from simple to complex
  • organ by organ; chemical class by chemical class
  • Use past tense to describe what happened.
  • Don’t simply repeat table data; select .
  • Don’t interpret results.
  • Avoid extra words: “It is shown in Table 1 that X induced Y” –> “X induced Y (Table 1).”

Discussion Section

The table below offers some questions effective discussion sections in scientific reports address.

What do your observations mean?

  • Summarize the most important findings at the beginning.

What conclusions can you draw?

For each major result:

  • Describe the patterns, principles, relationships your results show.
  • Explain how your results relate to expectations and to literature cited in your Introduction. Do they agree, contradict, or are they exceptions to the rule?
  • Explain plausibly any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions.
  • Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions.

How do your results fit into a broader context?

  • Suggest the theoretical implications of your results.
  • Suggest practical applications of your results?
  • Extend your findings to other situations or other species.
  • Give the big picture: do your findings help us understand a broader topic?
  • Move from specific to general: your finding(s) –> literature, theory, practice.
  • Don’t ignore or bury the major issue. Did the study achieve the goal (resolve the problem, answer the question, support the hypothesis) presented in the Introduction?
  • Give evidence for each conclusion.
  • Discuss possible reasons for expected and unexpected findings.
  • Don’t overgeneralize.
  • Don’t ignore deviations in your data.
  • Avoid speculation that cannot be tested in the foreseeable future.

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Understanding Scientific Journals and Articles

by Anthony Carpi, Ph.D., Anne E. Egger, Ph.D., Natalie H. Kuldell

Listen to this reading

Did you know that scientific literature goes all the way back to 600 BCE? Although scientific articles have changed some – for example, Isaac Newton wrote about the fun he had with prisms in a 1672 scientific article – the basics remain the same. This ensures that published research becomes part of the archive of scientific knowledge upon which other scientists can build.

Scientists make their research available to the community by publishing it in scientific journals.

In scientific papers, scientists explain the research that they are building on, their research methods, data and data analysis techniques, and their interpretation of the data.

Understanding how to read scientific papers is a critical skill for scientists and students of science.

We've all read the headlines at the supermarket checkout line: "Aliens Abduct New Jersey School Teacher" or "Quadruplets Born to 99-Year-Old Woman: Exclusive Photos Inside." Journals like the National Enquirer sell copies by publishing sensational headlines, and most readers believe only a fraction of what is printed. A person more interested in news than gossip could buy a publication like Time, Newsweek or Discover . These magazines publish information on current news and events, including recent scientific advances. These are not original reports of scientific research , however. In fact, most of these stories include phrases like, "A group of scientists recently published their findings on..." So where do scientists publish their findings?

Scientists publish their original research in scientific journals, which are fundamentally different from news magazines. The articles in scientific journals are not written by journalists – they are written by scientists. Scientific articles are not sensational stories intended to entertain the reader with an amazing discovery, nor are they news stories intended to summarize recent scientific events, nor even records of every successful and unsuccessful research venture. Instead, scientists write articles to describe their findings to the community in a transparent manner.

  • Scientific journals vs. popular media

Within a scientific article, scientists present their research questions, the methods by which the question was approached, and the results they achieved using those methods. In addition, they present their analysis of the data and describe some of the interpretations and implications of their work. Because these articles report new work for the first time, they are called primary literature . In contrast, articles or news stories that review or report on scientific research already published elsewhere are referred to as secondary .

The articles in scientific journals are different from news articles in another way – they must undergo a process called peer review , in which other scientists (the professional peers of the authors) evaluate the quality and merit of research before recommending whether or not it should be published (see our Peer Review module). This is a much lengthier and more rigorous process than the editing and fact-checking that goes on at news organizations. The reason for this thorough evaluation by peers is that a scientific article is more than a snapshot of what is going on at a certain time in a scientist's research. Instead, it is a part of what is collectively called the scientific literature, a global archive of scientific knowledge. When published, each article expands the library of scientific literature available to all scientists and contributes to the overall knowledge base of the discipline of science.

Comprehension Checkpoint

  • Scientific journals: Degrees of specialization

Figure 1: Nature: An example of a scientific journal.

Figure 1: Nature : An example of a scientific journal.

There are thousands of scientific journals that publish research articles. These journals are diverse and can be distinguished according to their field of specialization. Among the most broadly targeted and competitive are journals like Cell , the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Nature , and Science that all publish a wide variety of research articles (see Figure 1 for an example). Cell focuses on all areas of biology, NEJM on medicine, and both Science and Nature publish articles in all areas of science. Scientists submit manuscripts for publication in these journals when they feel their work deserves the broadest possible audience.

Just below these journals in terms of their reach are the top-tier disciplinary journals like Analytical Chemistry, Applied Geochemistry, Neuron, Journal of Geophysical Research , and many others. These journals tend to publish broad-based research focused on specific disciplines, such as chemistry, geology, neurology, nuclear physics, etc.

Next in line are highly specialized journals, such as the American Journal of Potato Research, Grass and Forage Science, the Journal of Shellfish Research, Neuropeptides, Paleolimnology , and many more. While the research published in various journals does not differ in terms of the quality or the rigor of the science described, it does differ in its degree of specialization: These journals tend to be more specialized, and thus appeal to a more limited audience.

All of these journals play a critical role in the advancement of science and dissemination of information (see our Utilizing the Scientific Literature module for more information). However, to understand how science is disseminated through these journals, you must first understand how the articles themselves are formatted and what information they contain. While some details about format vary between journals and even between articles in the same journal, there are broad characteristics that all scientific journal articles share.

  • The standard format of journal articles

In June of 2005, the journal Science published a research report on a sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird long considered extinct in North America (Fitzpatrick et al., 2005). The work was of such significance and broad interest that it was displayed prominently on the cover (Figure 2) and highlighted by an editorial at the front of the journal (Kennedy, 2005). The authors were aware that their findings were likely to be controversial, and they worked especially hard to make their writing clear. Although the article has no headings within the text, it can easily be divided into sections:

Figure 2: A picture of the cover of Science from June 3, 2005.

Figure 2: A picture of the cover of Science from June 3, 2005.

Title and authors: The title of a scientific article should concisely and accurately summarize the research . Here, the title used is "Ivory-billed Woodpecker ( Campephilus principalis ) Persists in North America." While it is meant to capture attention, journals avoid using misleading or overly sensational titles (you can imagine that a tabloid might use the headline "Long-dead Giant Bird Attacks Canoeists!"). The names of all scientific contributors are listed as authors immediately after the title. You may be used to seeing one or maybe two authors for a book or newspaper article, but this article has seventeen authors! It's unlikely that all seventeen of those authors sat down in a room and wrote the manuscript together. Instead, the authorship reflects the distribution of the workload and responsibility for the research, in addition to the writing. By convention, the scientist who performed most of the work described in the article is listed first, and it is likely that the first author did most of the writing. Other authors had different contributions; for example, Gene Sparling is the person who originally spotted the bird in Arkansas and was subsequently contacted by the scientists at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. In some cases, but not in the woodpecker article, the last author listed is the senior researcher on the project, or the scientist from whose lab the project originated. Increasingly, journals are requesting that authors detail their exact contributions to the research and writing associated with a particular study.

Abstract: The abstract is the first part of the article that appears right after the listing of authors in an article. In it, the authors briefly describe the research question, the general methods , and the major findings and implications of the work. Providing a summary like this at the beginning of an article serves two purposes: First, it gives readers a way to decide whether the article in question discusses research that interests them, and second, it is entered into literature databases as a means of providing more information to people doing scientific literature searches. For both purposes, it is important to have a short version of the full story. In this case, all of the critical information about the timing of the study, the type of data collected, and the potential interpretations of the findings is captured in four straightforward sentences as seen below:

The ivory-billed woodpecker ( Campephilus principalis ), long suspected to be extinct, has been rediscovered in the Big Woods region of eastern Arkansas. Visual encounters during 2004 and 2005, and analysis of a video clip from April 2004, confirm the existence of at least one male. Acoustic signatures consistent with Campephilus display drums also have been heard from the region. Extensive efforts to find birds away from the primary encounter site remain unsuccessful, but potential habitat for a thinly distributed source population is vast (over 220,000 hectares).

Introduction: The central research question and important background information are presented in the introduction. Because science is a process that builds on previous findings, relevant and established scientific knowledge is cited in this section and then listed in the References section at the end of the article. In many articles, a heading is used to set this and subsequent sections apart, but in the woodpecker article the introduction consists of the first three paragraphs, in which the history of the decline of the woodpecker and previous studies are cited. The introduction is intended to lead the reader to understand the authors' hypothesis and means of testing it. In addition, the introduction provides an opportunity for the authors to show that they are aware of the work that scientists have done before them and how their results fit in, explicitly building on existing knowledge.

Materials and methods: In this section, the authors describe the research methods they used (see The Practice of Science module for more information on these methods). All procedures, equipment, measurement parameters , etc. are described in detail sufficient for another researcher to evaluate and/or reproduce the research. In addition, authors explain the sources of error and procedures employed to reduce and measure the uncertainty in their data (see our Uncertainty, Error, and Confidence module). The detail given here allows other scientists to evaluate the quality of the data collected. This section varies dramatically depending on the type of research done. In an experimental study, the experimental set-up and procedure would be described in detail, including the variables , controls , and treatment . The woodpecker study used a descriptive research approach, and the materials and methods section is quite short, including the means by which the bird was initially spotted (on a kayaking trip) and later photographed and videotaped.

Results: The data collected during the research are presented in this section, both in written form and using tables, graphs, and figures (see our Using Graphs and Visual Data module). In addition, all statistical and data analysis techniques used are presented (see our Statistics in Science module). Importantly, the data should be presented separately from any interpretation by the authors. This separation of data from interpretation serves two purposes: First, it gives other scientists the opportunity to evaluate the quality of the actual data, and second, it allows others to develop their own interpretations of the findings based on their background knowledge and experience. In the woodpecker article, the data consist largely of photographs and videos (see Figure 3 for an example). The authors include both the raw data (the photograph) and their analysis (the measurement of the tree trunk and inferred length of the bird perched on the trunk). The sketch of the bird on the right-hand side of the photograph is also a form of analysis, in which the authors have simplified the photograph to highlight the features of interest. Keeping the raw data (in the form of a photograph) facilitated reanalysis by other scientists: In early 2006, a team of researchers led by the American ornithologist David Sibley reanalyzed the photograph in Figure 3 and came to the conclusion that the bird was not an ivory-billed woodpecker after all (Sibley et al, 2006).

Figure 3: An example of the data presented in the Ivory-billed woodpecker article (Fitzpatrick et al., 2005, Figure 1).

Figure 3: An example of the data presented in the Ivory-billed woodpecker article (Fitzpatrick et al ., 2005, Figure 1).

Discussion and conclusions: In this section, authors present their interpretation of the data , often including a model or idea they feel best explains their results. They also present the strengths and significance of their work. Naturally, this is the most subjective section of a scientific research article as it presents interpretation as opposed to strictly methods and data, but it is not speculation by the authors. Instead, this is where the authors combine their experience, background knowledge, and creativity to explain the data and use the data as evidence in their interpretation (see our Data Analysis and Interpretation module). Often, the discussion section includes several possible explanations or interpretations of the data; the authors may then describe why they support one particular interpretation over the others. This is not just a process of hedging their bets – this how scientists say to their peers that they have done their homework and that there is more than one possible explanation. In the woodpecker article, for example, the authors go to great lengths to describe why they believe the bird they saw is an ivory-billed woodpecker rather than a variant of the more common pileated woodpecker, knowing that this is a likely potential rebuttal to their initial findings. A final component of the conclusions involves placing the current work back into a larger context by discussing the implications of the work. The authors of the woodpecker article do so by discussing the nature of the woodpecker habitat and how it might be better preserved.

In many articles, the results and discussion sections are combined, but regardless, the data are initially presented without interpretation .

References: Scientific progress requires building on existing knowledge, and previous findings are recognized by directly citing them in any new work. The citations are collected in one list, commonly called "References," although the precise format for each journal varies considerably. The reference list may seem like something you don't actually read, but in fact it can provide a wealth of information about whether the authors are citing the most recent work in their field or whether they are biased in their citations towards certain institutions or authors. In addition, the reference section provides readers of the article with more information about the particular research topic discussed. The reference list for the woodpecker article includes a wide variety of sources that includes books, other journal articles, and personal accounts of bird sightings.

Supporting material: Increasingly, journals make supporting material that does not fit into the article itself – like extensive data tables, detailed descriptions of methods , figures, and animations – available online. In this case, the video footage shot by the authors is available online, along with several other resources.

  • Reading the primary literature

The format of a scientific article may seem overly structured compared to many other things you read, but it serves a purpose by providing an archive of scientific research in the primary literature that we can build on. Though isolated examples of that archive go as far back as 600 BCE (see the Babylonian tablets in our Description in Scientific Research module), the first consistently published scientific journal was the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London , edited by Henry Oldenburg for the Royal Society beginning in 1666 (see our Scientific Institutions and Societies module). These early scientific writings include all of the components listed above, but the writing style is surprisingly different than a modern journal article. For example, Isaac Newton opened his 1672 article "New Theory About Light and Colours" with the following:

I shall without further ceremony acquaint you, that in the beginning of the Year 1666...I procured me a Triangular glass-Prisme, to try therewith the celebrated Phenomena of Colours . And in order thereto having darkened my chamber, and made a small hole in my window-shuts, to let in a convenient quantity of the Suns light, I placed my Prisme at his entrance, that it might be thereby refracted to the opposite wall. It was at first a very pleasing divertissement, to view the vivid and intense colours produced thereby; but after a while applying my self to consider them more circumspectly, I became surprised to see them in an oblong form; which, according to the received laws of Refraction, I expected should have been circular . (Newton, 1672)

Figure 4: Isaac Newton described the rainbow produced by a prism as a

Figure 4: Isaac Newton described the rainbow produced by a prism as a "pleasing divertissement."

Newton describes his materials and methods in the first few sentences ("... a small hole in my window-shuts"), describes his results ("an oblong form"), refers to the work that has come before him ("the received laws of Refraction"), and highlights how his results differ from his expectations. Today, however, Newton 's statement that the "colours" produced were a "very pleasing divertissement" would be out of place in a scientific article (Figure 4). Much more typically, modern scientific articles are written in an objective tone, typically without statements of personal opinion to avoid any appearance of bias in the interpretation of their results. Unfortunately, this tone often results in overuse of the passive voice, with statements like "a Triangular glass-Prisme was procured" instead of the wording Newton chose: "I procured me a Triangular glass-Prisme." The removal of the first person entirely from the articles reinforces the misconception that science is impersonal, boring, and void of creativity, lacking the enjoyment and surprise described by Newton. The tone can sometimes be misleading if the study involves many authors, making it unclear who did what work. The best scientific writers are able to both present their work in an objective tone and make their own contributions clear.

The scholarly vocabulary in scientific articles can be another obstacle to reading the primary literature. Materials and Methods sections often are highly technical in nature and can be confusing if you are not intimately familiar with the type of research being conducted. There is a reason for all of this vocabulary, however: An explicit, technical description of materials and methods provides a means for other scientists to evaluate the quality of the data presented and can often provide insight to scientists on how to replicate or extend the research described.

The tone and specialized vocabulary of the modern scientific article can make it hard to read, but understanding the purpose and requirements for each section can help you decipher the primary literature. Learning to read scientific articles is a skill, and like any other skill, it requires practice and experience to master. It is not, however, an impossible task.

Strange as it seems, the most efficient way to tackle a new article may be through a piecemeal approach, reading some but not all the sections and not necessarily in their order of appearance. For example, the abstract of an article will summarize its key points, but this section can often be dense and difficult to understand. Sometimes the end of the article may be a better place to start reading. In many cases, authors present a model that fits their data in this last section of the article. The discussion section may emphasize some themes or ideas that tie the story together, giving the reader some foundation for reading the article from the beginning. Even experienced scientists read articles this way – skimming the figures first, perhaps, or reading the discussion and then going back to the results. Often, it takes a scientist multiple readings to truly understand the authors' work and incorporate it into their personal knowledge base in order to build on that knowledge.

  • Building knowledge and facilitating discussion

The process of science does not stop with the publication of the results of research in a scientific article. In fact, in some ways, publication is just the beginning. Scientific journals also provide a means for other scientists to respond to the work they publish; like many newspapers and magazines, most scientific journals publish letters from their readers.

Unlike the common "Letters to the Editor" of a newspaper, however, the letters in scientific journals are usually critical responses to the authors of a research study in which alternative interpretations are outlined. When such a letter is received by a journal editor, it is typically given to the original authors so that they can respond, and both the letter and response are published together. Nine months after the original publication of the woodpecker article, Science published a letter (called a "Comment") from David Sibley and three of his colleagues, who reinterpreted the Fitzpatrick team's data and concluded that the bird in question was a more common pileated woodpecker, not an ivory-billed woodpecker (Sibley et al., 2006). The team from the Cornell lab wrote a response supporting their initial conclusions, and Sibley's team followed that up with a response of their own in 2007 (Fitzpatrick et al., 2006; Sibley at al., 2007). As expected, the research has generated significant scientific controversy and, in addition, has captured the attention of the public, spreading the story of the controversy into the popular media.

For more information about this story see The Case of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker module.

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Characteristics of a Primary Research Article

  • Goal is to present the result of original research that makes a new contribution to the body of knowledge
  • Sometimes referred to as an empirical research article
  • Typically organized into sections that include:  Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion/Conclusion, and References.

Example of a Primary Research Article:

Flockhart, D.T.T., Fitz-gerald, B., Brower, L.P., Derbyshire, R., Altizer, S., Hobson, K.A., … Norris, D.R., (2017). Migration distance as a selective episode for wing morphology in a migratory insect. Movement Ecology , 5(1), 1-9. doi:

Characteristics of a Review Article

  • Goal is to summarize important research on a particular topic and to represent the current body of knowledge about that topic.
  • Not intended to provide original research but to help draw connections between research studies that have previously been published.  
  • Help the reader understand how current understanding of a topic has developed over time and identify gaps or inconsistencies that need further exploration.

Example of a Review Article:

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Review vs. Research Articles

How can you tell if you are looking at a research paper, review paper or a systematic review  examples and article characteristics are provided below to help you figure it out., research papers.

A research article describes a study that was performed by the article’s author(s). It explains the methodology of the study, such as how data was collected and analyzed, and clarifies what the results mean. Each step of the study is reported in detail so that other researchers can repeat the experiment.

To determine if a paper is a research article, examine its wording. Research articles describe actions taken by the researcher(s) during the experimental process. Look for statements like “we tested,” “I measured,” or “we investigated.” Research articles also describe the outcomes of studies. Check for phrases like “the study found” or “the results indicate.” Next, look closely at the formatting of the article. Research papers are divided into sections that occur in a particular order: abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references.

Let's take a closer look at this research paper by Bacon et al. published in the International Journal of Hypertension :


Review Papers

Review articles do not describe original research conducted by the author(s). Instead, they give an overview of a specific subject by examining previously published studies on the topic. The author searches for and selects studies on the subject and then tries to make sense of their findings. In particular, review articles look at whether the outcomes of the chosen studies are similar, and if they are not, attempt to explain the conflicting results. By interpreting the findings of previous studies, review articles are able to present the current knowledge and understanding of a specific topic.

Since review articles summarize the research on a particular topic, students should read them for background information before consulting detailed, technical research articles. Furthermore, review articles are a useful starting point for a research project because their reference lists can be used to find additional articles on the subject.

Let's take a closer look at this review paper by Bacon et al. published in Sports Medicine :


Systematic Review Papers

A systematic review is a type of review article that tries to limit the occurrence of bias. Traditional, non-systematic reviews can be biased because they do not include all of the available papers on the review’s topic; only certain studies are discussed by the author. No formal process is used to decide which articles to include in the review. Consequently, unpublished articles, older papers, works in foreign languages, manuscripts published in small journals, and studies that conflict with the author’s beliefs can be overlooked or excluded. Since traditional reviews do not have to explain the techniques used to select the studies, it can be difficult to determine if the author’s bias affected the review’s findings.

Systematic reviews were developed to address the problem of bias. Unlike traditional reviews, which cover a broad topic, systematic reviews focus on a single question, such as if a particular intervention successfully treats a medical condition. Systematic reviews then track down all of the available studies that address the question, choose some to include in the review, and critique them using predetermined criteria. The studies are found, selected, and evaluated using a formal, scientific methodology in order to minimize the effect of the author’s bias. The methodology is clearly explained in the systematic review so that readers can form opinions about the quality of the review.

Let's take a closer look this systematic review paper by Vigano et al. published in Lancet Oncology :


Finding Review and Research Papers in PubMed

Many databases have special features that allow the searcher to restrict results to articles that match specific criteria. In other words, only articles of a certain type will be displayed in the search results. These “limiters” can be useful when searching for research or review articles. PubMed has a limiter for article type, which is located on the left sidebar of the search results page. This limiter can filter the search results to show only review articles.

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Research Articles and Review Articles Defined Review

"A  research article  is a  primary source ...that is, it  reports the methods and results of an original study performed by the authors . The kind of study may vary (it could have been an experiment, survey, interview, etc.), but in all cases, raw data have been collected and analyzed by the authors, and conclusions drawn from the results of that analysis.

A  review article  is a  secondary source is written about other articles, and does not report original research of its own.  Review articles are very important, as they draw upon the articles that they review to suggest new research directions, to strengthen support for existing theories and/or identify patterns among existing research studies.   For student researchers, review articles provide a great overview of the existing literature on a topic.    If you find a literature review that fits your topic, take a look at its references/works cited list for leads on other relevant articles and books!"

From , "What's the difference between a research and a review article?"

  • Example of a RESEARCH Article Lin CL, Huang LC, Chang YT, Chen RY, Yang SH. Effectiveness of Health Coaching in Diabetes Control and Lifestyle Improvement: A Randomized-Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2021 Oct 29;13(11):3878.
  • Example of a REVIEW Article Ojo O, Ojo OO, Adebowale F, Wang XH. The Effect of Dietary Glycaemic Index on Glycaemia in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 19;10(3):373.

Difference between Reviews and Research Articles

Review Article: Identifies previously published research on a topic and summarizes the information (secondary source). Discusses what is already known and can be used to identify gaps in the field.  Usually no set layout. No original research is being presented. Written for a more general audience and easier to read. Both Written by a subject expert such as a scientist or researcher. Can be published in a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal. Research Article: Follows the scientific method. Usually provides a brief background on prior research (introduction) Conducts an experiment and reports the findings. Authors have NEW original research data (primary source) and discusses their results. Written at an advanced level; usually contains lots of jargon.

Research Article Break Down Review

Research articles follow a particular format.  Look for:

  • A brief  introduction  will often include a review of the existing literature on the topic studied, and explain the rationale of the author's study.
  • A  methods  section, where authors describe how they collected and analyzed data.  Statistical analysis are included.  
  • A  results  section describes the outcomes of the data analysis.  Charts and graphs illustrating the results are typically included.
  • In the  discussion , authors will explain their interpretation of their results and theorize on their importance to existing and future research.
  • References  or  works cited  are always included.  These are the articles and books that the authors drew upon to plan their study and to support their discussion.
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Science Research: Primary Sources and Original Research vs. Review Articles

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Original Research vs. Review Articles. How can I tell the Difference?

Research vs review articles.

It's often difficult to tell the difference between original research articles and review articles. Here are some explanations and tips that may help: "Review articles are often as lengthy or even longer that original research articles. What the authors of review articles are doing in analysing and evaluating current research and investigations related to a specific topic, field, or problem. They are not primary sources since they review previously published material. They can be of great value for identifying potentially good primary sources, but they aren't primary themselves. Primary research articles can be identified by a commonly used format. If an article contains the following elements, you can count on it being a primary research article. Look for sections titled:

Methods (sometimes with variations, such as Materials and Methods) Results (usually followed with charts and statistical tables) Discussion

You can also read the abstract to get a good sense of the kind of article that is being presented.

If it is a review article instead of a research article, the abstract should make that pretty clear. If there is no abstract at all, that in itself may be a sign that it is not a primary resource. Short research articles, such as those found in Science and similar scientific publications that mix news, editorials, and forums with research reports, however, may not include any of those elements. In those cases look at the words the authors use, phrases such as "we tested"  and "in our study, we measured" will tell you that the article is reporting on original research."*

*Taken from Ithca College Libraries

Primary and Secondary Sources for Science

In the Sciences, primary sources are documents that provide full description of the original research. For example, a primary source would be a journal article where scientists describe their research on the human immune system. A secondary source would be an article commenting or analyzing the scientists' research on the human immune system.


Source: The Evolution of Scientific Information (from  Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science , vol. 26).

Primary Vs. Secondary Vs. Tertiary Sources

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Research Articles, Reviews, and Opinion Pieces

Scholarly or research articles are written for experts in their fields. They are often peer-reviewed or reviewed by other experts in the field prior to publication. They often have terminology or jargon that is field specific. They are generally lengthy articles. Social science and science scholarly articles have similar structures as do arts and humanities scholarly articles. Not all items in a scholarly journal are peer reviewed. For example, an editorial opinion items can be published in a scholarly journal but the article itself is not scholarly. Scholarly journals may include book reviews or other content that have not been peer reviewed.

Empirical Study: (Original or Primary) based on observation, experimentation, or study. Clinical trials, clinical case studies, and most meta-analyses are empirical studies.

Review Article: (Secondary Sources) Article that summarizes the research in a particular subject, area, or topic. They often include a summary, an literature reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses.

Clinical case study (Primary or Original sources): These articles provide real cases from medical or clinical practice. They often include symptoms and diagnosis.

Clinical trials ( Health Research): Th ese articles are often based on large groups of people. They often include methods and control studies. They tend to be lengthy articles.

Opinion Piece:  An opinion piece often includes personal thoughts, beliefs, or feelings or a judgement or conclusion based on facts. The goal may be to persuade or influence the reader that their position on this topic is the best.

Book review: Recent review of books in the field. They may be several pages but tend to be fairly short. 

Social Science and Science Research Articles

The majority of social science and physical science articles include

  • Journal Title and Author
  • Abstract 
  • Introduction with a hypothesis or thesis
  • Literature Review
  • Methods/Methodology
  • Results/Findings

Arts and Humanities Research Articles

In the Arts and Humanities, scholarly articles tend to be less formatted than in the social sciences and sciences. In the humanities, scholars are not conducting the same kinds of research experiments, but they are still using evidence to draw logical conclusions.  Common sections of these articles include:

  • an Introduction
  • Discussion/Conclusion
  • works cited/References/Bibliography

Research versus Review Articles

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The Differences in a Research Report and Research Paper

Derek m. kwait.

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When writing a paper, maybe the only thing more daunting than actually writing it is deciding what you're even supposed to be writing about. Research reports, research gets confusing. They are actually not the same thing, and knowing the difference between them will save you time and frustration, help you stay on-target and ultimately help you get the highest possible grade.

Explore this article

  • Defining Research
  • What is a Research Report?
  • What is a Research Paper?
  • A Word of Caution

1 Defining Research

According to Webster's Dictionary, research can be a "careful or diligent search," a "studious inquiry or examination... aimed at the discovery and interpretation of the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws" or "the collecting of information about a particular subject."

While research reports and research papers both involve much of the first definition, a research report is more concerned with the second, and a research paper with the third.

2 What is a Research Report?

A research report is a paper reporting research that has already been conducted. As such, it is used primarily in the sciences to tell other scientists (or your instructor) about the process, findings and significance of your experiment.

According to a guide prepared by the American Chemical Society, a good research report of any kind should be organized in a way that parallels the method of scientific reasoning. The usual parts of this report are Title, Abstract, Introduction, Experimental Details or Theoretical Analysis, Results, Discussion, Conclusions and Summary, then References.

3 What is a Research Paper?

A research paper, on the other hand, is the research itself. In other words, a research paper typically presents quotes or information from books or scholarly papers or even movies, then analyzes them to reach some sort of conclusion. It does not report on an objective, reproducible experiment done elsewhere but instead focuses on establishing the author's thesis and arguing in favor of it. Research papers are usually used in the humanities. The format for a good research paper includes an introductory paragraph, two or three body paragraphs and a conclusion.

4 A Word of Caution

This explanation covers how these terms are typically used; there is no universally agreed upon definition of either term. Sometimes an instructor will assign a research report when he really meant a research paper or vice versa. You can usually tell what is required by what kind of class it is and what the instructor says he wants (for example, if a laboratory experiment is involved, chances are a research report is required) but if you are really unsure, ask.

  • 1 ACS: Preparing a Research Report
  • 2 Purdue Online Writing Lab: Research

About the Author

Derek M. Kwait has a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh and has been writing for most of his life in various capacities. He has worked as a staff writer and videographer for the "Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh" and also has training writing fiction, nonfiction, stage-plays and screenplays.

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Americans’ trust in scientists, positive views of science continue to decline, among both democrats and republicans, trust in scientists is lower than before the pandemic.

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand how Americans view science, as well as their levels of confidence in groups and institutions in society. For this analysis, we surveyed 8,842 U.S. adults from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, 2023.

Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used for this report , along with responses, and its methodology .

A new Pew Research Center survey finds the share of Americans who say science has had a mostly positive effect on society has fallen and there’s been a continued decline in public trust in scientists.

In this report, we cover:

  • Trust in scientists and other groups (Chapter 1)
  • Views of the impact of science on society (Chapter 2)
  • Support for government investments in science (Chapter 3)

Key findings

Chart shows Fewer Americans now say science has had a mostly positive effect on society

Impact of science on society

Overall, 57% of Americans say science has had a mostly positive effect on society. This share is down 8 percentage points since November 2021 and down 16 points since before the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

About a third (34%) now say the impact of science on society has been equally positive as negative. A small share (8%) think science has had a mostly negative impact on society.

Trust in scientists

When it comes to the standing of scientists, 73% of U.S. adults have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests. But trust in scientists is 14 points lower than it was at the early stages of the pandemic.

The share expressing the strongest level of trust in scientists – saying they have a great deal of confidence in them – has fallen from 39% in 2020 to 23% today.

As trust in scientists has fallen, distrust has grown: Roughly a quarter of Americans (27%) now say they have not too much or no confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests, up from 12% in April 2020.

Ratings of medical scientists mirror the trend seen in ratings of scientists generally. Read Chapter 1 of the report for a detailed analysis of this data.

How scientists compare with other prominent groups

Why does public trust in scientists matter.

People with greater trust in scientists are more likely to align their own beliefs and actions with expert guidance and understanding.

For instance, those with high trust are more likely to have gotten vaccines for COVID-19 and the flu. They are also more likely to say human activity contributes to climate change.

In addition, scientific leaders are concerned that differences in levels of trust by things like party identification, race and ethnicity, and education could contribute to the benefits of science being spread unevenly across society.

The Center survey of 8,842 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023, finds that, despite recent declines in ratings, scientists and medical scientists continue to be held in high regard compared with other prominent groups in society. Smaller shares of Americans express confidence in business leaders, religious leaders, journalists and elected officials to act in the public’s best interests. As with scientists, most of these groups have seen their ratings decline in recent years.

Americans have expressed low trust in federal government and other institutions, like Congress, for decades. And political polarization – the widening gap between the views of Republicans and Democrats across a broad range of issues and attitudes – has come to be a dominant feature of American political life.

Differences between Republicans and Democrats in ratings of scientists and science

Declining levels of trust in scientists and medical scientists have been particularly pronounced among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents over the past several years. In fact, nearly four-in-ten Republicans (38%) now say they have not too much or no confidence at all in scientists to act in the public’s best interests. This share is up dramatically from the 14% of Republicans who held this view in April 2020. Much of this shift occurred during the first two years of the pandemic and has persisted in more recent surveys.

Chart shows Declining levels of public trust in scientists

Confidence in scientists has also moved lower among Democrats. The share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents with a great deal of confidence in scientists – which initially rose in the pandemic’s first year – now stands at 37%, down from a high of 55% in November 2020. But unlike Republicans, a large majority of Democrats (86%) continue to express at least a fair amount of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests. The overall differences in partisan views remain much more pronounced today than they were prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

One of the starkest illustrations of polarization in views of science is the drop in the share of Republicans who view the societal impact of science positively.

Fewer than half of Republicans (47%) now say that science has had a mostly positive effect on society. In 2019, 70% of Republicans said that science has had a mostly positive effect.

Chart shows Republicans turn much less positive on science’s impact on society

A majority of Democrats (69%) continue to say science has had a mostly positive effect on society, though this share is 8 points lower than it was in 2019.

Republicans were largely critical of the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak . For instance, large shares said too little priority was given to respecting individuals’ choices, supporting businesses and economic activity, and meeting the needs of K-12 students. In addition, many Republicans felt that public health officials’ personal views had too much influence on policy and that officials were too quick to dismiss views that challenged their scientific understanding.

Government investments in science

Despite declines in ratings of scientists and science, a large majority of Americans continue to see government investments in science as worthwhile. And most place at least some importance on the United States being a world leader in scientific achievements.

Chart shows most Americans view government investments in scientific research as worthwhile for society

About eight-in-ten Americans (78%) say government investments in scientific research are usually worthwhile for society. Far fewer (20%) think these investments are generally not worthwhile. Large majorities across demographic and education groups see government investments in scientific research as worthwhile, as do large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans.

In addition, 52% of Americans think it is very important for the U.S. to be a world leader in scientific achievements; an additional 37% think this is somewhat important. These shares are more or less unchanged since last year.

Explore the rest of this report

  • Confidence in scientists, medical scientists, and other groups and institutions in society (Chapter 1)
  • Government investments in scientific research and the importance of the U.S. being a world leader in science (Chapter 3)

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Report Materials

Table of contents, why some americans do not see urgency on climate change, americans’ largely positive views of childhood vaccines hold steady, americans value u.s. role as scientific leader, but 38% say country is losing ground globally, hispanic americans’ trust in and engagement with science, black americans’ views of and engagement with science, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

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  • 08 November 2023

The rise of brain-reading technology: what you need to know

  • Liam Drew 0

Liam Drew is a freelance writer based near London.

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Ann, who was left paralysed by a stroke, uses a brain–computer interface to translate brain signals into the speech and movement of an avatar. Credit: Noah Berger

You have full access to this article via your institution.

In a laboratory in San Francisco, California, a woman named Ann sits in front of a huge screen. On it is an avatar created to look like her. Thanks to a brain–computer interface (BCI) , when Ann thinks of talking, the avatar speaks for her — and in her own voice, too.

In 2005, a brainstem stroke left Ann almost completely paralysed and unable to speak. Last year, neurosurgeon Edward Chang, at the University of California, San Francisco, placed a grid of more than 250 electrodes on the surface of Ann’s brain, on top of the regions that once controlled her body, face and larynx. As Ann imagined speaking certain words, researchers recorded her neural activity. Then, using machine learning, they established the activity patterns corresponding to each word and to the facial movements Ann would, if she could, use to vocalize them.

The system can convert speech to text at 78 words per minute: a huge improvement on previous BCI efforts and now approaching the 150 words per minute considered average for regular speech 1 . Compared with two years ago, Chang says, “it’s like night and day”.

In an added feat, the team programmed the avatar to speak aloud in Ann’s voice, basing the output on a recording of a speech she made at her wedding. “It was extremely emotional for Ann because it was the first time that she really felt that she was speaking for almost 20 years,” says Chang.

This work was one of several studies in 2023 that boosted excitement about implantable BCIs. Another study 2 also translated neural activity into text at unprecedented speed. And in May, scientists reported that they had created a digital bridge between the brain and spinal cord of a man paralysed in a cycling accident 3 . A BCI decoded his intentions to move and directed a spinal implant to stimulate the nerves of his legs, allowing him to walk.

“There’s a lot of energy, and it’s super exciting,” Chang says. “I think that we’re going to cross a really important threshold in the next five years: coming out of proof of principles into new therapies.”

science research article vs report

Mind-reading machines are coming — how can we keep them in check?

Companies in the field are also making strides: in September the neurotechnology company Neuralink, founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, invited people living with paralysis to volunteer to be the first recipients of its implantable BCI.

The quest to commercialize BCIs , however, is still in its infancy. So far, systems are tailored to individuals, but commercialization will require robust, reliable and safe BCIs that can be scaled up. “You cannot have a PhD engineer in the home of every single patient with a BCI,” says Tom Oxley, chief executive of Synchron, a BCI company in Brooklyn, New York.

Alongside advances in implantable devices, a parallel commercial ecosystem of wearable brain-reading devices is growing. These measure users’ brain activity — at much lower resolution than implanted devices — to potentially enhance mental health, productivity or sleep, or to transform how people interact with computers.

Together, these advances are accelerating efforts to guide and regulate neurotechnology . This month, for instance, member states of UNESCO — the United Nations cultural and scientific organization — will vote on whether to develop international guidelines and policy recommendations for the use of this technology.

As progress generates headlines, there is no shortage of grand claims. Consumer-targeted bioinformatics company EMOTIV in San Francisco describes its team as “decoders of the human experience”. In 2020, Musk told podcaster Joe Rogan that Neuralink’s BCI “could, in principle, fix almost anything that’s wrong with the brain”.

“We need to have more conversation,” says Chang, “and try to reduce the hype and focus on the things that are actually really relevant.”

Decoding the brain

All brain-reading technologies, whether implants or headsets, operate on the same basic principles: they record neural activity — usually electrical activity — associated with a function such as speech or attention; interpret what that activity means; and use it to control an external device or simply provide it as information to the user.

Implanted BCIs record more information-rich brain signals than do external ones. But these experimental devices are intended only for use by people in whom potential clinical benefits outweigh the risks of, for example, brain injury or infection. Only around 50 people have received such implants long-term.

A staff member demonstrates a brain-computer interface at the World Robot Conference 2023 in Beijing.

An attendee at a conference in Beijing demonstrates a brain–computer interface headset. Credit: Wang Yuguo/Xinhua News Agency/eyevine

Most devices worn on the scalp use a common method called electroencephalography (EEG) to detect tiny electrical fields that pass through the skull, reflecting the average firing of many millions of neurons spread over substantial volumes of brain.

EEG is routinely used clinically to monitor epilepsy and sleep, and in the lab to study a range of brain functions. Commercial efforts centre on using EEG signals to monitor psychological states such as focus, calmness, agitation and drowsiness.

Consumer-targeted companies have yet to create a ‘killer app’ — an application so desirable that sales take off drastically. But for implantable devices, an alluring application is clear: helping people living with paralysis to restore communication or autonomy.

Improving implants

Various companies are developing and commercializing implanted BCIs. Closest to the clinic are five US companies: Neuralink; Synchron; Blackrock Neurotech in Salt Lake City, Utah; Paradromics in Austin, Texas; and Precision Neuroscience in Manhattan, New York. China is also heavily invested in this field and European companies are emerging.

Blackrock Neurotech, Paradromics and Neuralink have developed electrode systems that penetrate the brain’s cortex to record from individual neurons. Paradromics’ chief executive, Matt Angle, says academic research has shown that the more neurons that are recorded from, the more accurately and quickly thoughts can be decoded.

The interfaces from Blackrock Neurotech and Paradromics are grids of hundreds of stiff, straight electrodes, and multiple arrays can be implanted in a single person. Blackrock Neurotech’s array was first implanted long-term in a person 19 years ago 4 , and has been a mainstay of BCI research ever since. Paradromics’ array is undergoing testing in sheep.

science research article vs report

Decoding the business of brain-computer interfaces

Neuralink’s implant — so far tested in monkeys — consists of multiple long, flexible polymer threads. These contain many recording sites and are implanted deeper in the cortex than are stiff electrode arrays.

Conversely, Synchron and Precision Neuroscience use electrodes that sit on the surface of the brain, such as those deployed in Chang’s study. “Our whole philosophy is around minimally invasive deployment of electrodes that don’t damage the brain,” says Ben Rapoport, co-founder of Precision Neuroscience. This includes being able to easily remove them, he says.

Synchron’s BCI contains just 16 electrodes and bucks the trend of chasing ever more bandwidth. Termed a stentrode, it is a hybrid of a blood-vessel stent and an electrode array. It is implanted without neurosurgery, by pushing the device up through the jugular vein until it sits in the blood vessel that lies beneath the brain’s motor cortex, the region that formulates a person’s intentions to move.

The stentrode’s low bandwidth cannot decode thoughts, but it enables users to control a smartphone — a potentially transformative gain of autonomy 5 . “You have to choose what you’re going to optimize for,” says Oxley.

Between them, these companies are a hive of early-stage clinical activity. This year, Neuralink was cleared to begin human trials of its device; Precision Neuroscience tested its electrodes in humans for the first time (recording for 15 minutes during operations to remove brain tumours). And all five companies have now gained breakthrough device status — an accelerated route to clinical approval — from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Synchron is closest to potentially gaining approval. This year, the tenth and final volunteer joined the company’s initial feasibility studies, in which people with severe paralysis are using Synchron’s system at home. In September, the company achieved the goal of having someone with a newly implanted stentrode device follow software instructions to set up the BCI without assistance from Synchron staff. The other four companies hope to proceed through feasibility trials in the coming years.

Tim Denison, an engineer at the University of Oxford, UK (who has consulted for Synchron), has worked in neurotechnology for 20 years, often focusing on brain stimulation as a treatment for neuropsychiatric conditions. Denison says advances in brain reading could make a huge difference in guiding therapeutic stimulation, if devices can identify signatures of disease — or signs of recovery.

But Denison’s long experience makes him cautious. In some situations, “I had very high hopes and the technology didn’t come through”, he says, “And that’s very humbling.”

He stresses that making devices reliable, practicable and affordable is just as crucial to their success as the scientific advances. Given the scarcity of neurosurgeons worldwide, Denison says, one of the most significant things Neuralink has done is to create a robot that surgically implants its device.

Consumer focus

Developers of non-invasive consumer brain-reading headsets face a different set of hurdles. The current commercial ecosystem consists of a few small, relatively established companies, dozens of start-ups and various research departments in big tech companies.

science research article vs report

The brain-reading devices helping paralysed people to move, talk and touch

“The three big limitations of consumer neurotechnology have been the form that they’ve taken, the applications that they’ve offered and the quality of the signal that you could get out of them,” says Nita Farahany, a legal scholar specializing in this field at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Despite some success under controlled lab conditions, EEG cannot decode users’ thoughts. And although some products — especially for gaming — use EEG to control external technology, it is currently rather a slow and effortful process.

EEG is better at giving a general indication of someone’s psychological state. In different states — such as sleep or focused working — neuronal firing tends to coalesce into oscillatory waves at distinct frequencies. Sleep, for example, is defined by slow delta waves; relaxation is associated with intermediate theta waves; and attention with faster alpha waves.

Many applications aim to make users consciously aware of their brain state — through some form of interface — in order to help them change it.

Several companies offer EEG-sensing products such as headbands, headsets or earphones that they say nudge users towards deeper meditative states, or help people to enter more focused and more productive states. In 2022, Liverpool Football Club announced that German neurotech company Neuro11, based in Potsdam, had helped the club’s players to learn to achieve calm, focused states in pressurized situations and had aided their performance — although researchers warn that there can be large placebo effects with such interventions.

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold wears sensors on his head during a media day and training session.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, who plays for Liverpool Football Club, wears a headset that can detect electrical brain activity during a training session. Credit: Jon Super/AP Photo/Alamy

Some products aim to manipulate brain waves directly in hopes of changing a person’s mental state. Andrew Jackson, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University, UK, co-founded Neudio, a start-up company that uses an algorithm that records a user’s EEG and, in real time, generates synthetic music that aims to entrain brain activity to induce relaxation or focus. Other companies are using similar approaches to improve, for example, sleep quality.

But Farahany suspects that this technology will become mainstream for other uses. “I think the things that will really make neural interfaces ubiquitous is using them to replace existing peripheral devices — and in virtual reality and augmented reality.”

Companies such as Meta and Apple have already launched headsets that include, for example, eye-tracking technology — heralding a shift towards more-immersive computing experiences, says Farahany. In July, Apple was granted a patent to incorporate EEG sensors into its earbuds, called Airpods.

Significant questions remain about the quality of EEG signals that consumer devices can record — especially when a user is moving — and how this will limit applications. But these technologies could mean more than just new ways to enhance personal computing experiences. They raise questions of whether someone’s brain data — and even their mental privacy — will be commodified.

Sanctuary for sale

As brain-reading neurotechnologies accelerate, ethicists and regulators are increasingly asking what unique risks these devices pose. “The brain is not just another organ of the body; it is the organ that generates the human mind. This should be the sanctuary of our identity,” says Rafael Yuste, a neuroscientist at Columbia University in New York City. “You need to shield that, you cannot just go in and start banking and selling brain data.”

science research article vs report

Abandoned: the human cost of neurotechnology failure

Implanted medical technology might create ethical issues. For example, given that artificial-intelligence (AI) software helps to turn users’ brain activity into decisions, there are questions regarding users’ agency and culpability. It is also unclear what would happen to people if the manufacturer of their implant ceases to operate . But the general view is that existing medical regulations can largely guide tech development and use. For consumer devices, however, current regulations leave worrying gaps, says Farahany.

In her book, The Battle for Your Brain , which was released in March, Farahany describes how, in China, schoolchildren’s attention has been monitored using EEG headsets made by US software company BrainCo, and how certain employers, across multiple countries, are monitoring their employees. The ethics vary with the situation: such tracking could be valuable for noticing when long-distance drivers become drowsy, but thornier if employers use the technology to police employees’ concentration levels.

Critics argue that some claims made about EEG’s ability to reveal individuals’ private thoughts are overblown — and that data gathered from people’s online behaviour are much more revealing. However, Yuste draws a hard line between overt behaviour and private mental activity. He says rapid improvements in AI decoding and non-invasive hardware “make the fight for your mental privacy much more urgent”.

Yuste and Farahany think existing human-rights treaties need updating to protect citizens against the misuse of neurotechnologies. Yuste advocates for a new class of rights termed neurorights — which, he says, would protect mental privacy; prevent personality-changing manipulations; and guard against biases in the algorithms behind neurotech.

Farahany argues for a wider right to ‘cognitive liberty’ — protection from both neurotechnology and a range of digital technologies that can manipulate people’s minds and behaviour.

Multiple organizations are exploring how neurotech should be regulated. Since 2019, UNESCO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the UK Regulatory Horizons Council have each issued recommendations or reports. This month’s vote at UNESCO will decide whether the agency should produce an extensive international framework for neurotech governance.

But ethicists ultimately want to see principles become enshrined in law. One solution is to modify international human-rights treaties; the UN’s human-rights council met in August to discuss neurotechnology.

Chile is currently the only nation that has legislation protecting neurorights. In 2021, it changed its constitution to guard against problematic uses of neurotechnology. This year, the senator who has championed neurorights the most, Guido Girardi, successfully sued EMOTIV in Chile’s Supreme Court for violating the country’s rules on collecting and using neural data after he imported and used one of its devices.

Elsewhere, the governments of Brazil, Mexico, Spain and Australia are discussing how they might create legislation for neurotechnology.

Farahany is buoyed by the fact that — unlike attempts to regulate social media and AI, which happened only once these technologies started being used on a massive scale — conversations about neurotechnology are happening before its tipping point. “Internationally, people seem to care about doing it right and doing it ethically.”

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Title: rlaif: scaling reinforcement learning from human feedback with ai feedback.

Abstract: Reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) is effective at aligning large language models (LLMs) to human preferences, but gathering high quality human preference labels is a key bottleneck. We conduct a head-to-head comparison of RLHF vs. RL from AI Feedback (RLAIF) - a technique where preferences are labeled by an off-the-shelf LLM in lieu of humans, and we find that they result in similar improvements. On the task of summarization, human evaluators prefer generations from both RLAIF and RLHF over a baseline supervised fine-tuned model in ~70% of cases. Furthermore, when asked to rate RLAIF vs. RLHF summaries, humans prefer both at equal rates. These results suggest that RLAIF can yield human-level performance, offering a potential solution to the scalability limitations of RLHF.

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  5. Science Research Session: Hyporuliad

  6. A Science Based New Way to Study


  1. Report is different from scientific article?

    Report is different from scientific article? When I submit my manuscript, the editors always comment my manuscript that it looks like a report and not scientific article. I have introduction,...

  2. What's the difference between a lab report and a research paper?

    The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but it usually contains the following: Title: expresses the topic of your study Abstract: summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions Introduction: establishes the context needed to understand the topic Method: describes the materials and procedures used in the experiment

  3. For the journal Science, what kind of manuscript is a 'report'?

    Answer: Science, just like Nature, is a multidisciplinary scientific publisher, with a number of journals in different fields, each journal featuring a variety of articles. Apart from articles, letters, and reports (which you have mentioned), they publish reviews and a host of commentary pieces such as book reviews and technical comments/notes.

  4. Report vs Article: Similarities, Differences, and Proper Use

    An article is a more general term that refers to a piece of writing that provides information, analysis, or opinion on a specific topic. On the other hand, a report is a more structured and formal document that presents detailed information and findings on a particular subject matter.

  5. Types of journal articles

    Original Research: This is the most common type of journal manuscript used to publish full reports of data from research. It may be called an Original Article, Research Article, Research, or just Article, depending on the journal. The Original Research format is suitable for many different fields and different types of studies.

  6. Scientific Reports

    This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you've performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we'll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you'll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation ...

  7. Difference between Paper and Article for scientific writings

    A research article is a paper or writing that informs people of a path breaking research or a finding with clinical data to support the finding. Research Paper. Research is an activity that is given much importance in academics, and this is why assignments requiring research and technical writing start early in the school.

  8. Formatting Science Reports

    This section describes an organizational structure commonly used to report experimental research in many scientific disciplines, the IMRAD format: Introduction, Methods, Results, And Discussion. Although the main headings are standard for many scientific fields, details may vary; check with your instructor, or, if submitting an article to a journal, refer to the instructions to authors.…

  9. PDF A Comparison of the Scientific Article and Lab Report

    A Comparison of the Scientific Article and the Lab Report Lab Reports Scientific Articles ... assigned to them New experiments that answer their own research questions Reader Teachers whose primary objective is to evaluate the reports Peers whose primary objective is to keep informed of new science Purpose To learn something about science To ...

  10. Journal metrics

    AAAS, the publisher of the Science family of journals, is a signatory of DORA and believes that a range of metrics should be used to evaluate journal quality. Journal profiles. The data below refer to full year 2022 and include article types "research articles," "reports," and "research resources." Note that they do not include ...

  11. Understanding Scientific Journals and Articles

    The standard format of journal articles. In June of 2005, the journal Science published a research report on a sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird long considered extinct in North America (Fitzpatrick et al., 2005). The work was of such significance and broad interest that it was displayed prominently on the cover (Figure 2) and highlighted by an editorial at the front of the ...

  12. Primary Research vs Review Article

    Characteristics of a Primary Research Article. Goal is to present the result of original research that makes a new contribution to the body of knowledge; Sometimes referred to as an empirical research article; Typically organized into sections that include: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion/Conclusion, and References.

  13. Review vs. research articles

    Finding Review and Research Papers in PubMed. Many databases have special features that allow the searcher to restrict results to articles that match specific criteria. In other words, only articles of a certain type will be displayed in the search results. These "limiters" can be useful when searching for research or review articles.

  14. Research Articles vs Review Articles

    Research articles follow a particular format. Look for: A brief introduction will often include a review of the existing literature on the topic studied, and explain the rationale of the author's study.; A methods section, where authors describe how they collected and analyzed data.Statistical analysis are included. A results section describes the outcomes of the data analysis.

  15. Primary Sources and Original Research vs. Review Articles

    Research vs Review Articles. It's often difficult to tell the difference between original research articles and review articles. Here are some explanations and tips that may help: "Review articles are often as lengthy or even longer that original research articles. What the authors of review articles are doing in analysing and evaluating current research and investigations related to a ...

  16. Difference between research paper and scientific paper

    2 Answers Sorted by: 6 A research paper is a paper containing original research. That is, if you do some work to add (or try to add) new knowledge to a field of study, and then present the details of your approach and findings in a paper, that paper can be called a research paper.

  17. Differences in Research, Review, and Opinion Articles

    In the Arts and Humanities, scholarly articles tend to be less formatted than in the social sciences and sciences. In the humanities, scholars are not conducting the same kinds of research experiments, but they are still using evidence to draw logical conclusions. Common sections of these articles include: an Introduction; Discussion/Conclusion

  18. Research articles

    Thrombospondin1 antagonist peptide treatment attenuates obesity-associated chronic inflammation and metabolic disorders in a diet-induced obese mouse model. Qi Zhou. Taesik Gwag. Shuxia Wang ...

  19. Science (journal)

    Science, also widely referred to as Science Magazine, is the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and one of the world's top academic journals. It was first published in 1880, is currently circulated weekly and has a subscriber base of around 130,000. Because institutional subscriptions and online access serve a larger audience, its ...

  20. Exploring the Difference between Research Papers and Articles

    Research papers and articles are common forms of academic writing that have distinct differences. This article explores the various components that distinguish a research paper from an article, including purpose, audience, structure, and content. Moreover, it examines how these factors vary depending on context and provides tips for successful ...

  21. Scientific Reports

    Scientific Reports has a 2-year impact factor of 4.6 (2022), and is the 5th most-cited journal in the world, with more than 738,000 citations in 2022*. *2023 Journal Citation Reports® Science ...

  22. Quora

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  23. The Differences in a Research Report and Research Paper

    When writing a paper, maybe the only thing more daunting than actually writing it is deciding what you're even supposed to be writing about. Research reports, research gets confusing. They are actually not the same thing, and knowing the difference between them will save you time and frustration, help ...

  24. Americans' Trust in Scientists and Views of Science Decline in 2023

    The Center survey of 8,842 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023, finds that, despite recent declines in ratings, scientists and medical scientists continue to be held in high regard compared with other prominent groups in society. Smaller shares of Americans express confidence in business leaders, religious leaders, journalists and ...

  25. Research Elements journals

    Elsevier Research Elements is a suite of open access journals focused on objects such as data, methods, software, and hardware. We contribute to open science and reproducibility by making research objects findable, accessible, and reusable. The high-quality, peer-reviewed articles we publish provide a detailed description that explains the ...

  26. Science Adviser: Scientists are publishing too many papers—and ...

    The authors of that paper estimated that scientists paid more than $1 billion in open-access article fees to five of the biggest publishers—Elsevier, Sage, Springer-Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley—between 2015 and 2018. And they note that these companies have "an obscenely high profit margin," pointing to previous calculations.

  27. The rise of brain-reading technology: what you need to know

    Liam Drew. Ann, who was left paralysed by a stroke, uses a brain-computer interface to translate brain signals into the speech and movement of an avatar. Credit: Noah Berger. In a laboratory in ...

  28. RLAIF: Scaling Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback with AI Feedback

    Reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) is effective at aligning large language models (LLMs) to human preferences, but gathering high quality human preference labels is a key bottleneck. We conduct a head-to-head comparison of RLHF vs. RL from AI Feedback (RLAIF) - a technique where preferences are labeled by an off-the-shelf LLM in lieu of humans, and we find that they result in ...