Preparing Research Reports
Research experience is as close to a professional problem-solving activity as anything in the curriculum. It provides exposure to research methodology and an opportunity to work closely with a faculty advisor. It usually requires the use of advanced concepts, a variety of experimental techniques, and state-of-the-art instrumentation. Ideally, undergraduate research should focus on a well-defined project that stands a reasonable chance of completion in the time available. A literature survey alone is not a satisfactory research project. Neither is
repetition of established procedures. The Committee on Professional Training (CPT) strongly supports efforts by departments to establish active and vibrant undergraduate research programs, recognizing the role that research
can play in developing a wide range of student skills. The 2008 guidelines allow for the use of undergraduate research both as in-depth coursework, as well as a means of meeting 180 of the 400 laboratory hours required for
certification provided that a well-written, comprehensive, and well-documented research report is prepared at the end of a project (samples of such research reports must be submitted with the periodic reports.) The CPT has a
separate supplement outlining the components of successful research programs and projects.Preparation of a comprehensive written research report is an essential part of a valid research experience, and the
student should be aware of this requirement at the outset of the project. Interim reports may also be required, usually at the termination of the quarter or semester. Sufficient time should be allowed for satisfactory completion
of reports, taking into account that initial drafts should be critiqued by the faculty advisor and corrected by the student at each stage. It may be expected that concrete outcomes of any research project would be student
presentation of research results at a professional meeting and/or co-authorship on a journal publication. However, while this is a most desirable outcome, it is not a substitute for a well-written comprehensive report, produced by the student with substantive critique and correction by the faculty mentor, which demonstrates that the student has
a full grasp of the scope of the problem, the techniques/instrumental methods used, and the ramifications of the results generated (much as might be expected for a capstone paper or a B.S. thesis). It is of paramount
importance that any undergraduate research project culminates in a thorough well-documented written report.Guidelines on how to prepare a professional-style research report are not always routinely available. For this
reason, the following information on report writing and format is provided to be helpful to undergraduate researchers and to faculty advisors. Much of what follows is similar to what authors would find in many ‘guidelines
to authors’ instructions for most journal submissions.The most comprehensive reports examined by CPT have been those student reports reviewed by more faculty
than just the supervising research advisor. In some cases, departments require an approval of the report by several faculty members; in such cases, student research reports are often of high quality.
Cover Page—The cover page must contain the title of the research and the category of the research field selected from one of the six categories listed above. Make sure your title is concise but also descriptive. On one copy, include your name, teacher/sponsor and/or research mentor, and your school address.
Animal Research—If your research involves animals, include a statement of approval for your research by the animal research review board of the laboratory or university in which the research was conducted.
Acknowledgment of major assistance—Include a statement on where and when the research was conducted, as well as acknowledgement of everyone who assisted you with the study. If the work was part of a larger project involving other scientists (e.g., college students, postdoctoral students, or other professionals), be sure to list what part of the work in which you were engaged.
Project Information Form—The Project Information Form needs to be filled out by the student and signed by both the high school teacher/sponsor and the research mentor under whose guidance the student conducted the research. A single copy of this form needs to be submitted with the research paper. Completion of this form is a requirement to be eligible for the TJSHS competition.
Table of Contents—List the topics and subtopics in order and the page numbers on which they begin. Include in the table of contents a list of all graphs, tables, and other representative figures. These should have a title and page number, as well.
Introduction—Write the introduction to provide background, details, and the setting of your specific research scenario. Assume that the reader will be scientifically literate, but may not be familiar with the details. In the introduction, state the purpose of the research study first, and then state the hypotheses that you are testing. Describe what is already known about the research last.
Materials, Methods, and Procedures —State the materials, methods, or procedures used to conduct the research in a step-by-step manner. This section should be written specifically enough so that the research could be replicated if someone were to follow the steps.
Results (Data or Findings)—Present the results of your research findings in logical order. Use graphs, tables, and/or pictures to represent your findings. Tables and graphs should be numbered separately and include captions so that the reader can refer to them more easily in the text. Explain the important features of each table, graph, etc. Report the results of your statistical analyses and the type of statistical test used.
Discussion and Conclusions—In this section, interpret your results. First, restate the hypotheses, and explain how the data either supported or rejected the initial research inquiry. Discuss your research findings in relationship to what is already known about the topic (reported in the introduction section). Draw conclusions based upon your research findings. The conclusions can include relevant, subjective observations or comments, but do state that these are your speculations. Acknowledge any limitations that affected the research results. For example, the statistical techniques used to manipulate the data may have had limitations. Some of the treatment effect might have been caused by a random, uncontrolled intervening variable. Again, acknowledge these limitations and other factors over which you had no control, and state how these might have influenced the study outcomes. Address what further experiments need to be performed.
Literature Cited —A list of citations for every article cited in your text needs to be included on a separate page. Endnotes are needed for all direct quotations and for all important statements of facts or opinions that are taken from written sources. Figures, dates, descriptions of situations, scientific data, opinion, representations, and the like—which are presented to advance the subject of the paper—need a stated source. Check with your teacher or other advisors if you need further assistance in the format for endnotes.
Appendices—In some cases, you may wish to include large tables of raw data in your report. You should include such items in an appendix at the very end of your research report. Label and paginate your appendices.