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Writing a Scientific Paper

Writing a scientific paper is very similar to writing a lab report. The structure of each is primarily the same, but the purpose of each is different. Lab reports are meant to reflect understanding of the material and learn something new, while scientific papers are meant to contribute knowledge to a field of study.  A scientific paper is broken down into eight sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. 


  • The title of the lab report should be descriptive of the experiment and reflect what the experiment analyzed. 
    • Ex: "Determining the Free Chlorine Content of Pool Water"


  • Abstracts are a summary of the research as a whole and should familiarize the reader with the purpose of the research. 
  • Abstracts will always be written last, even though they are the first paragraph of a scientific paper. 
  • Unlike a lab report, all scientific papers will have an abstract.
  • When writing an abstract, try to answer these questions:
    • Why was the research done?
    • What problem is being addressed?
    • What results were found?
    • What are the meaning of the results?
    • How is the problem better understood now than before, if at all?


  • The introduction of a scientific paper discusses the problem being studied and other theory that is relevant to understanding the findings. 
  • The hypothesis of the experiment and the motivation for the research are stated in this section. 
  • Write the introduction in your own words. Try not to copy from a lab manual or other guidelines. Instead, show comprehension of the research by briefly explaining the problem.

Methods and Materials

  • The methods and materials section provides an overview of any equipment, apparatus, or other substances used in the experiment, as well as the steps taken during the experiment. If using any specific amounts of materials, make sure the amount is listed. 
    • Ex: pipette, graduated cylinder, 1.13mg of Na, 0.67mg Ag
  • List the steps taken as they actually happened during the experiment, not as they were supposed to happen. 
  • If written correctly, another researcher should be able to duplicate the experiment and get the same or very similar results. 
  • In a scientific paper, most often the steps taken during the research are discussed more in length and with more detail than they are in lab reports. 


  • The results show the data that was collected or found during the research. 
  • Explain in words the data that was collected.
  • If using graphs, charts, or other figures, present them in the results section of the lab report. 
    • Tables should be labeled numerically, as "Table 1", "Table 2", etc. Other figures should be labeled numerically as "Figure 1", "Figure 2", etc. 
  • Calculations to understand the data can also be presented in the results. 


  • The discussion section is one of the most important parts of a scientific paper. It analyzes the results of the research and is a discussion of the data. 
  • If any results are unexpected, explain why they are unexpected and how they did or did not effect the data obtained. 
  • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the design of the research and compare your results to similar research.
  • If there are any experimental errors, analyze them.
  • Explain your results and discuss them using relevant terms and theories.
  • When writing a discussion, try to answer these questions:
    • What do the results indicate?
    • What is the significance of the results?
    • Are there any gaps in knowledge?
    • Are there any new questions that have been raised?


  • The conclusion is a summation of the experiment. It should clearly and concisely state what was learned and its importance.
  • If there is future work that needs to be done, it can be explained in the conclusion.


  • When any outside sources to support a claim or explain background information, those sources must be cited in the references section of the lab report. 
  • Scientific papers will always use outside references.