Reporting & Conclusions

This final step in the scientific method is to provide a straightforward description of your findings, and to interpret the results of your statistical analyses. The first step is to include clear and concise statements that clearly indicate the outcomes of your statistical analyses.

Specifically, the key statistical interpretation is whether your statistical analyses yielded a "P-value" that was less than your stated level of significance (0.05). This dictates the wording of your main statement of results, though in all cases your statement should reflect the wording of your null and alternative hypotheses. For our plant experiment, for example

We found that temperature significantly affected plant height.


We found that temperature had no significant effect on plant height.

The statistical results are typically summarized in parentheses at the end of your main statement of results, as follows

We found that temperature significantly affected plant height (ANOVA: F = 4.42; n = 20 per group; P = 0.023).

The parentheses should include the type of test conducted, the value of the test statistic (provided by the Shiny app), the sample sizes in each treatment group, and the P-value (also provided by the Shiny app).

You should then add another statement that provides more information about your data, referencing your graph and any patterns it shows. For example

On average, plant height was greatest within the highest temperature treatment, and smallest within the lowest temperature treatment (Figure 1).


Plant height varied substantially within each treatment group, and showed no consistent pattern among groups (Figure 1).

The key biological interpretation is whether or not the experiment yielded outcomes that were consistent with your research hypothesis and associated predictions, and what biological processes underlie your findings. Were all your expectations met? None? If you conducted multiple runs of your experiment, were their results all consistent, or did some runs yield different outcomes? If they differed, suggest why this might have been.

It is important to remember that scientific investigations often don't yield the anticipated results. If there are discrepancies between your results and those of others, or what you expected to find based on your reading of the scientific literature, this is the place to try and explain those discrepancies. As a general rule, this means looking at the published results of other scientists, and critically comparing the work they did to yours, to see if similarities make sense, and discrepancies can be explained. Doing scientific experiments well is extremely challenging, so don't be discouraged if mistakes are made along the way! The key thing is to document those mistakes and discuss how / if they may have influenced the outcomes.

When possible, you should not only repeat your experiment as many times as is reasonable (only if planned in advance), but also compare your results to those of other investigators working on the same problem. This helps you to determine how reproducible you would expect your result to be, which also helps provide evidence for how likely your results reflect the "truth". All information obtained from other sources, or any ideas that are not your own, must be properly cited in the body of your poster presentation and included in a "Literature Cited" or "References" list at the end. This is an essential part of science, and academic endeavours. No scientist ever works in a vacuum, and comparing to others is expected, so it's perfectly normal and expected that you will learn from the work of others, and cite them.