A good report

A good report includes the following headings / sections

  • Abstract
  • Data availability statement
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion / Conclusion / Recommendations
  • References

The goal is to clearly describe to Farmer Elliot what your question was, how you went about answering it, what your results told you and what recommendations you have to help Farmer Elliot make his decision.


An abstract is a brief summary of what the report is all about.

Abstracts in the sciences are approached in a couple of different ways, depending on the sub-discipline and journal preferences. For BIOL125, your abstract should be a single paragraph and no more than 250 words. It should clearly outline the question or problem your research is investigating, describe how the question or problem was addressed and identify the key results and recommendations.

In less than 250 words, the reader should be able to attain the most crucial aspects of each segment of the report within this one paragraph.

Data availablity statement

As we learned in BIOL116, when appropriate and feasible, the data underlying our analyses should be made available. You will be asked to submit a .csv file of your data in long format. You may wish to review the content from BIOL116 on Preparing Your Data and the content on Tidy Data from the BIOL Procedures and Guidelines. You will also be asked to submit a _DATA-DICTIONARY.md file describing your data. Refer back to the Data Dictionary section of the BIOL Procedures and Guildelines for guidance and an example.

This is a short statement that indicates if data is available and if it is, how it can be acquired.


~ 1 page

The introduction should begin with the general topic and then narrow the focus of the details pertinent to the research.

Your introduction should discuss what is currently understood about the topic and how this ties into the study. This is where you want to get across the interesting points of the field that led you to develop your hypothesis and your experimental design. You want to use many sources, particularly primary sources such as journal articles. Ensure your information is cited appropriately (see guidance in the BIOL Procedures and Guidelines). You should have a clear hypothesis stated at the end of this section. This section will be the lengthiest section of your report. Ensure you reader has no doubt where the source of your information comes from.

Your introduction should situate, explain, and identify your research project. It should do this by providing relevant background information that frames the current project and is directly relevant. It should then identify the importance of this particular project. And finally it should clearly articulate the research question and hypothesis being addressed.


~ 1/2 - 1 page

This section of your report involves producing a written description of the materials used and the methods involved in performing your experiment. Under no circumstances should you provide bullet points or list one by one the materials used. Rather you need to describe each step clearly enough that someone else could replicate your experiment exactly. You should also include a section outlining what statistical measure(s) you used and how you transformed your data if need be.

It is highly recommended you show this to someone not in your class and see if they can follow along. If they can't you need to ask them where they get stuck and re-write to make sure it's clear. Think of this like following a recipe while cooking. Don't leave anything out that isn't obvious or the recipe will fail for the next person trying to cook.

Remember, for transparency and reproducibility, your methods are key to your audience understanding how you did exactly what you did. And if you wrote a protocol, it is the methods section against which that protocol will be screened to identify bias.

So, it should be clear, concise, and contain sufficient information for someone else to reproduce the experiment. This means it should include things like, how specimens were procured, how data was collected (tools, measurements etc), and how the data was analysed.

The steps should flow logically, and, while being concise, you should not use bullet points.


~ 1/2 - 1 page

The results section is where you will describe what you saw. That is, what the response was to your variable. This should be the driest and easiest section to write as you are just stating what you found and nothing more. There should be no mention of what you did to attain this data or how you went about doing it - that's for your methods section. This is not where you describe why you saw what you saw - that's for your discussion and recommendations section. Nor is it where you try and tie in other research to your research - that's for your introduction and discussion sections.

The results section should include all averaged data from observations during your experiment. This includes charts, tables, graphs, and any other illustrations of data you feel best represents the information you would like to convey. It should not include any raw data. Raw data should be attached as a separate file.

Depending on the information you wish to convey you may feel that a box plot, bar graph or line graph is most descriptive. Whichever way you decide think about what message you are trying to convey and ask yourself if an audience was to quickly look at your graph would they get that messaging easily. If not, you should look at an alternative way to display your graph. Your TA will be able to help you sort this out as well.

Be sure to provide all labels, legends and axes where necessary and a caption which informs the reader of what they are looking at. Remember anyone who is not familiar with your research should be able to quickly look at your figure and understand what message you are trying to show. Please review the BIOL Procedures and Guidelines section on Figures & Tables.

Your results section should clearly outline the relevant findings from your study and should flow directly from your research question and hypothesis.

This section should include graphs or figures to highlight key findings. Graphs and figures should be present immediately following paragraphs describing the results described by these graphs and figures.

While summary data should be provided, raw data should be not; raw data should be included as supplementary content.

Discussion, Conclusions & Recommendations

~ 1 page

This section is where you will discuss what you saw. Were you able to answer the question you set out to answer? Why or why not? In either case try and explain and interpret your results.

This is where you will want to go back to the journals you found and see what they found. Is it similar or not? Why or why not? Did they do something different from you? You can often explain results you may not have anticipated seeing by looking at what others in the area have found. Think about the why?

Is this the right property for Farmer Elliot or should he keep looking?

Your job here is to try and explain what you found and how it relates to what others have found. From here you will make your recommendation to your client.


All references used should be included at the end of your report on a separate page. That includes any books, articles, lab manuals, etc. that you used when writing your report. APA citations are required. Ensure you provide a properly formatted list with sufficient references. At least 3 primary source papers should be listed.

For formatting guidance, refer to the APA section of the BIOL Procedures and Guidelines.