A scientific paper uses a standardized
format to demonstrate each of the
parts of the scientific method.
The style used in a scientific paper is probably
not something you’ve used before.
• Be precise, and concise.
• Use APA format for your citations (parenthetical
notes and a reference section).
• Use only metric measurements.
• Write in the past tense and passive voice in order
to demonstrate what “was” accomplished. The
discussion section is the only section where one
might use present or future tenses.
An example of technical writing:
“The beaker was filled with 20 ml of distilled
– The beaker is the subject of the sentence, not
– The writer explains what occurred in the past
Technical writing practice:
Convert the following statements to passive voice and past tense:
• I am going to measure the diameter of my bubbles.
Correction: The diameter of each bubble was measured.
• We heated the solution until it boiled.
Correction: The solution was heated to its boiling
A scientific paper must be formatted so that
the reader can easily find each section.
Provide a heading before each section,
and order them correctly.
The TITLE allows a reader to identify papers
that may be relevant to their work.
• Write a title that is very specific and that reflects the
content of the paper (mention both the dependent and
• The title should allow the reader to determine if they want
to read any further.
A bad title: Strawberry Lab
A good title: Enhanced Reproduction of Strawberry Plants
Under Low Light Conditions
An ABSTRACT is presented next, and allows
the reader a chance to determine if a paper is
• Write a short summary of the work you’ve done by
including a little bit from each section in a well-written
• Write this section after the others, but be sure to present it
first, as it is a short summary of your work.
• Many scientific journal search engines allow a scientist to read
abstracts on line. This allow them to decide which papers
should be gathered for their background research.
An INTRODUCTION provides the reader with
the background necessary to understand the
• Present the question being addressed in the study and
place it in the context of what is already known about the
• Include any background information that we've discussed
in pre-lab as well as any other material that you've
researched on your own.
• A well written introduction, should allow any scientist to
understand WHY your work is important.
A HYPOTHESIS is the educated guess you
made, before you began to experiment.
• This guess is “educated” since it has been based on your
• A hypothesis is normally included within the
introduction, however you will separate it out, so that
your teacher can find it more easily.
• Do not change your hypothesis to reflect the results of
Example: It was believed that the reproductive rates of
strawberry plants would increase under low-light
Your MATERIALS AND METHODS section
should allow a scientist to repeat your work, and
achieve the same result.
• Clearly illustrate to the reader, exactly what
you've done to get your results.
• Include every step you’ve done including how
you’ve done it. Any details that could affect the
outcome of the experiment should be explained
• This section should be pages and pages long
depending on the intricacy of your project. Do
not assume the reader, even if it's me, knows
anything at all about what you’ve done.
The RESULTS section should be an “objective”
account of your findings, without any
• Provide a brief written explanation of your
results, but do not discuss their relevancy.
• Use data tables and graphs to provide a clear
idea of any trends you’ve observed.
• These data must support any conclusions
you’ll be making in your discussion, so make
• Tables must be labeled above, while figures
must be labeled below.
A properly labeled table.
Table 1: Raw data for General Electric Survey.
Areas chosen in survey Psychology Math English Physics Economics Accounting
Percent who chose them 55.29% 73.86% 25% 55.29% 33.80% 46.67%
A properly labeled figure.
% who found each area to be the most 80
Figure 1: Courses found to be most
valuable in a survey of 6,246 General
Cite any attached data as APPENDICES.
• See Appendix A for raw data.
• See Appendix B for graphs of individual
plant growth rates.
A DISCUSSION section allows the writer a
chance to explain their results.
• Explain why the data either supported or refuted your
• Cite your data tables or figures as proof of your
• Mention any other results that occurred and try to explain
• Include any sources of error and how they might be
remedied next time through.
• Make any hypothesis you feel are evident considering the
results of your study.
A REFERENCE section should provide a list of
the resources you used to develop your
hypothesis and study.
• Use APA format for your references section and
title it “References.”
• Punctuate any major points you want to make in
your Discussion section with a reference. Cite
the usage of any ideas or quotes from your
references with parenthetical notation. To
provide this reference, include the author's last
name and the date of publication in parentheses
directly after the relevant portion of the text.
• example: (Floreck, 1999)
Your teacher will pay attention to every detail
when they grade your paper, so take a look at
the rubric once you’ve finished your writing.
A good website for help in paper
The Scientific Paper
Dr. Frank Hensley
Coordinator of General Biology Laboratories
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro