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Scientific Papers and Lab Reports: Writing a Scientific Paper

Originally created for Agricultural Sciences courses, this guide will help you identify the parts of a scientific paper, lab reports, and some citing guidelines.

Writing a Scientific Paper

Scientific papers are meant to contribute to a field of study and are very similar to writing a lab report. For in-depth descriptions of each section, check out the "Writing a Lab Report" tab. Thank you to Jennifer Simms of the Indiana University Bloomington Library, Renee Romero of the University of California, Los Angeles Library, and the book Writing in the Biological Sciences for providing source material!


Image attribution: "Infographic Science Writing Tips" by Elsevier is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Scientific Paper Sections

Scientific papers typically have 5 sections:

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Materials & Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion

The infographic explains each section as well as some writing tips. Check out the 10 Tips for Scientific Writing below for more!

Top 10 Tips for Scientific Writing

  1. Be concise in your writing.
  2. Watch your tenses
    1. Use present tense for your introduction and establishing your knowledge of scientific literature related to your topic. Ex. "Using qualitative data, apply the....."
    2. Use past tense to describe the materials/methods used, the results, and describing your process. Ex. "I used Fibbonaci sequencing to...."
  3. Clearly state objectives.
  4. Write so that someone could duplicate your methods.
  5. Tables, figures, and data should stand alone.
  6. Include an acknowledgement section. Thank your helpers!
  7. Include key references to avoid plagiarism and give credit where credit is due.
  8. Don't criticize previous works. Ideas/methods/ethics change in the Sciences all the time.
  9. The word "data" is plural. Ex. "Our data are conclusive".
  10. Explain the importance of your work. Remember: you are contributing to this scholarly field!

Check out more descriptions and example language to get some ideas.

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