Title, Abstract, References, Appendices
The title is more important than you think.
The title is arguably the most important component of a piece of scientific writing as it is the first, and often the only, thing someone will read. When searching for journal articles, researchers filter through papers based on the titles. It is therefore essential to have an informative title that captures all essential aspects of the research. To complicate matters, the title must be concise – around 12-15 words or fewer.
Titles should include the following information (if relevant to the research):
Topic: Always an essential component – what variables were you investigating? Be specific. If you were measuring plants, include what you measured (e.g., height, growth rate, diversity, etc.). If you were researching effects of chemicals, state which chemicals.
Organism: Include both the common and scientific names. Scientific names are written in as Genus species – the first word is capitalized and both are either italicized or underlined
Organism attributes: You may want to include more than just the name. Consider if age, sex, or any other attributes are relevant.
Location: If you conducted your study in the field, or used field samples in the lab, you should include the location (e.g., Peterborough, Ontario; Trent University Nature Areas, etc.). If the location did not influence the results of your study, you need not include it.
Time of year: This may be relevant to field studies (e.g., if studying bird migration, was it in spring or fall?)
A good title should…
- Be informative
- Be concise (12-15 words)
- Begin with important keywords
A good title should NOT...
- Use the title from the lab manual (e.g., Lab #1: Photosynthesis)
- Be lengthy – do not write a full sentence or small paragraph
- Use abbreviations
An abstract highlights the most important details of your lab report.
If a reader is intrigued by the title of a published paper, the next thing she will read is the abstract. An abstract is a brief summary (around 150 words) that highlights the most important details of your lab report. It will include answers to the main questions that the report addressed:
- why did you conduct this research?
- how did you do it?
- what did you find?
- why should we care?
Rather than selecting a few key sentences from your report, take time to distill the information and clearly summarize the essential components.
Note that abstracts aren’t required in first year courses; always consult your assignment instructions to verify which sections are required for your lab report.
There are two facets to correct referencing. One is the format for citing details in your text. The other is the list of references (which may be termed References, Literature Cited, or another variation) at the end of your lab report. Be sure that every work cited within the text is present in the reference list and vice versa.
You must follow the referencing format required for your course. Nobody can remember every nuanced rule for doing this; simply find the rules and follow them closely. Guidelines are often detailed in the lab manual, but some courses follow the referencing style of a particular journal. If unclear, ask your professor or teaching assistant.
For detailed information on citation, see the Online Documentation Guide.
Read more about avoiding plagiarism.
You may need to include additional information, such as raw data or calculations, in an appendix. This section comes at the very end of your report, after the references.
Consult your assignment instructions to see if appendices are required for your lab report.
Labels: All appended material must include a clear label (Appendix A) and caption (e.g. Precipitation Type and Quantity in Peterborough in November 2013).
Style: Raw data should be organized and presented in a formal table, including appropriate labels for rows, columns, and units of measure.
Link to Results: Be sure to refer to appended data in the Results section of your report (refer to Appendix A)