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Writing the Research Paper (70 points)

Review the Honor Code Policy for BIOC 311.


A scientific research paper is traditionally divided into four sections: introduction, materials and methods, results, and discussion. These sections are typically completed through an iterative process because no single section can be written without consideration of another. The introduction is compiled from reference material and reflects the thought processes or lines of reason that lead you to perform experiments in the laboratory. The remainder of the paper is constructed concurrently as the experiment is constructed and planned. In the final draft the organization of the materials and methods section is coordinated with the results section. The results section presents pertinent data in nearly chronological order and directs the reader along the same mental paths through the data that you took in solving the problem. The discussion section provides interpretation of the data and projections as to the meaning of the results. The use of good references throughout the paper gives the work credibility by demonstrating an awareness of previous works.

Writing a scientific article is not an easy task no matter how simple the actual experiment or concept. Practice, good planning, and organized record keeping are the only means to simplify the process. Revising your work, sometimes several times, is essential to producing a good final paper (see McMillan, pp. 126-160 (3rd ed.) or 167-205 (4th ed.)).

Special notes for the research paper for BIOC 311

Abstract (5 points)
*McMillan, pp. 55-59 (3rd ed.) or 72-76 (4th ed.)

The abstract is a concise, complete report of a scientific investigation that "stands alone" without further explanation. The abstract is typically ONE paragraph with 200 to 250 words. Lengthy discussions and references to the literature are omitted from the summary/abstract.

Introduction (10 points)
*McMillan, pp. 59-61 (3rd ed.) or 76-78 (4th ed.)

The Introduction should "introduce" the paper. The reader should be presented with enough background information to be able to understand and evaluate the purpose of your study without having to refer to other works. The rationale for the study should be presented. Provide salient references but avoid trying to make an exhaustive review of the topic.

In the introduction, define the problem clearly. If the problem is not stated in a reasonable, understandable way, the reader will have no interest in your solution. Follow with some review of the literature to allow the reader to understand why the study is necessary and how you attempted to resolve it. Talk in general terms about techniques used to solve the problem, if necessary, but do not present any specifics about the protocols here. The final portion should be the statement of the principal results.

Materials and Methods (15 points)
*McMillan, pp. 61-66 (3rd ed.) or 78-83 (4th ed.)

This section should be the easiest to write if you have good notebook skills. A well written Experimental Procedures section allows a competent scientist to duplicate your results. Present specific information about your materials. The suppliers and purity of reagents can be useful bits of information. Present methods in logical order but related methodologies can be grouped as a section. Be succinct when describing the protocols. Strive for the minimum of information that would allow another competent scientist to duplicate your results but be careful that essential information is included. The use of subheadings is recommended and should be coordinated with the results section. When a method is used that has been well described in another article, reference the specific article describing a method but outline the basic premise while stating the reference.

Results (20 points)
*McMillan, pp. 66-71 (3rd ed.) or 83-89 (4th ed.)

***Review the analytical resources (BIOC 211) for details about units, graphing, plotting data, significant figures, etc.***

Discussion (20 points)
*McMillan, pp. 71-75 (3rd ed.) or 89-94 (4th ed.)

The Discussion is likely the most difficult section to write and define. Many papers submitted for publication are rejected based on problems with the Discussion. There is no ruler for how long a discussion should be. State your interpretation of the results clearly to lead the reader through your conclusions, then end the paper with a summary of the significance of the study.


Copyright, Acknowledgements, and Intended Use
Created by B. Beason (bbeason@rice.edu), Rice University, 10 June 1999
Updated 23 May 2013