(1). Title page
(4). Materials and Methods
Description of the content of each of these sections follows. Additional remarks on report preparation and writing style are given at the end.
The TITLE PAGE identifies
The ABSTRACT is not a part of the body of the report itself. Rather, the abstract is a brief summary of the report contents that is often separately circulated so potential readers can decide whether to read the report. The abstract should very concisely summarize the whole report: why it was written, what was discovered or developed, and what is claimed to be the significance of the effort. The abstract does not include figures or tables, and only the most significant numerical values or results should be given.
The INTRODUCTION should provide a clear statement of the problem posed by the project, and why the problem is of interest. It should reflect the scenario, if available. If needed, the introduction also needs to present background information so that the reader can understand the significance of the problem. A brief summary of the unique approach your group used to solve the problem should be given, possibly also including a concise introduction to theory or concepts used later to analyze and to discuss the results.
Materials and Methods:
The purpose of the MATERIALS AND METHODS section is to describe the materials, apparatus, and procedures used to carry out the measurements. Most importantly, the section needs to provide a clear presentation of how key measurements were obtained and how the measurements were analyzed. This is where the particular approach followed to reach the project's objectives should be described. The detail should be sufficient so that the reader can easily understand what was done. An accurate, schematic diagram depicting the apparatus should be included and referred to in the text as needed (if a diagram has been already provided it can be used in the report, provided that the source is properly referenced). To improve clarity of presentation, this section may be further divided into subsections (ex. a Materials subsection, an Apparatus subsection, a Methods or Procedures subsection, etc.).
The RESULTS section is dedicated to presenting the actual results (i.e. measured and calculated quantities), not to discussing their meaning or intepretation. The results should be summarized using appropriate Tables and Figures (graphs or schematics). Every Figure and Table should have a legend that describes concisely what is contained or shown. Figure legends go below the figure, table legends above the table. Throughout the report, but especially in this section, pay attention to reporting numbers with an appropriate number of significant figures. A formal error analysis (such as, perhaps, was done in Physics lab) is not necessary. Still, features of the data-taking and processing that may have especially contributed to errors should be pointed out. One classical example is the taking of small differences between large numbers; for instance, 11.5+0.2 - 10.8+ 0.3 yields a very large fractional error (about 70 %) on the resulting difference, 0.7+0.5. Another procedure that usually increases error is numerical differentiation.
The DISCUSSION interprets the results in light of the project's objectives. The most important goal of the DISCUSSION section is to interpret the results so that the reader is informed of the insight or answers that the results provide. The DISCUSSION should also present an evaluation of the particular approach taken by the group. For example: Based on the results, how could the experimental procedure be improved? What additional, future work may be warranted? What recommendations can be drawn?
The CONCLUSIONS should summarize the central points made in the Discussion section, reinforcing for the reader the value and implications of the work. If the results were not definitive, specific future work that may be needed can be (briefly) described. The conclusions should never contain "surprises". Therefore, any conclusions should be based on observations and data already discussed. It is considered extremely bad form to introduce new data in the conclusions.
The REFERENCES section should contain complete citations following standard form. The form of the citation depends on the type of source being referenced, and is different for whole books, chapters in books, and articles published in a journal. One good format to follow is that used in the Chemical Engineering Progress journal, published by AIChE. The references should be numbered and listed in the order they were cited in the body of the report. In the text of the report, a particular reference can be cited by using a numerical superscript that corresponds to its number in the reference list. If a reference has not been actually consulted, it should be listed "as discussed in [name of the work that discussed the reference]".
Figures are categorized as either graphs or drawings. Graphs should follow engineering standards, not Excel defaults. Backgrounds should be white, not shaded. Style should be similar to that found in standard engineering textbooks. Grids should be appropriate to what the reader is likely to extract from the figure. Type sizes for coordinates and legends should be appropriate: not too small, not too large. A sans-serif (e.g. Arial) font works well for figure legends and coordinate labels. All legends should be within the graph area, not beside it. Line thickness should be sufficient to provide for good visibility, but not heavier than necessary.
Figures (drawings, schematics) should be kept simple. Fancy art work and three-dimensional renditions can be distracting if used indiscriminately. Below every figure or graph should be a caption that concisely describes what is shown. Figures and graphs should be numbered consecutively.
Tables should be well organized, with unshaded backgrounds. A table should not include columns that have all entries identical. As with Figures, a standard engineering textbook can be used as a guide to good table composition. Tables should be numbered consecutively, and above each table should be a caption describing the table contents.
Some Common Abbreviations Used in Marking
NC = not clear
RW = rewrite
SP = be specific, avoid generalities
RT = rethink, logic appears flawed or missing
curly brackets = grader's comments
Underline = see comments above underlined text
Check mark = good
Check mark with one or more slashes or pluses = very good to excellent