Science Fair: Writing your Results

What should the results section include?

The results is perhaps the most important part of the paper. In fact, when I was taught how to read a scientific paper, my professor encouraged me to start with the results and discussion. The results section should show the answer to the purpose and main question of the study, and express the significance of the data.

It’s important.  This is the portion of the paper that tells the reader what new information is being imparted into the world.  (Not the “hows”, “whys” or “why its important”. Just the data.)

The results section is very simple. First, there should be a very brief statement about what the experiment was.  Second, you should present the data.  That’s it.

There are a lot of ways to mess this up.  Many writers (particularly at the high school level) include way too much information in their results sections. It is critical to give students feedback on this process to keep their results sections neat and clean.

Things that should NOT be included in the results:

  • Do not repeat the experimental details that are in the materials and methods section.
  • Do not include experimental conditions in the results. (Variables are fair game – conditions that were controls are not.)
  • Do not include EVERY piece of data from your log book. Your paper/report should tell a story – include only the data relevant to your story.

How to handle numbers

  • Observations that are repetitive should be in a table or graph.  (This does not mean only numerical observations).
    • Variables that do not seem to affect the outcome need not be presented.
  • Sample size matters – its useful to make sure your results are meaningful and significant.  Do not use the word “significant” unless you mean “statistically significant”, and have actually calculated significance.

Clarity and Brevity

Your results should be CLEAR and PRECISE. The results section is the most important part, and is usually the shortest section, particularly if the methods and discussion (before and after it) are well written.

And don’t be redundant.  You don’t need a table, and a graph, and a paragraph describing the table and graph. Pick one.

 

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