Chemists routinely engage in a variety of writing tasks, from lab reports, research papers, conference papers and reviews to research proposals, progress reports, letters of recommendation and departmental reports. The ability to write clearly, succinctly and precisely is essential for all chemists, and therefore one that all students of chemistry must acquire.
The title of your paper should clearly and succinctly reflect its contents. It may state the subject of the article or its major conclusion, and should be as concise and informative as possible.
Chemical analysis reports typically begin with an abstract, which is a highly condensed but clear summary of the report as a whole. It purpose is to inform busy researchers of the report’s contents without them having to read the whole thing. It should succinctly outline the key objectives and scope of your experiment and concisely summarise your results and principal conclusions. It should be no longer than a short paragraph of around 350 words.
The introduction should provide all the information necessary to make sense of the paper. It should state the principle objectives, methods and conclusion, and may briefly summarise any relevant theoretical background. An introduction should usually take up no more than three-quarters of a page, so keep it short and save the details for the discussion section.
Experimental Procedure / Materials and Methods
A good experimental procedure section should include all and only the information necessary for another researcher to replicate what you did in the lab. It should contain precise information on the chemicals involved, the procedures followed, and the equipment used, without going into unnecessary detail.
Here the results are presented and summarised in a reader-friendly way. This section may also report comparable values as cited in the relevant literature for the properties obtained or calculated in the study. Trends in the numerical data may be reported but the interpretation of these should be postponed until the discussion section. Raw data are not presented here; if included at all, they should appear in an appendix.
Your discussion section is often the most important part of a lab report. In this section you should:
- analyse and interpret your results with reference to your tables and diagrams;
- assess the quality and limitations of your data and procedure;
- evaluate the extent to which the findings support your hypothesis;
- draw upon your background knowledge to provide plausible explanations of your experimental outcomes;
- compare your results with those of other studies and expected values (as calculated or drawn from the literature); and
- draw your conclusions.
Your discussion section should end with a brief summary or conclusion regarding the significance of the work.
The conclusion should refer back to the objectives stated in the introduction, summarise your findings and discuss the implications of your study. You might also briefly indicate possible lines of follow-up research.
Tables, Figures, Schemes and Chemical Structures
Tables, figures, spectra, graphs, diagrams and flow charts should be numbered sequentially and must be clearly explained in the discussion section. Graphics should usually be placed at the end of the manuscript in the Appendix. Chemical structures can be presented in the body of the paper and must be labelled with the corresponding name, formula or compound number as in the text.
Abbreviations, Formulae and Numerals
Be sure to find out the conventions and format preferred by your department, or the journal to which you are submitting your paper when using abbreviations, chemical formulae, compound numbers, decimal places, and chemical terms.
Be sure to provide complete references, listing all the literature you cite or otherwise draw upon in your paper. These must appear in alphabetical order and in accordance with your department’s preferred citation style.
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