Natural and Behavioral Science
Anthropology Class with Jon Bethard
Student with Petri Dish

Instructions for the Formal Scientific Paper

The Biology 1110 Scientific Paper will constitute 40 points of your lab grade. In preparing to write your scientific paper, take very thorough notes about each part of the experiment, answer all questions, and carefully record all results. This will help you in writing your scientific paper. Your instructor will give you a list of experiments that will be acceptable for your scientific paper. This scientific paper will be in standard scientific paper format. The text should be 3-5 pages in length, and double-spaced TYPED (using a normal size type). Depending on the number of tables or figures you present, your paper may be longer.

In order to provide you with feedback and guidance on your progress, your instructor will require you to submit a draft version of the paper prior to turning in your final report. The instructor will not grade the draft and will NOT edit the draft for you regarding spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. In checking the draft, your instructor will be looking at the overall organization, and substance of the content you have included. You alone are responsible for ensuring that your sentences are clearly written, grammatically correct, and contain no spelling errors. The draft must be typed, have text in all sections, include data, and references. Failure to submit the draft will reduce the possible points that can be earned for the paper from 40 to 30.

Your paper should consist of the following parts: 1. Title page- a statement of the question or problem your paper addresses, 2. Abstract- paragraph that summarizes your experiment and findings. 3. Introduction- background and significance of the problem, 4. Materials and Methods- a description of the experiment, and the materials needed to perform the experiment, 5. Results- presentation of your data, 6. Discussion- interpretation of your results, and further implications, 7. References- materials you used in writing your paper. You must provide the heading for each section. Place the title of each section against the left margin of the page, in all capital letters, and on a separate line.


Writers use the introduction to move ALL readers to the same level. Some readers may have no knowledge of your subject. The introduction should give them sufficient information to understand the purpose and significance of your project, and the results you obtained.

In the introduction, you will give background about your subject. For example, if you were writing a paper on cell membrane function, you would include in your introduction a description of types of transport across the cell membrane, why this is necessary to cell function, and any other bits of information the reader might need before proceeding.

The introduction should also clearly state the purpose of the project. The writer needs to let the reader know what hypothesis was being tested. There are many ways to state it, but if all else fails, you could include; "The purpose of this project was to....." In the introduction, use the past tense to refer to your own work; use the present tense to refer to work you are referencing.

Methods and Materials

"Methods and Materials" is exactly as the name implies. In this section, you should list all of the materials used and step-by-step directions on how to perform the experiment. From your paper, a reader should have sufficient information to be able to repeat your exact experiment. It will be tempting for you to just copy the procedure section from your lab manual. DON'T DO IT! The lab manual is not written in scientific paper format. The materials and methods section should be written in paragraph form, using the past tense.

Your first paragraph will contain a list of materials needed to complete the experiment. The following paragraphs will describe the procedure. When writing this paper, assume that you are an independent researcher writing for other independent researchers. NEVER refer to the students, the class or the teacher. Do not use sentences such as "The teacher will provide the students with solution X" or "The students will work in groups of four." This information is irrelevant.

One of the difficulties in writing the materials and methods section is knowing how detailed to be. Remember that your lab manual is written as a teaching resource, not as a scientific paper. In the procedure section of the lab manual, there may be information that is not necessary to include in the scientific paper. For example, it would not be necessary to inform the reader that you used wax marking pencils to label the tubes. It is also not necessary to describe STANDARD procedures such as preparing a wet mount or using a microscope.

A scientific paper will NOT include instructions for how to use equipment either. For example, if you were using a spectrophotometer to read the absorbance values of a particular sample, you would just describe the type of sample being measured, the control used, and the wavelengths of light at which the sample was measured. You would not include instructions for which buttons to push, and when. Other researchers in other labs might not have the same brand or model spectrophotometer, making that information irrelevant. It is the reader’s responsibility to learn to use equipment in the laboratory by reading the manufacturer's instructions.

In the materials and methods section, do not describe expected results, or failed attempts. It would not be helpful to the reader to know that on your first try, you goofed, and added the wrong solution to tube A.


In this section you will describe the results you obtained, without making analysis or explanation. You will include charts, graphs, drawings, or tables to help compile and present the data you obtained.

For example, if you were writing a paper on cell membrane function, you would describe exactly what happened to the Elodea after adding the salt solution or distilled water. You might want to draw a picture of the cell as it appeared after adding the solution. In scientific papers, numbers are most useful. Any time you can use numbers to express results, your work is more valid. Try to express your data in terms of numbers as often as possible. For example, you might compare the size of the cell or central vacuole before and after adding the salt solution and you might time the reaction, and record that data. You could even create a table showing the differences at different times and among different cells. The visual presentation of data allows the reader to quickly reference and sort your results.

Always be sure to label and title any chart, graph or drawing that you might use, and refer the reader to it in the text of the paper. For example, the first illustration you use might be labeled "FIGURE 1: The effect of hypertonic solutions on the Elodea."

While tables, graphs, and illustrations are critical to the result section of the paper, you must also have some text in this section. The text guides the reader from figure to figure, describing what the figure is showing. The text points out interesting trends in the data. Do not include a chart or graph without referring to it in the text of the result section. The result section describes what results were obtained, but you will not draw conclusions or make explanations for the data in this section. For example, if you were writing about cell membrane function, your result section would show how the size of the central vacuole increased in hypotonic solutions, so much so that the animal cells exploded. You would point out how long it took for this to occur, if the trend was the same in plant cells, and what happened with hypertonic solutions (using charts and graphs). Yet you would NOT try to explain why it happened. You would not try to discuss the osmolarity, the relative concentration of solutes to solvents. That information would belong in the conclusion section.


In this section you explain "WHAT" your results mean, why you obtained them, and your basis for this understanding. In the conclusion you would refer the reader to the original problem or question that the research was intended to solve. Using the same cell membrane example, in the conclusion you would explain why the cell size decreased after adding the salt solution, or why it did not, and how this led to your conclusion. You should also describe why the results you obtained are important, and what the broader implications might be. Often one bit of scientific research brings up interesting questions that could lead to other research.


At the end of your paper, you should list any references you used to help you understand the subject area of your paper, or any references that provided information related to the subject. Your references will be most useful in writing the introduction and conclusion. These are the parts of the paper where you provide the reader with relevant background information related to your subject, and where you speculate as to the further implications or impact that your new knowledge provides. You will NOT find articles, or books that describe the exact experiments that you performed, but you WILL be able to find information related to the subject. For example, you will not be able to find articles discussing the use of catechol oxidase to examine enzyme function, but you should be able to find additional information on enzymes. Don't dismiss articles because of odd titles. They may contain valuable information. For example, an article titled "Manufacturing Beer" might have a section where enzymes involved in beer making are discussed.

You must have at least three outside references. Of course you will use your textbook, and lab manual, but you should have three other references from other sources. The purpose of this exercise is to allow you to become familiar with the library and what resources are available. Please maintain perspective as you search for references. The reference section is just one part of the overall paper, and we certainly do not want you to spend an inordinate amount of time (2-3 hours should be sufficient to find adequate references) on this section. You must include a copy of your references with your paper.

Following are categories of available sources for you to use. You must cite a reference from two of the three categories. This ensures that you have examined a variety of formats.

I. Books

You may use the online catalog to find books in the PSCC library, which contain pertinent information. This online catalog can be accessed from the PSCC library web page via the PSCC home page from any campus or from home. As you are searching the card catalog, you will want to be general as you enter the SUBJECT. Once again, do not expect to find information on catechol oxidase, try ENZYMES or PROTEINS, or CELLS. Use general terms to search for books. You are not expected to read the entire book. Use the index to find the page(s) that relate to your subject. PLEASE BE COURTEOUS TO OTHER STUDENTS. SINCE MANY STUDENTS ARE COMPLETING THIS ASSIGNMENT AT THE SAME TIME, REFRAIN FROM CHECKING THE BOOK OUT. WHILE IN THE LIBRARY, FIND THE RELATED PAGE OR PAGES, AND MAKE A COPY. You must print or copy at least one page from the reference with the information that you are using in your paper and include with your paper.

II Journal Articles

Journal articles can be found using the online database available from the PSCC library web page via the PSCC home page. These can be accessed from any campus or from home. Descriptions of the type of information found in the various databases are given, and you are welcome to search any for related journal articles. Some of the better databases for science are ACCESS SCIENCE, BIOLOGY DIGEST and the GENERAL SCIENCE Collection.

If you have trouble finding or using these databases, ask the reference librarian, or from home call 539-7107. Remember that you must print or copy at least one page from the reference with the information that you are using in your paper and include with your paper.

III. Internet References

Your third possibility for finding a reference is the Internet. Be prepared for an enormous amount of information. It might take a while to find something appropriate. Remember that some websites are credible and some are not. While Wikipedia often has good information, since it can be edited or revised by anyone, you can’t always trust it. When using website, it is best to use a website sponsored by a university or research laboratory for reliable information.

Citing References

Wherever you are using information you obtained from the reference in the body of the paper, cite the author's name and year of the publication in parenthesis at the end of the sentence or paragraph. If you use the author's name in the sentence, put the year of the publication in parenthesis after the name. Here is an example of what this would look like in the body of your paper:

The macrophage is a large cell derived from monocyte blood cells. It can remove foreign particles in the blood stream by phagocytosis. In the immune response, the macrophage is required for the generation of T-helper cells (Golub, 1981).

There is no single format for the citation of references at the end of the paper. Scientific journals use different formats, and these change periodically. In this paper, we ask you to use the APA citation format found the latest edition of the Harbrace Manual. You probably have your own copy if you took English 1010-1020 here at Pellissippi. The APA format is preferred in science articles because it emphasizes the date of publication by placing it after the author’s name. The date of publication is very important in science as new findings might alter previous interpretations.

Final Suggestions

Here are final suggestions in writing your paper. While this is changing to some degree, it is best to avoid the use the first person in your scientific writing. Instead of saying " I then added five ml of one percent trypsin to my cells" It is better to say something like this: "The cells were treated with five ml of one percent trypsin." Use the past tense in your paper. Use the metric system instead of English units of measurements. For numbers ten or lower, write out the word. When using scientific names, be sure to capitalize the genus name, and underline both genus and species names.