Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-z5d2w Total loading time: 0.751 Render date: 2021-12-05T05:12:01.649Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

22 - Writing a Scientific Report

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 September 2019

Joanna M. Setchell
Durham University
Get access


A research project is not finished until we have written it up. Scientific reports have a standard format, with some variation. This should be familiar from your reading. This chapter builds on the general advice for writing in Chapter 14 and focusses on how to write a scientific report. I provide general guidance for writing your report, then cover each section of the manuscript in turn. I focus on primary research articles, because these are the main way in which we disseminate new research. Much of the advice applies more generally to theses and dissertations. Most reports have multiple authors and we must negotiate authorship fairly.

Studying Primates
How to Design, Conduct and Report Primatological Research
, pp. 271 - 298
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Pautasso, M. 2013. Ten simple rules for writing a literature review. PLOS Computational Biology 9: e1003149. On why we need reviews, and useful tips on how to write them.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sayer, EJ. 2018. The anatomy of an excellent review paper. Functional Ecology 32: 22782281. A very useful editorial on how to write a review.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Australian National Data Service. 2017. Guide to Publishing and Sharing Sensitive Data. [Accessed 9 January 2019]. Best practice guidelines for sharing sensitive data.
Wilkinson, MD, Dumontier, M, Aalbersberg, IJ, Appleton, G, Axton, M, Baak, A, Blomberg, N, Boiten, JW, da Silva Santos, LB, Bourne, PE, Bouwman, J, Brookes, AJ, Clark, T, Crosas, M, Dillo, I, Dumon, O, Edmunds, S, Evelo, CT, Finkers, R, Gonzalez-Beltran, A, Gray, AJ, Groth, P, Goble, C, Grethe, JS, Heringa, J, 't Hoen, PA, Hooft, R, Kuhn, T, Kok, R, Kok, J, Lusher, SJ, Martone, ME, Mons, A, Mons, B, Packer, AL, Persson, B, Rocca-Serra, P, Roos, M, Sansone, SA, Schultes, E, Sengstag, T, Slater, T, Strawn, G, Swertz, MA, Thompson, M, van der Lei, J, van Mulligen, E, van Schaik, R, Velterop, J, Waagmeester, A, Wittenburg, P, Wolstencroft, K, Zhao, J. 2016. The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Scientific Data 3: 160018. Presents the rationale behind the FAIR guidelines, that data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Clymo, RS. 2014. Notes on Reporting Research: A Biologist’s Guide to Articles, Talks, and Posters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Includes a lot of useful advice on communicating clearly with your audience, with a rather old-fashioned, historical approach.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Field, A, Miles, J, Field, Z. 2012. Discovering Statistics Using R. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Chapter 4 gives good guidance on plotting data in R.Google Scholar
Hailman, JP, Strier, KB. 2006. Planning, Proposing, and Presenting Science Effectively. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 3 covers writing a report.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karban, R, Huntzonger, M, Pearse, IS. 2014. How to Do Ecology: A Concise Handbook. 2nd edn. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. Chapter 8 includes writing journal articles.Google Scholar
Kilkenny, C, Browne, WJ, Cuthill, IC, Emerson, M, Altman, DG. 2010. Improving bioscience research reporting: the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting animal research. PLOS Biology 8: e1000412. Describes the need to report comprehensive methods for research using laboratory animals.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Loftus, GR, Masson, MEJ. 1994. Using confidence-intervals in within- subject designs. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 1: 476490. Describes how to plot data to appropriately illustrate study design, including an explanation of the logic behind confidence intervals for within-subject designs.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lovejoy, CO. 1981. The origin of man. Science 211: 341350. An example of the use of personal communication rather than published empirical findings that got past the editor of Science: in note 79, the author refs DC Johanson, personal communication to support the assertion that human females are continually sexually receptive.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Matthews, JR, Matthews, RW. 2014. Successful Scientific Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide for the Biological and Medical Sciences. 4th edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. A detailed guide to writing, with exercises to improve your practice. Enlivened with quotations and cartoons.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mensh, B, Kording, K. 2017. Ten simple rules for structuring papers. PLOS Computational Biology 13: e1005619. Advice on how to structure a manuscript, including sentences, paragraphs, sections, and the entire document.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Parker, TH, Bowman, SD, Nakagawa, S, Gurevitch, J, Mellor, DT, Rosenblatt, RP, DeHaven, A C. 2018. Tools for Transparency in Ecology and Evolution. Includes a checklist of questions to help authors maximise transparency.
Weissgerber, TL, Milic, NM, Winham, SJ, Garovic, VD. 2015. Beyond bar and line graphs: Time for a new data presentation paradigm. PLOS Biology 13: e1002128. Reviews problems with data presentation and calls for more complete presentation of data.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats