Biology

Understanding Data – The Results Section

Why is this so important?

Communicating experimental lab results to other scientists and the broader world is a key part of the scientific enterprise. Therefore, developing students’ scientific communication skills should be an explicit goal of undergraduate degree programs in the sciences.” (Hood-DeGrenier, 2015).”

The Results Formula Approach

The results formula approach consists of five questions that anyone can ask about an experiment. Those five questions, when answered in a specific order, will lead to a clear, concise, complete and well-written results section. The results formula approach asks the following questions five questions:

1. WHY?

a. Why was the experiment performed? What question was it trying to answer?

2. HOW?

a. How as the question approached experimentally? What was actually done?

3. WHERE?

a. In which figure or table are the data shown?

4. WHAT?

a. Fully describe the actual results of the experiment.

5. SO WHAT?

a. Based on the results, what is the answer to the original question?

6. How can the results formula help you write a better results section? Why is this important?

7. Any other thoughts/ideas/comments you’d like to share about this assignment.

· The first question – Why is important to start with. Think about the question the researchers were trying to answer. Don’t just skip over this to get to the how part.

· The answer the How means describing what you actually did to perform the experiment. This does not need to be as detailed as the methods and materials section, but should still give readers sufficient information about the experiment to allow them to interpret the data. Answering the how part is a good way to summarize and make connections.

· The Where refers to the number of the table or figure that shows experimental data.

It is important to point to the exact figure, particularly when the paper has multiple figures.

· The What is the heart of the results section. This should fully describe all aspects of

the data shown in a particular figure or table.

· The So What is sometimes thought of as belonging to the discussion section of the paper. However, it is important in real scientific writing to connect what you observed

in your experiment (the What?) and the and the answer to your original experiment question. Thus, So What is essentially the conclusion of your results section.

· Don’t forget the questions must be answered in the order shown in order to be effective and help write a clear, articulate results narrative!

Reference:

Hood-DeGrenier, J.K. (2015). A Strategy for Teaching Undergraduates to Write

Effective Scientific Results Sections. CourseSource (2) pg 1-3.

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