Undergraduate Studies > Distinguished Majors Program > Guidelines for final report

Guidelines for Distinguished Majors Program Final Report

This should be written much like a scientific paper. A precise format is not required. You may follow a body and reference format common to your research group’s publications. If in doubt about format follow one that is used by any of the American Chemical Society journals (e.g. JACS, Inorg, Chem., Anal. Chem., J. Org. Chem., etc.).

Title Page: A concise title of the work (centered and starting several inches down the page) with your name several lines below it. Near the bottom of the page put:

Research under the supervision of: fill in the blank.

Abstract Page: A concise (no more than 200 word) summary of the project. It is critical that you get the key results and conclusion of the work here. The title and the abstract are where you either catch or lose your reader. In short, this is the GRABBER. The reader should be able to tell whether the topic is of interest and what sorts of conclusions were drawn.

Introduction: This should not be more than several pages, but it should be written in a form understandable to an intelligent reader not trained specifically in your research area. It is important that an intelligent reader can understand what the nature of the project is, why it is important, and what types of questions are being addressed.

Theory: Not all projects lend themselves to a separate theory section. If it makes more sense to use one, feel free to include it.

Experimental Section: How were the experiments done? This should not be too lengthy, but should supply the intelligent reader with an overview of how you did things. In synthesis, a representative synthesis, work up and characterization might be appropriate if many experiments are similar. Your research director has the option of requiring great detail here for archival purposes. If so, extensive details should be relegated to appendices.

Results: Again voluminous compendiums should be avoided. Frequently, a great deal of information can be summarized in a few carefully designed tables or figures. For the sake of the reader, it may be useful to show one raw data set so that what you actually worked with is clear as opposed to sanitized final results. If your research director wants this report to be comprehensive, use appendices to hold large quantities of data.

Discussion: Interpret the results in a fashion comprehensible to an intelligent, but unspecialized, reader. You need to lead your reader through your arguments. What are you trying to prove and do you succeed? In many cases it may be desirable to subsection the discussion in order to break up topics that are sufficiently different.

Results and Discussion: Some papers just do not lend themselves readily to separate Results and Discussion sections. It may be easier to interpret the results as you present them.

Conclusions: It is generally useful to have a separate section summarizing your accomplishments, your failures, and where you would go from here if you were to follow up the work. If you have a bounty of failure, here would be a good place to try to recoup your losses by explaining what happened and how to avoid the problems in the future.

Acknowledgments: Who helped you and how. Profuse praise for anyone justifying special attention is not out of line. Grant support of the work should also be included here.

References and Footnotes: Start this with a centered title “References” or “Literature Cited”. Using a standard format throughout. Alternatively, references can be included on the page where they first appear. This is not standard for submission to journals, but many word processors make it easy. Either you or your research director will make that choice.

Appendices: As required. Each one should be labeled clearly and sequentially numbered or lettered. Every Appendix should be referenced in the text.

Additional Notes

Figures and Tables: Every figure and table should be sequentially numbered and have a caption attached directly to it. Figures and tables can be placed in the text where they are first referenced or collected together at the end. Every figure and table must be referenced in the text. Since many word processors allow placement in the text, you may want to do this to make reading the manuscript easier. Journal submission collect all of the tables and figures together at the end, and all figure captions on a separate sheet (in the type setting, the figure and caption are treated separately). You should place every caption WITH the associated figure to make it easier for the reader. Cutting and pasting of caption onto figures is perfectly acceptable.

The exceptions to numbering figures are complex reactions and schemes, which may appear directly in the flow of the text.

Equations and Chemical Formulae: These should be either neatly hand drafted in ink or done with a suitable drawing program. Again cut and paste is acceptable for inserting. material as long as it is done neatly. Equations should be numbered consecutively. We have excellent equation editors and chemical drawing programs if you need one. See me. Another trick is the use of an expanding or contracting Xerox machine for scaling. A good Xerox machine will not reproduce transparent tape used to hold material in place; so you can just make it disappear. I do this all the time for building complex journal figures. Also, I certainly will not object to originals with material taped in. If you use copyrighted figures, CREDIT them.

Typing: The document must be word processed. Hand typing will only be acceptable if it is of word processor quality. Note: Some changes may be required after final submission.

Other Work: In many cases your work is part of a greater whole. If you were to only discuss your piece of the puzzle, the big picture might be completely missed. Therefore, it is acceptable to include other’s work to round out the project. However, you must clearly differentiate between your work and what was done by others.

Some of you have been involved in research for long enough periods to have substantial bodies of work completed in more than one area. Rather than have you include everything, it is acceptable to me for you to take one of these projects, which represents a coherent whole and a significant piece of work, and only submit this. This must be done with the mentor’s approval and mine.

It didn’t work!!!: This is not an uncommon refrain. No one said that research is linear and always successful. That is what makes it so interesting and so frustrating. Occasionally, this is a result of lack of effort. More often it is representative of the idiosyncratic nature of real research. However, if you have a body of only negative results, then you have a special responsibility to try to explain why things didn’t work and to explain what you would do differently if given the chance.