Research Report Writing Skills
Composing an effective research report is very different from composing a high quality persuasive essay or admissions essay. The skills required are incredibly distinct, in fact, and must be practiced in order to be fully mastered. Unfortunately for most college students, research report writing skills are not rigorously taught in high school, and are barely glossed over in introductory writing courses at the collegiate level.
While research report writing skills are not taught as frequently or in as much depth as they should be, they are nonetheless essential skills. If you are studying the hard, soft, or social sciences, you must be able to write convincingly and professionally about research results. You may even need these skills as a math student or humanities major. So what are these essential writing skills? Here is a brief list.
Objectivity and Even-Handedness
A research report should not have a clear agenda. Even if you are testing a controversial scientific theory, you should not set out to disprove it or to arrive at a specific result. A hypothesis is not the same as a claim of fact, nor is it an argument or a formal position. Instead, a scientific paper should be interested in using rigorous, methodologically sound means to arrive at an accurate conclusion. This may require you to admit that your prediction was wrong, or that you cannot explain why a pattern of results appeared. Scientific writing requires humility, objectivity, and openness to new possibilities.
Research reports should also be composed in clear English without any literary tricks or flourishes. The goal of scientific prose is not to be pretty, relatable, or illustrative, but to plainly state the facts in a manner that all other scientists can follow. Sentences should be short and direct, and ought to be written in the active voice as often as possible. Jargon and long, meandering sentences should be avoided at all costs.
In addition to being clear and simple, research reports must also display a high attention to detail. Science writers must list all the relevant information in their methods, background research, materials, and statistical analysis sections. A research report necessarily involves using and expanding upon existing academic work, and proper credit should be given for any work that is used. Consider your research report a recipe or a procedure that other scientists may follow.
A research report must also be mindful of the underlying scientific theories that are related to the empirical work. Science is not merely a process of conducting experiments and reporting the results, after all. Science is all about generating new predictions and formal models of understanding the world. Your report should do the same.