Writing with Scientists
Writing with Scientists Home Step 1: Discover Your Big QuestionStep 2: Explain the Hows and WhysStep 3: Present Your InformationStep 4: Conclude with New QuestionsStep 5: Show Your SourcesStep 6: Publish OnlineRead Student Writing Words to Know

 

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Step 3: Present Your Information

What did you find out?
You’ve explained your steps and why you chose to take them. Now show what you found out. This information might include:

• physical measurements like mass or volume
chemical analysis such as water composition
• measurements of changes in an environment
• descriptions of collected samples
• photos or illustrations of what you observed
• facts you found as you gathered and analyzed your information

Use both words and visual aids to explain your observations and information. This makes it easier for the person reading your report to understand what you're explaining. Visual aids might include:

• tables
• charts
• graphs
• photos
• illustrations

Example in Action
See an excerpt from a student scientist's report.

What might your results mean?
To answer this question, you’ve got to put on your thinking cap. This is where you describe the analysis of your results.

Think about what you expected to happen way back before you made observations and performed your experiments. You created a hypothesis to help answer your big question. But now your data give you information to judge your hypothesis. Were you able to prove or disprove it? Does the analysis of your data suggest an alternative hypothesis or move your investigation beyond your initial question? Remember to explain why what you found out changed your mind — or made you more convinced — about your hypothesis.

As you write, think about these questions:

• How do the data support your hypothesis?
• How do the data disprove or differ from your hypothesis?
• What other possibilities might your data suggest?

Example in Action
See an excerpt from a student scientist's report.

Top Tip
Don't be surprised if some or all of the data you collect seem to go against your hypothesis. The point of testing a hypothesis is to develop it, change it, and follow where it leads.

The most interesting part of your report might be what surprised you. Discovering a new trail to follow that's different from your hypothesis isn't a failure; it's a scientific success!

Next Step

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Dr. Susan Perkins

Scientist at Work

The results I found were very interesting! The parasite measurements showed there were no differences in the size and shape between the parasites in the lizards' red and white blood cells. Based on this information, all the parasites seemed to be the same species.

But the genetic data told a different story. The DNA codes from the red-blood-cell parasites were very similar to one another, even among samples from different islands. The same was true for the white-blood-cell parasites — most of them seemed similar to one another as well. However, when I compared the DNA codes of red-blood-cell parasites to those of white-blood-cell parasites, I found they were very different, which made me think that the parasites were two different species. Remember, most of the lizards had either infected red blood cells or white blood cells, but not both. These results showed that the red and white blood cell forms represented a case of a “cryptic” species: A cryptic species is one that looks identical to another, but whose DNA code proves that it’s not identical.

I knew I had to present my information in a clear and well-organized way. I used graphs and charts to illustrate what I found. First I figured out what information I wanted to show, then I decided what kind of table, chart, or graph would illustrate my information best.

For instance, a pie chart works well for showing the parts of a whole. I used that to illustrate the number of lizards that had infections in their red blood cells, their white blood cells, or in both.

For comparing two measurements, a line graph is a good choice. I used that to compare the length of the red-blood-cell parasites to the length of the white-blood-cell parasites.

I sometimes find it’s helpful to first prepare my visual aids and then write up my results to explain the important information contained in my charts and graphs.

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