4.1 Introduction to scientific writing

Course subject(s) 4. Reporting your findings

Introduction to scientific writing

In sections 4.1 — 4.6, we will discuss the inns and outs of the scientific reports you will be writing for this course.

We start with a video about the aim of a scientific report.

Purpose & audience of a report

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Subtitles (captions) in other languages than provided can be viewed at YouTube. Select your language in the CC-button of YouTube.

The purpose of scientific writing is to convince your reader of your research conclusions. For the reports you are going to write for this course, the audience will consist of your fellow students.

To get a first impression of the shape of your report, you can take a look at this template version: Template_Latex_Report.pdf.

The process of writing

A good way to start the writing process, is to write down everything you collect while working on your project. Then, you start to think about the main message of your report. What is this report about? What are the main conclusions? Once you have a rough idea of what should be included in your report, make an outline with chapters, sections and subsections. This way, you start to structure the parts you have written. Move and add parts both in the actual report and in the outline, to create a convincing story.

So you will probably not write the report front to back. Instead, you write little bits at a time, jumping back and forth, and changing all parts several times. Rereading (also by other people, if possible) and rewriting needs to happen over and over again.

Bear in mind that writing a report takes time. It is time well spent, however. A good report ensures that your research results can be used by others. Additionally, it can be very rewarding for yourself. Often, it is through writing them up, that you really learn what the limitations, the results and the implications of your research project are.


Once your report begins to take shape, it is important to proofread what you have written. Proofreading helps you find language errors, sloppy formulations, and inconsistencies. It can be hard to proofread your own text, since it all looks so familiar to it. However, your project partner should be an excellent proofreader for what you have written. It can also be worthwhile to ask someone else to proofread (parts of) your report for you.

Before you submit your report, take the time to go over the entire document one more time. Make sure that the work done by you and your partner is consistent in notation and formulation, and that your report is convincing. It might be helpful to use the grading scheme to check your work for flaws.

In the next sections you will learn about the structure and the form of a scientific report. Section 4.2 covers the main text: how do you divide the story of your research project into chapters, sections and paragraphs. Section 4.3 discusses the different aims of the introduction, the summary and the conclusion, and how to write them. Section 4.4 explains the tools you can use in the main text to convince your audience: argumentation, wording, references and figures and tables. In §§4.5 the details of the other components of a report are covered, such as the title page and the table of contents. And last but not least, in section 4.6, you will learn to write mathematical formulas and derivations in general and in latex.

First, how to structure the main text of your report.

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