VFM 8th Grade Science Fair Project: Step 4: Background Research

  • Step 1: Find a Project Idea
  • Step 2: Formulate a Research Question & do a Project Proposal
  • Step 3: State the Purpose
  • Step 4: Background Research
  • Free Web Search
  • Step 5: Bibliography
  • Step 6: Identify the Variables in your Experiment
  • Step 7: Form a Hypothesis
  • Step 8: Materials
  • Step 9: Design & Write the Procedure
  • Step 10: Perform the Experiment
  • Step 11: Record your Data and Results
  • Step 12: Analyze your Data & Results
  • Step 13: Make a Conclusion
  • Step 14: Write the Abstract
  • Step 15: Acknowledgments
  • Step 16: Title Page and Table of Contents
  • Step 17: Proofread!
  • Step 18: Write a Final Copy of your Lab Report
  • Step 19: Create your Display Board
  • Step 20: The VFMS Science Fair
  • Oral Presentation
  • Lab Journal/Notebook
  • Schedule and Due Dates

In-Text Citation

  • [APA] How do I write an APA parenthetical (in-text) reference? Give Credit to your website or author in the body of your research.

Background Research

Background research should help you to educate the reader of your project about important aspects of your topic.  

Using multiple resources, students should learn about past results of other experiments that are similar to theirs. Students should know how and why previous experimenters arrived at their conclusions. The background research should help the students give the “because…” in the “if… then… because…” section of their hypothesis.

20 - 30 facts from 3 sources  is a reasonable expectation for this section. In the final paper, this background research will be put into paragraph form.

Use the  Background Research Planning Worksheet  to help you formulate questions that you need to answer for your topic.  Each student should become an expert on anything that is closely related to their area of research. 

  • Background Research Worksheet Complete this worksheet prior to beginning your background research for your project.
  • Fact Collection Worksheet Collect 20-30 facts from a minimum of 3 sources: one source must be from Gale Science in Context
  • Sample of Background Research Paragraphs Here is a sample of what your background research paragraphs might look like. Sample found on the web here: http://www.oncoursesystems.com/images/user/2162/302482/img074.jpg

Why You Should Use Databases

background research science report

Databases are sometimes called the "deep web" or "invisible web" because their information is usually only accessible through paid subscriptions using passwords and isn't usually found (indexed) by search engines such as Google.

Database records are organized using a variety of indexes such as author and subject but are keyword searchable as well. 

Databases are either subject specific such as World History in Context or content specific such as the newspaper and magazine database through EBSCO. 

Databases contain information that has been checked for the  ABC's   of  authority  &   accuracy, bias, and content  &  currency . You can trust the information you find in databases, not like on the web or through Google searches. Sometimes it's accurate, but many times it isn't. 

Library Databases: Start your Search Here

background research science report

What is Research?

Research is: 

  • Driven by a question that guides the process.
  • Seeking information with a clear goal.
  • A process, which works best when done step- by-step. The steps may need to be repeated.
  • Collection and interpretation of data in an attempt to resolve the problem.
  • Going beyond facts and old ideas.
  • Taking a new look at the information and taking a stand.

Research is not:

  • Copying and pasting information you find through a Google search.
  • Combining a paragraph from one article with a couple of paragraphs from websites. That's plagiarism.
  • Rearranging facts
  • Rewording each phrase and citing each source. That's just a summary of facts with someone else's name on them and still can be classified as plagiarism.

Words for the wise student: 

  • Remember, begin with a "wide net" and then narrow your search results.
  • If you only look for specific information to answer a specific question, you may miss many opportunities to broaden your understanding .
  • Allow for surprises- you may find your views on your topic will change and take you in an entirely new direction.
  • Remember that research is searching again and again.
  • In the process of doing research, you will be looking at information that others have looked at before, trying to see something that they have not seen.
  • << Previous: Step 3: State the Purpose
  • Next: Free Web Search >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 27, 2016 2:09 PM
  • URL: https://tesd.libguides.com/VFMScienceFairProject

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  • Manuscript Preparation

What is the Background of a Study and How Should it be Written?

  • 3 minute read

Table of Contents

The background of a study is one of the most important components of a research paper. The quality of the background determines whether the reader will be interested in the rest of the study. Thus, to ensure that the audience is invested in reading the entire research paper, it is important to write an appealing and effective background. So, what constitutes the background of a study, and how must it be written?

What is the background of a study?

The background of a study is the first section of the paper and establishes the context underlying the research. It contains the rationale, the key problem statement, and a brief overview of research questions that are addressed in the rest of the paper. The background forms the crux of the study because it introduces an unaware audience to the research and its importance in a clear and logical manner. At times, the background may even explore whether the study builds on or refutes findings from previous studies. Any relevant information that the readers need to know before delving into the paper should be made available to them in the background.

How is a background different from the introduction?

The introduction of your research paper is presented before the background. Let’s find out what factors differentiate the background from the introduction.

  • The introduction only contains preliminary data about the research topic and does not state the purpose of the study. On the contrary, the background clarifies the importance of the study in detail.
  • The introduction provides an overview of the research topic from a broader perspective, while the background provides a detailed understanding of the topic.
  • The introduction should end with the mention of the research questions, aims, and objectives of the study. In contrast, the background follows no such format and only provides essential context to the study.

How should one write the background of a research paper?

The length and detail presented in the background varies for different research papers, depending on the complexity and novelty of the research topic. At times, a simple background suffices, even if the study is complex. Before writing and adding details in the background, take a note of these additional points:

  • Start with a strong beginning: Begin the background by defining the research topic and then identify the target audience.
  • Cover key components: Explain all theories, concepts, terms, and ideas that may feel unfamiliar to the target audience thoroughly.
  • Take note of important prerequisites: Go through the relevant literature in detail. Take notes while reading and cite the sources.
  • Maintain a balance: Make sure that the background is focused on important details, but also appeals to a broader audience.
  • Include historical data: Current issues largely originate from historical events or findings. If the research borrows information from a historical context, add relevant data in the background.
  • Explain novelty: If the research study or methodology is unique or novel, provide an explanation that helps to understand the research better.
  • Increase engagement: To make the background engaging, build a story around the central theme of the research

Avoid these mistakes while writing the background:

  • Ambiguity: Don’t be ambiguous. While writing, assume that the reader does not understand any intricate detail about your research.
  • Unrelated themes: Steer clear from topics that are not related to the key aspects of your research topic.
  • Poor organization: Do not place information without a structure. Make sure that the background reads in a chronological manner and organize the sub-sections so that it flows well.

Writing the background for a research paper should not be a daunting task. But directions to go about it can always help. At Elsevier Author Services we provide essential insights on how to write a high quality, appealing, and logically structured paper for publication, beginning with a robust background. For further queries, contact our experts now!

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Every great science project includes the same basic activities:

  • Identifying a testable question . The question should be answerable, using affordable materials and methods that are both safe and feasible.
  • Testing each variable  in an experiment more than once. Repeated testing will ensure you have enough data to make valid conclusions.
  • Testing only one variable at a time . This approach allows you to identify and measure the effect of each variable individually.
  • Data gathering and recording . Data include measurements and observations.
  • Graphing data , and then identifying trends in the data. That will help support your conclusion.

This  science fair project guide  published by Science Buddies can help you get started. This 15-minute  animated video , by a young artist named Kevin Temmer, provides a great introduction to preparing for a science fair.

Now that you know what to do, choose a topic and then:

  • Research the topic . This means becoming a mini-expert on the topic.
  • Organize . This includes stating the question you want to answer.
  • Create a timetable . Research takes planning, pacing and usually much more time than you expect.
  • Make a research plan . This is a roadmap of the questions you will have to answer as you design, conduct and interpret your experiment.
  • Review rules , and have an adult review and approve your experiment if necessary. Every science fair requires students to follow a set of rules. For example, here are the rules for Regeneron ISEF competition for high school students. Some projects also require the review and approval of an adult. These can include projects involving hazardous or potentially hazardous substances and devices, or live animals (including people).
  • Construct a hypothesis.  This is an educated guess about how something will work. An experiment will test your hypothesis.
  • Conduct the experiment . You will have to repeat it multiple times, following the same procedure each time.
  • Record results . This means collecting your measurements and observations.
  • Analyze results . Review your data, using charts and graphs to help interpret them.
  • Draw conclusions . Your data will either support or refute your original hypothesis.
  • Present results . You can share the results of your experiment through an abstract, or brief summary. You may also present your results in a research paper or on a presentation board.

Project Timing

Each of the above steps will take time — more than you may think at first. Making a timetable will help you plan. Be ambitious but realistic. That means making sure that the topic you choose not only interests you but also can be researched in the amount of time you have. Once you have identified your testable question, next develop a timeline to manage how you will test it. Build into your project some extra time to accommodate unexpected problems. These might include taking a big test, getting the flu or having to leave town for a family event.

If you will be taking part in a large science fair, you may have to fill out entry forms and review your research plan with your sponsor. Allow time for that. Certain projects will require more time because they need prior approval from a Scientific Review Committee (SRC) or an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Budget time for that. And allow plenty of time to experiment and collect data. Sometimes experiments don’t work. Sometimes experiments raise more questions than they answer — and require even more experimenting. This all takes time. Finally, you may have to write a paper that pulls together your findings. Or you may need to create a display or poster that presents your data and findings.

Project Support

Creating an independent research project doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. Parents, teachers, experts and other students may offer to help you on your project. Figuring out what kind of help is fair — and what type of help is not — can be tricky. Below are several stories from  Science News for Kids  that help offer guidance on that issue.

Many students find a mentor to help them refine what questions to ask and how to answer them. Ideally, a mentor should never tell you what to do (even if you ask). Instead, a good mentor will help you find information that will inform your decisions on what to do and how to do it. For example, this story from Science News for Students gives examples of the proper roles played by mentors. This  article discusses the advantages of working with a mentor. Meanwhile, we feature in this story  the rewarding example of a young student who had the courage to contact an outside expert in the topic he was researching.

Parents and teachers can play a role too. Parents and teachers may offer advice and give assistance, but they must not do any of the actual work on a research project.. For instance, they may help you map out the time you have available to do your work. Parents and teachers also can evaluate whether the project you want to do can be done in the time available. They also can help determine whether supplies will cost more than you can afford, or whether what you plan to do might be dangerous or require approval from others. Here are two links to SNK stories that expand on this topic.

This Science News for Students article  features what parents learned about their role in helping on science fair projects. And this story  highlights teachers sharing the roles they played.

Presentation and Competition

Once you have completed your experiment, analyzed your results and drawn your conclusions, there is still more to do: You must communicate your findings. You also should be prepared to discuss your project, answering any questions that judges, teachers or others might have about how and why you tested or developed something the way you did and how to interpret your findings.

There are many different ways to present the results of your research. Remember: Presenting results doesn’t mean performing, demonstrating or repeating your experiment. Instead, you should prepare:

  • A research paper. This gathers in one document all the work you have done on your project. The contents will vary, but should include a title, table of contents, hypothesis, background research, materials, procedures, data analysis, conclusions and a bibliography. You might also include ideas for future research and acknowledgements.
  • An abstract, or brief summary of your research paper. An abstract typically includes the purpose of the experiment, procedures used, results and conclusion. You also may want to include an introduction. Science Buddies offers this concise guide to writing an abstract .
  • A project or display board .  The board includes much of the same information as in your research paper. However, it is designed for display and brevity. That means it must be organized and laid out in a way that makes it easy to read — even by someone standing a short distance away. Again, Science Buddies provides some clear  guidelines for preparing a board. For most science fairs, there are complex and strict rules that govern what a board must (and cannot) include. For example, review the  Regeneron ISEF Display and Safety Regulations .

When presenting your work, it can be helpful to keep in mind what judges look for in reviewing the entries in a science fair. Even if you don’t plan to compete, these criteria can help you focus in creating a presentation of your work. Some of the criteria include originality and creativity, design and methodology, knowledge achieved, and clarity of expression.

For more examples of what judges look for, review the Regeneron ISEF Judging Criteria .  You can also try searching on the Internet for “science fair judging criteria.” You can narrow your search by adding, for example, the name of your state. SSP-Affiliate Fairs are listed in a Find-A-Fair index by state; many have websites with details about registration, judging and past winners.

background research science report

How to Write a Science Fair Project Report

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Writing a science fair project report may seem like a challenging task, but it is not as difficult as it first appears. This is a format that you may use to write a science project report. If your project included animals, humans, hazardous materials, or regulated substances, you can attach an appendix that describes any special activities your project required. Also, some reports may benefit from additional sections, such as abstracts and bibliographies. You may find it helpful to fill out the science fair lab report template to prepare your report.

Important: Some science fairs have guidelines put forth by the science fair committee or an instructor. If your science fair has these guidelines, be sure to follow them.

  • Title:  For a science fair, you probably want a catchy, clever title. Otherwise, try to make it an accurate description of the project. For example, I could entitle a project, "Determining Minimum NaCl Concentration That Can Be Tasted in Water." Avoid unnecessary words, while covering the essential purpose of the project. Whatever title you come up with, get it critiqued by friends, family, or teachers.
  • Introduction and Purpose:  Sometimes this section is called "background." Whatever its name, this section introduces the topic of the project, notes any information already available, explains why you are interested in the project, and states the purpose of the project. If you are going to state references in your report, this is where most of the citations are likely to be, with the actual references listed at the end of the entire report in the form of a bibliography or reference section.
  • The Hypothesis or Question:  Explicitly state your hypothesis or question.
  • Materials and Methods:  List the materials you used in your project and describe the procedure that you used to perform the project. If you have a photo or diagram of your project, this is a good place to include it.
  • Data and Results:  Data and results are not the same things. Some reports will require that they be in separate sections, so make sure you understand the difference between the concepts. Data refers to the actual numbers or other information you obtained in your project. Data can be presented in tables or charts, if appropriate. The results section is where the data is manipulated or the hypothesis is tested. Sometimes this analysis will yield tables, graphs, or charts, too. For example, a table listing the minimum concentration of salt that I can taste in water, with each line in the table being a separate test or trial, would be data. If I average the data or perform a statistical test of a null hypothesis , the information would be the results of the project.
  • Conclusion:  The conclusion focuses on the hypothesis or question as it compares to the data and results. What was the answer to the question? Was the hypothesis supported (keep in mind a hypothesis cannot be proved, only disproved)? What did you find out from the experiment? Answer these questions first. Then, depending on your answers, you may wish to explain the ways in which the project might be improved or introduce new questions that have come up as a result of the project. This section is judged not only by what you were able to conclude but also by your recognition of areas where you could not draw valid conclusions based on your data.

Appearances Matter

Neatness counts, spelling counts, grammar counts. Take the time to make the report look nice. Pay attention to margins, avoid fonts that are difficult to read or are too small or too large, use clean paper, and make print the report cleanly on as good a printer or copier as you can.

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How to Write an Effective Background of the Study: A Comprehensive Guide


Table of Contents

The background of the study in a research paper offers a clear context, highlighting why the research is essential and the problem it aims to address.

As a researcher, this foundational section is essential for you to chart the course of your study, Moreover, it allows readers to understand the importance and path of your research.

Whether in academic communities or to the general public, a well-articulated background aids in communicating the essence of the research effectively.

While it may seem straightforward, crafting an effective background requires a blend of clarity, precision, and relevance. Therefore, this article aims to be your guide, offering insights into:

  • Understanding the concept of the background of the study.
  • Learning how to craft a compelling background effectively.
  • Identifying and sidestepping common pitfalls in writing the background.
  • Exploring practical examples that bring the theory to life.
  • Enhancing both your writing and reading of academic papers.

Keeping these compelling insights in mind, let's delve deeper into the details of the empirical background of the study, exploring its definition, distinctions, and the art of writing it effectively.

What is the background of the study?

The background of the study is placed at the beginning of a research paper. It provides the context, circumstances, and history that led to the research problem or topic being explored.

It offers readers a snapshot of the existing knowledge on the topic and the reasons that spurred your current research.

When crafting the background of your study, consider the following questions.

  • What's the context of your research?
  • Which previous research will you refer to?
  • Are there any knowledge gaps in the existing relevant literature?
  • How will you justify the need for your current research?
  • Have you concisely presented the research question or problem?

In a typical research paper structure, after presenting the background, the introduction section follows. The introduction delves deeper into the specific objectives of the research and often outlines the structure or main points that the paper will cover.

Together, they create a cohesive starting point, ensuring readers are well-equipped to understand the subsequent sections of the research paper.

While the background of the study and the introduction section of the research manuscript may seem similar and sometimes even overlap, each serves a unique purpose in the research narrative.

Difference between background and introduction

A well-written background of the study and introduction are preliminary sections of a research paper and serve distinct purposes.

Here’s a detailed tabular comparison between the two of them.

What is the relevance of the background of the study?

It is necessary for you to provide your readers with the background of your research. Without this, readers may grapple with questions such as: Why was this specific research topic chosen? What led to this decision? Why is this study relevant? Is it worth their time?

Such uncertainties can deter them from fully engaging with your study, leading to the rejection of your research paper. Additionally, this can diminish its impact in the academic community, and reduce its potential for real-world application or policy influence .

To address these concerns and offer clarity, the background section plays a pivotal role in research papers.

The background of the study in research is important as it:

  • Provides context: It offers readers a clear picture of the existing knowledge, helping them understand where the current research fits in.
  • Highlights relevance: By detailing the reasons for the research, it underscores the study's significance and its potential impact.
  • Guides the narrative: The background shapes the narrative flow of the paper, ensuring a logical progression from what's known to what the research aims to uncover.
  • Enhances engagement: A well-crafted background piques the reader's interest, encouraging them to delve deeper into the research paper.
  • Aids in comprehension: By setting the scenario, it aids readers in better grasping the research objectives, methodologies, and findings.

How to write the background of the study in a research paper?

The journey of presenting a compelling argument begins with the background study. This section holds the power to either captivate or lose the reader's interest.

An effectively written background not only provides context but also sets the tone for the entire research paper. It's the bridge that connects a broad topic to a specific research question, guiding readers through the logic behind the study.

But how does one craft a background of the study that resonates, informs, and engages?

Here, we’ll discuss how to write an impactful background study, ensuring your research stands out and captures the attention it deserves.

Identify the research problem

The first step is to start pinpointing the specific issue or gap you're addressing. This should be a significant and relevant problem in your field.

A well-defined problem is specific, relevant, and significant to your field. It should resonate with both experts and readers.

Here’s more on how to write an effective research problem .

Provide context

Here, you need to provide a broader perspective, illustrating how your research aligns with or contributes to the overarching context or the wider field of study. A comprehensive context is grounded in facts, offers multiple perspectives, and is relatable.

In addition to stating facts, you should weave a story that connects key concepts from the past, present, and potential future research. For instance, consider the following approach.

  • Offer a brief history of the topic, highlighting major milestones or turning points that have shaped the current landscape.
  • Discuss contemporary developments or current trends that provide relevant information to your research problem. This could include technological advancements, policy changes, or shifts in societal attitudes.
  • Highlight the views of different stakeholders. For a topic like sustainable agriculture, this could mean discussing the perspectives of farmers, environmentalists, policymakers, and consumers.
  • If relevant, compare and contrast global trends with local conditions and circumstances. This can offer readers a more holistic understanding of the topic.

Literature review

For this step, you’ll deep dive into the existing literature on the same topic. It's where you explore what scholars, researchers, and experts have already discovered or discussed about your topic.

Conducting a thorough literature review isn't just a recap of past works. To elevate its efficacy, it's essential to analyze the methods, outcomes, and intricacies of prior research work, demonstrating a thorough engagement with the existing body of knowledge.

  • Instead of merely listing past research study, delve into their methodologies, findings, and limitations. Highlight groundbreaking studies and those that had contrasting results.
  • Try to identify patterns. Look for recurring themes or trends in the literature. Are there common conclusions or contentious points?
  • The next step would be to connect the dots. Show how different pieces of research relate to each other. This can help in understanding the evolution of thought on the topic.

By showcasing what's already known, you can better highlight the background of the study in research.

Highlight the research gap

This step involves identifying the unexplored areas or unanswered questions in the existing literature. Your research seeks to address these gaps, providing new insights or answers.

A clear research gap shows you've thoroughly engaged with existing literature and found an area that needs further exploration.

How can you efficiently highlight the research gap?

  • Find the overlooked areas. Point out topics or angles that haven't been adequately addressed.
  • Highlight questions that have emerged due to recent developments or changing circumstances.
  • Identify areas where insights from other fields might be beneficial but haven't been explored yet.

State your objectives

Here, it’s all about laying out your game plan — What do you hope to achieve with your research? You need to mention a clear objective that’s specific, actionable, and directly tied to the research gap.

How to state your objectives?

  • List the primary questions guiding your research.
  • If applicable, state any hypotheses or predictions you aim to test.
  • Specify what you hope to achieve, whether it's new insights, solutions, or methodologies.

Discuss the significance

This step describes your 'why'. Why is your research important? What broader implications does it have?

The significance of “why” should be both theoretical (adding to the existing literature) and practical (having real-world implications).

How do we effectively discuss the significance?

  • Discuss how your research adds to the existing body of knowledge.
  • Highlight how your findings could be applied in real-world scenarios, from policy changes to on-ground practices.
  • Point out how your research could pave the way for further studies or open up new areas of exploration.

Summarize your points

A concise summary acts as a bridge, smoothly transitioning readers from the background to the main body of the paper. This step is a brief recap, ensuring that readers have grasped the foundational concepts.

How to summarize your study?

  • Revisit the key points discussed, from the research problem to its significance.
  • Prepare the reader for the subsequent sections, ensuring they understand the research's direction.

Include examples for better understanding

Research and come up with real-world or hypothetical examples to clarify complex concepts or to illustrate the practical applications of your research. Relevant examples make abstract ideas tangible, aiding comprehension.

How to include an effective example of the background of the study?

  • Use past events or scenarios to explain concepts.
  • Craft potential scenarios to demonstrate the implications of your findings.
  • Use comparisons to simplify complex ideas, making them more relatable.

Crafting a compelling background of the study in research is about striking the right balance between providing essential context, showcasing your comprehensive understanding of the existing literature, and highlighting the unique value of your research .

While writing the background of the study, keep your readers at the forefront of your mind. Every piece of information, every example, and every objective should be geared toward helping them understand and appreciate your research.

How to avoid mistakes in the background of the study in research?

To write a well-crafted background of the study, you should be aware of the following potential research pitfalls .

  • Stay away from ambiguity. Always assume that your reader might not be familiar with intricate details about your topic.
  • Avoid discussing unrelated themes. Stick to what's directly relevant to your research problem.
  • Ensure your background is well-organized. Information should flow logically, making it easy for readers to follow.
  • While it's vital to provide context, avoid overwhelming the reader with excessive details that might not be directly relevant to your research problem.
  • Ensure you've covered the most significant and relevant studies i` n your field. Overlooking key pieces of literature can make your background seem incomplete.
  • Aim for a balanced presentation of facts, and avoid showing overt bias or presenting only one side of an argument.
  • While academic paper often involves specialized terms, ensure they're adequately explained or use simpler alternatives when possible.
  • Every claim or piece of information taken from existing literature should be appropriately cited. Failing to do so can lead to issues of plagiarism.
  • Avoid making the background too lengthy. While thoroughness is appreciated, it should not come at the expense of losing the reader's interest. Maybe prefer to keep it to one-two paragraphs long.
  • Especially in rapidly evolving fields, it's crucial to ensure that your literature review section is up-to-date and includes the latest research.

Example of an effective background of the study

Let's consider a topic: "The Impact of Online Learning on Student Performance." The ideal background of the study section for this topic would be as follows.

In the last decade, the rise of the internet has revolutionized many sectors, including education. Online learning platforms, once a supplementary educational tool, have now become a primary mode of instruction for many institutions worldwide. With the recent global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rapid shift from traditional classroom learning to online modes, making it imperative to understand its effects on student performance.

Previous studies have explored various facets of online learning, from its accessibility to its flexibility. However, there is a growing need to assess its direct impact on student outcomes. While some educators advocate for its benefits, citing the convenience and vast resources available, others express concerns about potential drawbacks, such as reduced student engagement and the challenges of self-discipline.

This research aims to delve deeper into this debate, evaluating the true impact of online learning on student performance.

Why is this example considered as an effective background section of a research paper?

This background section example effectively sets the context by highlighting the rise of online learning and its increased relevance due to recent global events. It references prior research on the topic, indicating a foundation built on existing knowledge.

By presenting both the potential advantages and concerns of online learning, it establishes a balanced view, leading to the clear purpose of the study: to evaluate the true impact of online learning on student performance.

As we've explored, writing an effective background of the study in research requires clarity, precision, and a keen understanding of both the broader landscape and the specific details of your topic.

From identifying the research problem, providing context, reviewing existing literature to highlighting research gaps and stating objectives, each step is pivotal in shaping the narrative of your research. And while there are best practices to follow, it's equally crucial to be aware of the pitfalls to avoid.

Remember, writing or refining the background of your study is essential to engage your readers, familiarize them with the research context, and set the ground for the insights your research project will unveil.

Drawing from all the important details, insights and guidance shared, you're now in a strong position to craft a background of the study that not only informs but also engages and resonates with your readers.

Now that you've a clear understanding of what the background of the study aims to achieve, the natural progression is to delve into the next crucial component — write an effective introduction section of a research paper. Read here .

Frequently Asked Questions

The background of the study should include a clear context for the research, references to relevant previous studies, identification of knowledge gaps, justification for the current research, a concise overview of the research problem or question, and an indication of the study's significance or potential impact.

The background of the study is written to provide readers with a clear understanding of the context, significance, and rationale behind the research. It offers a snapshot of existing knowledge on the topic, highlights the relevance of the study, and sets the stage for the research questions and objectives. It ensures that readers can grasp the importance of the research and its place within the broader field of study.

The background of the study is a section in a research paper that provides context, circumstances, and history leading to the research problem or topic being explored. It presents existing knowledge on the topic and outlines the reasons that spurred the current research, helping readers understand the research's foundation and its significance in the broader academic landscape.

The number of paragraphs in the background of the study can vary based on the complexity of the topic and the depth of the context required. Typically, it might range from 3 to 5 paragraphs, but in more detailed or complex research papers, it could be longer. The key is to ensure that all relevant information is presented clearly and concisely, without unnecessary repetition.

background research science report

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Background Research

What is background research, tyes of background information.

  • General Sources
  • Subject Specific Sources

Background research (or pre-research) is the research that you do before you start writing your paper or working on your project. Sometimes background research happens before you've even chosen a topic. The purpose of background research is to make the research that goes into your paper or project easier and more successful.

Some reasons to do background research include:

  • Determining an appropriate scope for your research: Successful research starts with a topic or question that is appropriate to the scope of the assignment. A topic that is too broad means too much relevant information to review and distill. If your topic is too narrow, there won't be enough information to do meaningful research.
  • Understanding how your research fits in with the broader conversation surrounding the topic: What are the major points of view or areas of interest in discussions of your research topic and how does your research fit in with these? Answering this question can help you define the parts of your topic that you need to explore.
  • Establishing the value of your research : What is the impact of your research and why does it matter? How might your research clarify or change our understanding of the topic?
  • Identifying experts and other important perspectives: Are there scholars whose work you need to understand for your research to be complete? Are there points of view that you need to include or address?

Doing background research helps you choose a topic that you'll be happy with and develop a sense of what research you'll need to do in order to successfully complete your assignment. It will also help you plan your research and understand how much time you'll need to dedicate to understanding and exploring your topic.

Some types of information sources can be particularly helpful when you're doing background research. These are often primarily tertiary sources meaning that, rather than conducting original research they often summarize existing research on the topic.

Current Events Briefs Databases like CQ Researcher are focused on understanding controversial topics in current events. They provide information about the background of the issue as well as explanations of the positions of those on either side of a controversy.

Encyclopedias  Encyclopedias are ideal sources for doing background research in order build your knowledge about a topic sufficiently to identify a topic and develop a research plan.

Dictionaries Dictionaries include both general dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary as well as more specialized dictionaries focused on a single area. Dictionary entries are usually shorter and less detailed than encyclopedia entries and generally do not include references. However, they can be helpful when your research introduces you to concepts with which you aren't familiar.

Textbooks Your textbook is a potential source of background information, providing an explanation of the topic that prepares you to focus and dig deeper. Textbooks give a general overview of lot of information.

Statistics While you may find that it's difficult to make sense of statistics related to your topic while you're still exploring, statistics can be a powerful tool for establishing the context and importance of your research.

  • Next: General Sources >>
  • Last Updated: Nov 13, 2023 3:40 PM
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How to Write a Scientific Report | Step-by-Step Guide

Got to document an experiment but don't know how? In this post, we'll guide you step-by-step through how to write a scientific report and provide you with an example.

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Is your teacher expecting you to write an experimental report for every class experiment? Are you still unsure about how to write a scientific report properly? Don’t fear! We will guide you through all the parts of a scientific report, step-by-step.

How to write a scientific report:

  • What is a scientific report
  • General rules to write Scientific reports
  • Syllabus dot point 
  • Introduction/Background information
  • Risk assessment

What is a scientific report?

A scientific report documents all aspects of an experimental investigation. This includes:

  • The aim of the experiment
  • The hypothesis
  • An introduction to the relevant background theory
  • The methods used
  • The results
  • A discussion of the results
  • The conclusion

Scientific reports allow their readers to understand the experiment without doing it themselves. In addition, scientific reports give others the opportunity to check the methodology of the experiment to ensure the validity of the results.

A scientific report is written in several stages. We write the introduction, aim, and hypothesis before performing the experiment, record the results during the experiment, and complete the discussion and conclusions after the experiment.

But, before we delve deeper into how to write a scientific report, we need to have a science experiment to write about! Read our 7 Simple Experiments You Can Do At Home article and see which one you want to do.


General rules about writing scientific reports

Learning how to write a scientific report is different from writing English essays or speeches!

You have to use:

  • Passive voice (which you should avoid when writing for other subjects like English!)
  • Past-tense language
  • Headings and subheadings
  • A pencil to draw scientific diagrams and graphs
  • Simple and clear lines for scientific diagrams
  • Tables and graphs where necessary

Structure of scientific reports:

Now that you know the general rules on how to write scientific reports, let’s look at the conventions for their structure!

The title should simply introduce what your experiment is about.

The Role of Light in Photosynthesis

2. Introduction/Background information

Write a paragraph that gives your readers background information to understand your experiment.

This includes explaining scientific theories, processes and other related knowledge.

Photosynthesis is a vital process for life. It occurs when plants intake carbon dioxide, water, and light, and results in the production of glucose and water. The light required for photosynthesis is absorbed by chlorophyll, the green pigment of plants, which is contained in the chloroplasts.

The glucose produced through photosynthesis is stored as starch, which is used as an energy source for the plant and its consumers.

The presence of starch in the leaves of a plant indicates that photosynthesis has occurred.


The aim identifies what is going to be tested in the experiment. This should be short, concise and clear.

The aim of the experiment is to test whether light is required for photosynthesis to occur.

4. Hypothesis

The hypothesis is a prediction of the outcome of the experiment. You have to use background information to make an educated prediction.

It is predicted that photosynthesis will occur only in leaves that are exposed to light and not in leaves that are not exposed to light. This will be indicated by the presence or absence of starch in the leaves.

5. Risk assessment

Identify the hazards associated with the experiment and provide a method to prevent or minimise the risks. A hazard is something that can cause harm, and the risk is the likelihood that harm will occur from the hazard.

A table is an excellent way to present your risk assessment.

Remember, you have to specify the  type of harm that can occur because of the hazard. It is not enough to simply identify the hazard.

  • Do not write:  “Scissors are sharp”
  • Instead, you have to write:  “Scissors are sharp and can cause injury”


The method has 3 parts:

  • A list of every material used
  • Steps of what you did in the experiment
  • A scientific diagram of the experimental apparatus

Let’s break down what you need to do for each section.

6a. Materials

This must list every piece of equipment and material you used in the experiment.

Remember, you need to also specify the amount of each material you used.

  • 1 geranium plant
  • Aluminium foil
  • 2 test tubes
  • 1 test tube rack
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 250 mL beaker
  • 1 pair of forceps
  • 1 10 mL measuring cylinder
  • Iodine solution (5 mL)
  • Methylated spirit (50ml)
  • Boiling water
  • 2 Petri dishes


The rule of thumb is that you should write the method in a clear way so that readers are able to repeat the experiment and get similar results.

Using a numbered list for the steps of your experimental procedure is much clearer than writing a whole paragraph of text.  The steps should:

  • Be written in a sequential order, based on when they were performed.
  • Specify any equipment that was used.
  • Specify the quantity of any materials that were used.

You also need to use past tense and passive voice when you are writing your method. Scientific reports are supposed to show the readers what you did in the experiment, not what you will do.

  • Aluminium foil was used to fully cover a leaf of the geranium plant. The plant was left in the sun for three days.
  • On the third day, the covered leaf and 1 non-covered leaf were collected from the plant. The foil was removed from the covered leaf, and a 1 cm square was cut from each leaf using a pair of scissors.
  • 150 mL of water was boiled in a kettle and poured into a 250 mL beaker.
  • Using forceps, the 1 cm square of covered leaf was placed into the beaker of boiling water for 2 minutes. It was then placed in a test tube labelled “dark”.
  • The water in the beaker was discarded and replaced with 150 mL of freshly boiled water.
  • Using forceps, the 1 cm square non-covered leaf was placed into the beaker of boiling water for 2 minutes. It was then placed in a test tube labelled “light”
  • 5 mL of methylated spirit was measured with a measuring cylinder and poured into each test tube so that the leaves were fully covered.
  • The water in the beaker was replaced with 150 mL of freshly boiled water and both the “light” and “dark” test tubes were immersed in the beaker of boiling water for 5 minutes.
  • The leaves were collected from each test tube with forceps, rinsed under cold running water, and placed onto separate labelled Petri dishes.
  • 3 drops of iodine solution were added to each leaf.
  • Both Petri dishes were placed side by side and observations were recorded.
  • The experiment was repeated 5 times, and results were compared between different groups.

6c. Diagram

After you finish your steps, it is time to draw your scientific diagrams! Here are some rules for drawing scientific diagrams:

  • Always use a pencil to draw your scientific diagrams.
  • Use simple, sharp, 2D lines and shapes to draw your diagram. Don’t draw 3D shapes or use shading.
  • Label everything in your diagram.
  • Use thin, straight lines to label your diagram. Do not use arrows.
  • Ensure that the label lines touch the outline of the equipment you are labelling and not cross over it or stop short of it
  • The label lines should never cross over each other.
  • Use a ruler for any straight lines in your diagram.
  • Draw a sufficiently large diagram so all components can be seen clearly.


This is where you document the results of your experiment. The data that you record for your experiment will generally be qualitative and/or quantitative.

Qualitative data is data that relates to qualities and is based on observations (qualitative – quality). This type of data is descriptive and is recorded in words. For example, the colour changed from green to orange, or the liquid became hot.

Quantitative data refers to numerical data (quantitative – quantity). This type of data is recorded using numbers and is either measured or counted. For example, the plant grew 5.2 cm, or there were 5 frogs.

You also need to record your results in an appropriate way. Most of the time, a table is the best way to do this.

Here are some rules to using tables

  • Use a pencil and a ruler to draw your table
  • Draw neat and straight lines
  • Ensure that the table is closed (connect all your lines)
  • Don’t cross your lines (erase any lines that stick out of the table)
  • Use appropriate columns and rows
  • Properly name each column and row (including the units of measurement in brackets)
  • Do not write your units in the body of your table (units belong in the header)
  • Always include a title

Note : If your results require calculations, clearly write each step.

Observations of the effects of light on the amount of starch in plant leaves.


If quantitative data was recorded, the data is often also plotted on a graph.

8. Discussion

The discussion is where you analyse and interpret your results, and identify any experimental errors or possible areas of improvements.

You should divide your discussion as follows.

1. Trend in the results

Describe the ‘trend’ in your results. That is, the relationship you observed between your independent and dependent variables.

The independent variable is the variable that you are changing in the experiment. In this experiment, it is the amount of light that the leaves are exposed to.

The dependent variable is the variable that you are measuring in the experiment, In this experiment, it is the presence of starch in the leaves.

Explain how a particular result is achieved by referring to scientific knowledge, theories and any other scientific resources you find. 2. Scientific explanation: 

The presence of starch is indicated when the addition of iodine causes the leaf to turn dark purple. The results show that starch was present in the leaves that were exposed to light, while the leaves that were not exposed to light did not contain starch.

2. Scientific explanation:

Provide an explanation of the results using scientific knowledge, theories and any other scientific resources you find.

As starch is produced during photosynthesis, these results show that light plays a key role in photosynthesis.

3. Validity 

Validity refers to whether or not your results are valid. This can be done by examining your variables.

VA lidity =  VA riables

Identify the independent, dependent, controlled variables and the control experiment (if you have one).

The controlled variables are the variables that you keep the same across all tests e.g. the size of the leaf sample.

The control experiment is where you don’t apply an independent variable. It is untouched for the whole experiment.

Ensure that you never change more than one variable at a time!

The independent variable of the experiment was amount of light that the leaves were exposed to (the covered and uncovered geranium leaf), while the dependent variable was the presence of starch. The controlled variables were the size of the leaf sample, the duration of the experiment, the amount of time the solutions were heated, and the amount of iodine solution used.

4. Reliability 

Identify how you ensured the reliability of the results.

RE liability = RE petition

Show that you repeated your experiments, cross-checked your results with other groups or collated your results with the class.

The reliability of the results was ensured by repeating the experiment 5 times and comparing results with other groups. Since other groups obtained comparable results, the results are reliable.

5. Accuracy

Accuracy should be discussed if your results are in the form of quantitative data, and there is an accepted value for the result.

Accuracy would not be discussed for our example photosynthesis experiment as qualitative data was collected, however it would if we were measuring gravity using a pendulum:

The measured value of gravity was 9.8 m/s 2 , which is in agreement with the accepted value of 9.8 m/s 2 .

6. Possible improvements 

Identify any errors or risks found in the experiment and provide a method to improve it.

If there are none, then suggest new ways to improve the experimental design, and/or minimise error and risks.


Possible improvements could be made by including control experiments. For example, testing whether the iodine solution turns dark purple when added to water or methylated spirits. This would help to ensure that the purple colour observed in the experiments is due to the presence of starch in the leaves rather than impurities.

9. Conclusion

State whether the aim was achieved, and if your hypothesis was supported.

The aim of the investigation was achieved, and it was found that light is required for photosynthesis to occur. This was evidenced by the presence of starch in leaves that had been exposed to light, and the absence of starch in leaves that had been unexposed. These results support the proposed hypothesis.

Written by Matrix Science Team

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Scientific Reports

What this handout is about.

This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you’ve performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we’ll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you’ll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation. Readers of this handout may also find our handout on writing in the sciences useful.

Background and pre-writing

Why do we write research reports.

You did an experiment or study for your science class, and now you have to write it up for your teacher to review. You feel that you understood the background sufficiently, designed and completed the study effectively, obtained useful data, and can use those data to draw conclusions about a scientific process or principle. But how exactly do you write all that? What is your teacher expecting to see?

To take some of the guesswork out of answering these questions, try to think beyond the classroom setting. In fact, you and your teacher are both part of a scientific community, and the people who participate in this community tend to share the same values. As long as you understand and respect these values, your writing will likely meet the expectations of your audience—including your teacher.

So why are you writing this research report? The practical answer is “Because the teacher assigned it,” but that’s classroom thinking. Generally speaking, people investigating some scientific hypothesis have a responsibility to the rest of the scientific world to report their findings, particularly if these findings add to or contradict previous ideas. The people reading such reports have two primary goals:

  • They want to gather the information presented.
  • They want to know that the findings are legitimate.

Your job as a writer, then, is to fulfill these two goals.

How do I do that?

Good question. Here is the basic format scientists have designed for research reports:

  • Introduction

Methods and Materials

This format, sometimes called “IMRAD,” may take slightly different shapes depending on the discipline or audience; some ask you to include an abstract or separate section for the hypothesis, or call the Discussion section “Conclusions,” or change the order of the sections (some professional and academic journals require the Methods section to appear last). Overall, however, the IMRAD format was devised to represent a textual version of the scientific method.

The scientific method, you’ll probably recall, involves developing a hypothesis, testing it, and deciding whether your findings support the hypothesis. In essence, the format for a research report in the sciences mirrors the scientific method but fleshes out the process a little. Below, you’ll find a table that shows how each written section fits into the scientific method and what additional information it offers the reader.

Thinking of your research report as based on the scientific method, but elaborated in the ways described above, may help you to meet your audience’s expectations successfully. We’re going to proceed by explicitly connecting each section of the lab report to the scientific method, then explaining why and how you need to elaborate that section.

Although this handout takes each section in the order in which it should be presented in the final report, you may for practical reasons decide to compose sections in another order. For example, many writers find that composing their Methods and Results before the other sections helps to clarify their idea of the experiment or study as a whole. You might consider using each assignment to practice different approaches to drafting the report, to find the order that works best for you.

What should I do before drafting the lab report?

The best way to prepare to write the lab report is to make sure that you fully understand everything you need to about the experiment. Obviously, if you don’t quite know what went on during the lab, you’re going to find it difficult to explain the lab satisfactorily to someone else. To make sure you know enough to write the report, complete the following steps:

  • What are we going to do in this lab? (That is, what’s the procedure?)
  • Why are we going to do it that way?
  • What are we hoping to learn from this experiment?
  • Why would we benefit from this knowledge?
  • Consult your lab supervisor as you perform the lab. If you don’t know how to answer one of the questions above, for example, your lab supervisor will probably be able to explain it to you (or, at least, help you figure it out).
  • Plan the steps of the experiment carefully with your lab partners. The less you rush, the more likely it is that you’ll perform the experiment correctly and record your findings accurately. Also, take some time to think about the best way to organize the data before you have to start putting numbers down. If you can design a table to account for the data, that will tend to work much better than jotting results down hurriedly on a scrap piece of paper.
  • Record the data carefully so you get them right. You won’t be able to trust your conclusions if you have the wrong data, and your readers will know you messed up if the other three people in your group have “97 degrees” and you have “87.”
  • Consult with your lab partners about everything you do. Lab groups often make one of two mistakes: two people do all the work while two have a nice chat, or everybody works together until the group finishes gathering the raw data, then scrams outta there. Collaborate with your partners, even when the experiment is “over.” What trends did you observe? Was the hypothesis supported? Did you all get the same results? What kind of figure should you use to represent your findings? The whole group can work together to answer these questions.
  • Consider your audience. You may believe that audience is a non-issue: it’s your lab TA, right? Well, yes—but again, think beyond the classroom. If you write with only your lab instructor in mind, you may omit material that is crucial to a complete understanding of your experiment, because you assume the instructor knows all that stuff already. As a result, you may receive a lower grade, since your TA won’t be sure that you understand all the principles at work. Try to write towards a student in the same course but a different lab section. That student will have a fair degree of scientific expertise but won’t know much about your experiment particularly. Alternatively, you could envision yourself five years from now, after the reading and lectures for this course have faded a bit. What would you remember, and what would you need explained more clearly (as a refresher)?

Once you’ve completed these steps as you perform the experiment, you’ll be in a good position to draft an effective lab report.


How do i write a strong introduction.

For the purposes of this handout, we’ll consider the Introduction to contain four basic elements: the purpose, the scientific literature relevant to the subject, the hypothesis, and the reasons you believed your hypothesis viable. Let’s start by going through each element of the Introduction to clarify what it covers and why it’s important. Then we can formulate a logical organizational strategy for the section.

The inclusion of the purpose (sometimes called the objective) of the experiment often confuses writers. The biggest misconception is that the purpose is the same as the hypothesis. Not quite. We’ll get to hypotheses in a minute, but basically they provide some indication of what you expect the experiment to show. The purpose is broader, and deals more with what you expect to gain through the experiment. In a professional setting, the hypothesis might have something to do with how cells react to a certain kind of genetic manipulation, but the purpose of the experiment is to learn more about potential cancer treatments. Undergraduate reports don’t often have this wide-ranging a goal, but you should still try to maintain the distinction between your hypothesis and your purpose. In a solubility experiment, for example, your hypothesis might talk about the relationship between temperature and the rate of solubility, but the purpose is probably to learn more about some specific scientific principle underlying the process of solubility.

For starters, most people say that you should write out your working hypothesis before you perform the experiment or study. Many beginning science students neglect to do so and find themselves struggling to remember precisely which variables were involved in the process or in what way the researchers felt that they were related. Write your hypothesis down as you develop it—you’ll be glad you did.

As for the form a hypothesis should take, it’s best not to be too fancy or complicated; an inventive style isn’t nearly so important as clarity here. There’s nothing wrong with beginning your hypothesis with the phrase, “It was hypothesized that . . .” Be as specific as you can about the relationship between the different objects of your study. In other words, explain that when term A changes, term B changes in this particular way. Readers of scientific writing are rarely content with the idea that a relationship between two terms exists—they want to know what that relationship entails.

Not a hypothesis:

“It was hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between the temperature of a solvent and the rate at which a solute dissolves.”


“It was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases.”

Put more technically, most hypotheses contain both an independent and a dependent variable. The independent variable is what you manipulate to test the reaction; the dependent variable is what changes as a result of your manipulation. In the example above, the independent variable is the temperature of the solvent, and the dependent variable is the rate of solubility. Be sure that your hypothesis includes both variables.

Justify your hypothesis

You need to do more than tell your readers what your hypothesis is; you also need to assure them that this hypothesis was reasonable, given the circumstances. In other words, use the Introduction to explain that you didn’t just pluck your hypothesis out of thin air. (If you did pluck it out of thin air, your problems with your report will probably extend beyond using the appropriate format.) If you posit that a particular relationship exists between the independent and the dependent variable, what led you to believe your “guess” might be supported by evidence?

Scientists often refer to this type of justification as “motivating” the hypothesis, in the sense that something propelled them to make that prediction. Often, motivation includes what we already know—or rather, what scientists generally accept as true (see “Background/previous research” below). But you can also motivate your hypothesis by relying on logic or on your own observations. If you’re trying to decide which solutes will dissolve more rapidly in a solvent at increased temperatures, you might remember that some solids are meant to dissolve in hot water (e.g., bouillon cubes) and some are used for a function precisely because they withstand higher temperatures (they make saucepans out of something). Or you can think about whether you’ve noticed sugar dissolving more rapidly in your glass of iced tea or in your cup of coffee. Even such basic, outside-the-lab observations can help you justify your hypothesis as reasonable.

Background/previous research

This part of the Introduction demonstrates to the reader your awareness of how you’re building on other scientists’ work. If you think of the scientific community as engaging in a series of conversations about various topics, then you’ll recognize that the relevant background material will alert the reader to which conversation you want to enter.

Generally speaking, authors writing journal articles use the background for slightly different purposes than do students completing assignments. Because readers of academic journals tend to be professionals in the field, authors explain the background in order to permit readers to evaluate the study’s pertinence for their own work. You, on the other hand, write toward a much narrower audience—your peers in the course or your lab instructor—and so you must demonstrate that you understand the context for the (presumably assigned) experiment or study you’ve completed. For example, if your professor has been talking about polarity during lectures, and you’re doing a solubility experiment, you might try to connect the polarity of a solid to its relative solubility in certain solvents. In any event, both professional researchers and undergraduates need to connect the background material overtly to their own work.

Organization of this section

Most of the time, writers begin by stating the purpose or objectives of their own work, which establishes for the reader’s benefit the “nature and scope of the problem investigated” (Day 1994). Once you have expressed your purpose, you should then find it easier to move from the general purpose, to relevant material on the subject, to your hypothesis. In abbreviated form, an Introduction section might look like this:

“The purpose of the experiment was to test conventional ideas about solubility in the laboratory [purpose] . . . According to Whitecoat and Labrat (1999), at higher temperatures the molecules of solvents move more quickly . . . We know from the class lecture that molecules moving at higher rates of speed collide with one another more often and thus break down more easily [background material/motivation] . . . Thus, it was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases [hypothesis].”

Again—these are guidelines, not commandments. Some writers and readers prefer different structures for the Introduction. The one above merely illustrates a common approach to organizing material.

How do I write a strong Materials and Methods section?

As with any piece of writing, your Methods section will succeed only if it fulfills its readers’ expectations, so you need to be clear in your own mind about the purpose of this section. Let’s review the purpose as we described it above: in this section, you want to describe in detail how you tested the hypothesis you developed and also to clarify the rationale for your procedure. In science, it’s not sufficient merely to design and carry out an experiment. Ultimately, others must be able to verify your findings, so your experiment must be reproducible, to the extent that other researchers can follow the same procedure and obtain the same (or similar) results.

Here’s a real-world example of the importance of reproducibility. In 1989, physicists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman announced that they had discovered “cold fusion,” a way of producing excess heat and power without the nuclear radiation that accompanies “hot fusion.” Such a discovery could have great ramifications for the industrial production of energy, so these findings created a great deal of interest. When other scientists tried to duplicate the experiment, however, they didn’t achieve the same results, and as a result many wrote off the conclusions as unjustified (or worse, a hoax). To this day, the viability of cold fusion is debated within the scientific community, even though an increasing number of researchers believe it possible. So when you write your Methods section, keep in mind that you need to describe your experiment well enough to allow others to replicate it exactly.

With these goals in mind, let’s consider how to write an effective Methods section in terms of content, structure, and style.

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing this section isn’t what you should talk about, but what you shouldn’t talk about. Writers often want to include the results of their experiment, because they measured and recorded the results during the course of the experiment. But such data should be reserved for the Results section. In the Methods section, you can write that you recorded the results, or how you recorded the results (e.g., in a table), but you shouldn’t write what the results were—not yet. Here, you’re merely stating exactly how you went about testing your hypothesis. As you draft your Methods section, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much detail? Be precise in providing details, but stay relevant. Ask yourself, “Would it make any difference if this piece were a different size or made from a different material?” If not, you probably don’t need to get too specific. If so, you should give as many details as necessary to prevent this experiment from going awry if someone else tries to carry it out. Probably the most crucial detail is measurement; you should always quantify anything you can, such as time elapsed, temperature, mass, volume, etc.
  • Rationale: Be sure that as you’re relating your actions during the experiment, you explain your rationale for the protocol you developed. If you capped a test tube immediately after adding a solute to a solvent, why did you do that? (That’s really two questions: why did you cap it, and why did you cap it immediately?) In a professional setting, writers provide their rationale as a way to explain their thinking to potential critics. On one hand, of course, that’s your motivation for talking about protocol, too. On the other hand, since in practical terms you’re also writing to your teacher (who’s seeking to evaluate how well you comprehend the principles of the experiment), explaining the rationale indicates that you understand the reasons for conducting the experiment in that way, and that you’re not just following orders. Critical thinking is crucial—robots don’t make good scientists.
  • Control: Most experiments will include a control, which is a means of comparing experimental results. (Sometimes you’ll need to have more than one control, depending on the number of hypotheses you want to test.) The control is exactly the same as the other items you’re testing, except that you don’t manipulate the independent variable-the condition you’re altering to check the effect on the dependent variable. For example, if you’re testing solubility rates at increased temperatures, your control would be a solution that you didn’t heat at all; that way, you’ll see how quickly the solute dissolves “naturally” (i.e., without manipulation), and you’ll have a point of reference against which to compare the solutions you did heat.

Describe the control in the Methods section. Two things are especially important in writing about the control: identify the control as a control, and explain what you’re controlling for. Here is an example:

“As a control for the temperature change, we placed the same amount of solute in the same amount of solvent, and let the solution stand for five minutes without heating it.”

Structure and style

Organization is especially important in the Methods section of a lab report because readers must understand your experimental procedure completely. Many writers are surprised by the difficulty of conveying what they did during the experiment, since after all they’re only reporting an event, but it’s often tricky to present this information in a coherent way. There’s a fairly standard structure you can use to guide you, and following the conventions for style can help clarify your points.

  • Subsections: Occasionally, researchers use subsections to report their procedure when the following circumstances apply: 1) if they’ve used a great many materials; 2) if the procedure is unusually complicated; 3) if they’ve developed a procedure that won’t be familiar to many of their readers. Because these conditions rarely apply to the experiments you’ll perform in class, most undergraduate lab reports won’t require you to use subsections. In fact, many guides to writing lab reports suggest that you try to limit your Methods section to a single paragraph.
  • Narrative structure: Think of this section as telling a story about a group of people and the experiment they performed. Describe what you did in the order in which you did it. You may have heard the old joke centered on the line, “Disconnect the red wire, but only after disconnecting the green wire,” where the person reading the directions blows everything to kingdom come because the directions weren’t in order. We’re used to reading about events chronologically, and so your readers will generally understand what you did if you present that information in the same way. Also, since the Methods section does generally appear as a narrative (story), you want to avoid the “recipe” approach: “First, take a clean, dry 100 ml test tube from the rack. Next, add 50 ml of distilled water.” You should be reporting what did happen, not telling the reader how to perform the experiment: “50 ml of distilled water was poured into a clean, dry 100 ml test tube.” Hint: most of the time, the recipe approach comes from copying down the steps of the procedure from your lab manual, so you may want to draft the Methods section initially without consulting your manual. Later, of course, you can go back and fill in any part of the procedure you inadvertently overlooked.
  • Past tense: Remember that you’re describing what happened, so you should use past tense to refer to everything you did during the experiment. Writers are often tempted to use the imperative (“Add 5 g of the solid to the solution”) because that’s how their lab manuals are worded; less frequently, they use present tense (“5 g of the solid are added to the solution”). Instead, remember that you’re talking about an event which happened at a particular time in the past, and which has already ended by the time you start writing, so simple past tense will be appropriate in this section (“5 g of the solid were added to the solution” or “We added 5 g of the solid to the solution”).
  • Active: We heated the solution to 80°C. (The subject, “we,” performs the action, heating.)
  • Passive: The solution was heated to 80°C. (The subject, “solution,” doesn’t do the heating–it is acted upon, not acting.)

Increasingly, especially in the social sciences, using first person and active voice is acceptable in scientific reports. Most readers find that this style of writing conveys information more clearly and concisely. This rhetorical choice thus brings two scientific values into conflict: objectivity versus clarity. Since the scientific community hasn’t reached a consensus about which style it prefers, you may want to ask your lab instructor.

How do I write a strong Results section?

Here’s a paradox for you. The Results section is often both the shortest (yay!) and most important (uh-oh!) part of your report. Your Materials and Methods section shows how you obtained the results, and your Discussion section explores the significance of the results, so clearly the Results section forms the backbone of the lab report. This section provides the most critical information about your experiment: the data that allow you to discuss how your hypothesis was or wasn’t supported. But it doesn’t provide anything else, which explains why this section is generally shorter than the others.

Before you write this section, look at all the data you collected to figure out what relates significantly to your hypothesis. You’ll want to highlight this material in your Results section. Resist the urge to include every bit of data you collected, since perhaps not all are relevant. Also, don’t try to draw conclusions about the results—save them for the Discussion section. In this section, you’re reporting facts. Nothing your readers can dispute should appear in the Results section.

Most Results sections feature three distinct parts: text, tables, and figures. Let’s consider each part one at a time.

This should be a short paragraph, generally just a few lines, that describes the results you obtained from your experiment. In a relatively simple experiment, one that doesn’t produce a lot of data for you to repeat, the text can represent the entire Results section. Don’t feel that you need to include lots of extraneous detail to compensate for a short (but effective) text; your readers appreciate discrimination more than your ability to recite facts. In a more complex experiment, you may want to use tables and/or figures to help guide your readers toward the most important information you gathered. In that event, you’ll need to refer to each table or figure directly, where appropriate:

“Table 1 lists the rates of solubility for each substance”

“Solubility increased as the temperature of the solution increased (see Figure 1).”

If you do use tables or figures, make sure that you don’t present the same material in both the text and the tables/figures, since in essence you’ll just repeat yourself, probably annoying your readers with the redundancy of your statements.

Feel free to describe trends that emerge as you examine the data. Although identifying trends requires some judgment on your part and so may not feel like factual reporting, no one can deny that these trends do exist, and so they properly belong in the Results section. Example:

“Heating the solution increased the rate of solubility of polar solids by 45% but had no effect on the rate of solubility in solutions containing non-polar solids.”

This point isn’t debatable—you’re just pointing out what the data show.

As in the Materials and Methods section, you want to refer to your data in the past tense, because the events you recorded have already occurred and have finished occurring. In the example above, note the use of “increased” and “had,” rather than “increases” and “has.” (You don’t know from your experiment that heating always increases the solubility of polar solids, but it did that time.)

You shouldn’t put information in the table that also appears in the text. You also shouldn’t use a table to present irrelevant data, just to show you did collect these data during the experiment. Tables are good for some purposes and situations, but not others, so whether and how you’ll use tables depends upon what you need them to accomplish.

Tables are useful ways to show variation in data, but not to present a great deal of unchanging measurements. If you’re dealing with a scientific phenomenon that occurs only within a certain range of temperatures, for example, you don’t need to use a table to show that the phenomenon didn’t occur at any of the other temperatures. How useful is this table?

A table labeled Effect of Temperature on Rate of Solubility with temperature of solvent values in 10-degree increments from -20 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius that does not show a corresponding rate of solubility value until 50 degrees Celsius.

As you can probably see, no solubility was observed until the trial temperature reached 50°C, a fact that the text part of the Results section could easily convey. The table could then be limited to what happened at 50°C and higher, thus better illustrating the differences in solubility rates when solubility did occur.

As a rule, try not to use a table to describe any experimental event you can cover in one sentence of text. Here’s an example of an unnecessary table from How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , by Robert A. Day:

A table labeled Oxygen requirements of various species of Streptomyces showing the names of organisms and two columns that indicate growth under aerobic conditions and growth under anaerobic conditions with a plus or minus symbol for each organism in the growth columns to indicate value.

As Day notes, all the information in this table can be summarized in one sentence: “S. griseus, S. coelicolor, S. everycolor, and S. rainbowenski grew under aerobic conditions, whereas S. nocolor and S. greenicus required anaerobic conditions.” Most readers won’t find the table clearer than that one sentence.

When you do have reason to tabulate material, pay attention to the clarity and readability of the format you use. Here are a few tips:

  • Number your table. Then, when you refer to the table in the text, use that number to tell your readers which table they can review to clarify the material.
  • Give your table a title. This title should be descriptive enough to communicate the contents of the table, but not so long that it becomes difficult to follow. The titles in the sample tables above are acceptable.
  • Arrange your table so that readers read vertically, not horizontally. For the most part, this rule means that you should construct your table so that like elements read down, not across. Think about what you want your readers to compare, and put that information in the column (up and down) rather than in the row (across). Usually, the point of comparison will be the numerical data you collect, so especially make sure you have columns of numbers, not rows.Here’s an example of how drastically this decision affects the readability of your table (from A Short Guide to Writing about Chemistry , by Herbert Beall and John Trimbur). Look at this table, which presents the relevant data in horizontal rows:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in rows horizontally.

It’s a little tough to see the trends that the author presumably wants to present in this table. Compare this table, in which the data appear vertically:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in columns vertically.

The second table shows how putting like elements in a vertical column makes for easier reading. In this case, the like elements are the measurements of length and height, over five trials–not, as in the first table, the length and height measurements for each trial.

  • Make sure to include units of measurement in the tables. Readers might be able to guess that you measured something in millimeters, but don’t make them try.
  • Don’t use vertical lines as part of the format for your table. This convention exists because journals prefer not to have to reproduce these lines because the tables then become more expensive to print. Even though it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be sending your Biology 11 lab report to Science for publication, your readers still have this expectation. Consequently, if you use the table-drawing option in your word-processing software, choose the option that doesn’t rely on a “grid” format (which includes vertical lines).

How do I include figures in my report?

Although tables can be useful ways of showing trends in the results you obtained, figures (i.e., illustrations) can do an even better job of emphasizing such trends. Lab report writers often use graphic representations of the data they collected to provide their readers with a literal picture of how the experiment went.

When should you use a figure?

Remember the circumstances under which you don’t need a table: when you don’t have a great deal of data or when the data you have don’t vary a lot. Under the same conditions, you would probably forgo the figure as well, since the figure would be unlikely to provide your readers with an additional perspective. Scientists really don’t like their time wasted, so they tend not to respond favorably to redundancy.

If you’re trying to decide between using a table and creating a figure to present your material, consider the following a rule of thumb. The strength of a table lies in its ability to supply large amounts of exact data, whereas the strength of a figure is its dramatic illustration of important trends within the experiment. If you feel that your readers won’t get the full impact of the results you obtained just by looking at the numbers, then a figure might be appropriate.

Of course, an undergraduate class may expect you to create a figure for your lab experiment, if only to make sure that you can do so effectively. If this is the case, then don’t worry about whether to use figures or not—concentrate instead on how best to accomplish your task.

Figures can include maps, photographs, pen-and-ink drawings, flow charts, bar graphs, and section graphs (“pie charts”). But the most common figure by far, especially for undergraduates, is the line graph, so we’ll focus on that type in this handout.

At the undergraduate level, you can often draw and label your graphs by hand, provided that the result is clear, legible, and drawn to scale. Computer technology has, however, made creating line graphs a lot easier. Most word-processing software has a number of functions for transferring data into graph form; many scientists have found Microsoft Excel, for example, a helpful tool in graphing results. If you plan on pursuing a career in the sciences, it may be well worth your while to learn to use a similar program.

Computers can’t, however, decide for you how your graph really works; you have to know how to design your graph to meet your readers’ expectations. Here are some of these expectations:

  • Keep it as simple as possible. You may be tempted to signal the complexity of the information you gathered by trying to design a graph that accounts for that complexity. But remember the purpose of your graph: to dramatize your results in a manner that’s easy to see and grasp. Try not to make the reader stare at the graph for a half hour to find the important line among the mass of other lines. For maximum effectiveness, limit yourself to three to five lines per graph; if you have more data to demonstrate, use a set of graphs to account for it, rather than trying to cram it all into a single figure.
  • Plot the independent variable on the horizontal (x) axis and the dependent variable on the vertical (y) axis. Remember that the independent variable is the condition that you manipulated during the experiment and the dependent variable is the condition that you measured to see if it changed along with the independent variable. Placing the variables along their respective axes is mostly just a convention, but since your readers are accustomed to viewing graphs in this way, you’re better off not challenging the convention in your report.
  • Label each axis carefully, and be especially careful to include units of measure. You need to make sure that your readers understand perfectly well what your graph indicates.
  • Number and title your graphs. As with tables, the title of the graph should be informative but concise, and you should refer to your graph by number in the text (e.g., “Figure 1 shows the increase in the solubility rate as a function of temperature”).
  • Many editors of professional scientific journals prefer that writers distinguish the lines in their graphs by attaching a symbol to them, usually a geometric shape (triangle, square, etc.), and using that symbol throughout the curve of the line. Generally, readers have a hard time distinguishing dotted lines from dot-dash lines from straight lines, so you should consider staying away from this system. Editors don’t usually like different-colored lines within a graph because colors are difficult and expensive to reproduce; colors may, however, be great for your purposes, as long as you’re not planning to submit your paper to Nature. Use your discretion—try to employ whichever technique dramatizes the results most effectively.
  • Try to gather data at regular intervals, so the plot points on your graph aren’t too far apart. You can’t be sure of the arc you should draw between the plot points if the points are located at the far corners of the graph; over a fifteen-minute interval, perhaps the change occurred in the first or last thirty seconds of that period (in which case your straight-line connection between the points is misleading).
  • If you’re worried that you didn’t collect data at sufficiently regular intervals during your experiment, go ahead and connect the points with a straight line, but you may want to examine this problem as part of your Discussion section.
  • Make your graph large enough so that everything is legible and clearly demarcated, but not so large that it either overwhelms the rest of the Results section or provides a far greater range than you need to illustrate your point. If, for example, the seedlings of your plant grew only 15 mm during the trial, you don’t need to construct a graph that accounts for 100 mm of growth. The lines in your graph should more or less fill the space created by the axes; if you see that your data is confined to the lower left portion of the graph, you should probably re-adjust your scale.
  • If you create a set of graphs, make them the same size and format, including all the verbal and visual codes (captions, symbols, scale, etc.). You want to be as consistent as possible in your illustrations, so that your readers can easily make the comparisons you’re trying to get them to see.

How do I write a strong Discussion section?

The discussion section is probably the least formalized part of the report, in that you can’t really apply the same structure to every type of experiment. In simple terms, here you tell your readers what to make of the Results you obtained. If you have done the Results part well, your readers should already recognize the trends in the data and have a fairly clear idea of whether your hypothesis was supported. Because the Results can seem so self-explanatory, many students find it difficult to know what material to add in this last section.

Basically, the Discussion contains several parts, in no particular order, but roughly moving from specific (i.e., related to your experiment only) to general (how your findings fit in the larger scientific community). In this section, you will, as a rule, need to:

Explain whether the data support your hypothesis

  • Acknowledge any anomalous data or deviations from what you expected

Derive conclusions, based on your findings, about the process you’re studying

  • Relate your findings to earlier work in the same area (if you can)

Explore the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings

Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for each of these objectives.

This statement is usually a good way to begin the Discussion, since you can’t effectively speak about the larger scientific value of your study until you’ve figured out the particulars of this experiment. You might begin this part of the Discussion by explicitly stating the relationships or correlations your data indicate between the independent and dependent variables. Then you can show more clearly why you believe your hypothesis was or was not supported. For example, if you tested solubility at various temperatures, you could start this section by noting that the rates of solubility increased as the temperature increased. If your initial hypothesis surmised that temperature change would not affect solubility, you would then say something like,

“The hypothesis that temperature change would not affect solubility was not supported by the data.”

Note: Students tend to view labs as practical tests of undeniable scientific truths. As a result, you may want to say that the hypothesis was “proved” or “disproved” or that it was “correct” or “incorrect.” These terms, however, reflect a degree of certainty that you as a scientist aren’t supposed to have. Remember, you’re testing a theory with a procedure that lasts only a few hours and relies on only a few trials, which severely compromises your ability to be sure about the “truth” you see. Words like “supported,” “indicated,” and “suggested” are more acceptable ways to evaluate your hypothesis.

Also, recognize that saying whether the data supported your hypothesis or not involves making a claim to be defended. As such, you need to show the readers that this claim is warranted by the evidence. Make sure that you’re very explicit about the relationship between the evidence and the conclusions you draw from it. This process is difficult for many writers because we don’t often justify conclusions in our regular lives. For example, you might nudge your friend at a party and whisper, “That guy’s drunk,” and once your friend lays eyes on the person in question, she might readily agree. In a scientific paper, by contrast, you would need to defend your claim more thoroughly by pointing to data such as slurred words, unsteady gait, and the lampshade-as-hat. In addition to pointing out these details, you would also need to show how (according to previous studies) these signs are consistent with inebriation, especially if they occur in conjunction with one another. To put it another way, tell your readers exactly how you got from point A (was the hypothesis supported?) to point B (yes/no).

Acknowledge any anomalous data, or deviations from what you expected

You need to take these exceptions and divergences into account, so that you qualify your conclusions sufficiently. For obvious reasons, your readers will doubt your authority if you (deliberately or inadvertently) overlook a key piece of data that doesn’t square with your perspective on what occurred. In a more philosophical sense, once you’ve ignored evidence that contradicts your claims, you’ve departed from the scientific method. The urge to “tidy up” the experiment is often strong, but if you give in to it you’re no longer performing good science.

Sometimes after you’ve performed a study or experiment, you realize that some part of the methods you used to test your hypothesis was flawed. In that case, it’s OK to suggest that if you had the chance to conduct your test again, you might change the design in this or that specific way in order to avoid such and such a problem. The key to making this approach work, though, is to be very precise about the weakness in your experiment, why and how you think that weakness might have affected your data, and how you would alter your protocol to eliminate—or limit the effects of—that weakness. Often, inexperienced researchers and writers feel the need to account for “wrong” data (remember, there’s no such animal), and so they speculate wildly about what might have screwed things up. These speculations include such factors as the unusually hot temperature in the room, or the possibility that their lab partners read the meters wrong, or the potentially defective equipment. These explanations are what scientists call “cop-outs,” or “lame”; don’t indicate that the experiment had a weakness unless you’re fairly certain that a) it really occurred and b) you can explain reasonably well how that weakness affected your results.

If, for example, your hypothesis dealt with the changes in solubility at different temperatures, then try to figure out what you can rationally say about the process of solubility more generally. If you’re doing an undergraduate lab, chances are that the lab will connect in some way to the material you’ve been covering either in lecture or in your reading, so you might choose to return to these resources as a way to help you think clearly about the process as a whole.

This part of the Discussion section is another place where you need to make sure that you’re not overreaching. Again, nothing you’ve found in one study would remotely allow you to claim that you now “know” something, or that something isn’t “true,” or that your experiment “confirmed” some principle or other. Hesitate before you go out on a limb—it’s dangerous! Use less absolutely conclusive language, including such words as “suggest,” “indicate,” “correspond,” “possibly,” “challenge,” etc.

Relate your findings to previous work in the field (if possible)

We’ve been talking about how to show that you belong in a particular community (such as biologists or anthropologists) by writing within conventions that they recognize and accept. Another is to try to identify a conversation going on among members of that community, and use your work to contribute to that conversation. In a larger philosophical sense, scientists can’t fully understand the value of their research unless they have some sense of the context that provoked and nourished it. That is, you have to recognize what’s new about your project (potentially, anyway) and how it benefits the wider body of scientific knowledge. On a more pragmatic level, especially for undergraduates, connecting your lab work to previous research will demonstrate to the TA that you see the big picture. You have an opportunity, in the Discussion section, to distinguish yourself from the students in your class who aren’t thinking beyond the barest facts of the study. Capitalize on this opportunity by putting your own work in context.

If you’re just beginning to work in the natural sciences (as a first-year biology or chemistry student, say), most likely the work you’ll be doing has already been performed and re-performed to a satisfactory degree. Hence, you could probably point to a similar experiment or study and compare/contrast your results and conclusions. More advanced work may deal with an issue that is somewhat less “resolved,” and so previous research may take the form of an ongoing debate, and you can use your own work to weigh in on that debate. If, for example, researchers are hotly disputing the value of herbal remedies for the common cold, and the results of your study suggest that Echinacea diminishes the symptoms but not the actual presence of the cold, then you might want to take some time in the Discussion section to recapitulate the specifics of the dispute as it relates to Echinacea as an herbal remedy. (Consider that you have probably already written in the Introduction about this debate as background research.)

This information is often the best way to end your Discussion (and, for all intents and purposes, the report). In argumentative writing generally, you want to use your closing words to convey the main point of your writing. This main point can be primarily theoretical (“Now that you understand this information, you’re in a better position to understand this larger issue”) or primarily practical (“You can use this information to take such and such an action”). In either case, the concluding statements help the reader to comprehend the significance of your project and your decision to write about it.

Since a lab report is argumentative—after all, you’re investigating a claim, and judging the legitimacy of that claim by generating and collecting evidence—it’s often a good idea to end your report with the same technique for establishing your main point. If you want to go the theoretical route, you might talk about the consequences your study has for the field or phenomenon you’re investigating. To return to the examples regarding solubility, you could end by reflecting on what your work on solubility as a function of temperature tells us (potentially) about solubility in general. (Some folks consider this type of exploration “pure” as opposed to “applied” science, although these labels can be problematic.) If you want to go the practical route, you could end by speculating about the medical, institutional, or commercial implications of your findings—in other words, answer the question, “What can this study help people to do?” In either case, you’re going to make your readers’ experience more satisfying, by helping them see why they spent their time learning what you had to teach them.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Beall, Herbert, and John Trimbur. 2001. A Short Guide to Writing About Chemistry , 2nd ed. New York: Longman.

Blum, Deborah, and Mary Knudson. 1997. A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers . New York: Oxford University Press.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Briscoe, Mary Helen. 1996. Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications , 2nd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Council of Science Editors. 2014. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers , 8th ed. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Davis, Martha. 2012. Scientific Papers and Presentations , 3rd ed. London: Academic Press.

Day, Robert A. 1994. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , 4th ed. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

Porush, David. 1995. A Short Guide to Writing About Science . New York: Longman.

Williams, Joseph, and Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace , 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Background information identifies and describes the history and nature of a well-defined research problem with reference to contextualizing existing literature. The background information should indicate the root of the problem being studied, appropriate context of the problem in relation to theory, research, and/or practice , its scope, and the extent to which previous studies have successfully investigated the problem, noting, in particular, where gaps exist that your study attempts to address. Background information does not replace the literature review section of a research paper; it is intended to place the research problem within a specific context and an established plan for its solution.

Fitterling, Lori. Researching and Writing an Effective Background Section of a Research Paper. Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences; Creating a Research Paper: How to Write the Background to a Study. DurousseauElectricalInstitute.com; Background Information: Definition of Background Information. Literary Devices Definition and Examples of Literary Terms.

Importance of Having Enough Background Information

Background information expands upon the key points stated in the beginning of your introduction but is not intended to be the main focus of the paper. It generally supports the question, what is the most important information the reader needs to understand before continuing to read the paper? Sufficient background information helps the reader determine if you have a basic understanding of the research problem being investigated and promotes confidence in the overall quality of your analysis and findings. This information provides the reader with the essential context needed to conceptualize the research problem and its significance before moving on to a more thorough analysis of prior research.

Forms of contextualization included in background information can include describing one or more of the following:

  • Cultural -- placed within the learned behavior of a specific group or groups of people.
  • Economic -- of or relating to systems of production and management of material wealth and/or business activities.
  • Gender -- located within the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with being self-identified as male, female, or other form of  gender expression.
  • Historical -- the time in which something takes place or was created and how the condition of time influences how you interpret it.
  • Interdisciplinary -- explanation of theories, concepts, ideas, or methodologies borrowed from other disciplines applied to the research problem rooted in a discipline other than the discipline where your paper resides.
  • Philosophical -- clarification of the essential nature of being or of phenomena as it relates to the research problem.
  • Physical/Spatial -- reflects the meaning of space around something and how that influences how it is understood.
  • Political -- concerns the environment in which something is produced indicating it's public purpose or agenda.
  • Social -- the environment of people that surrounds something's creation or intended audience, reflecting how the people associated with something use and interpret it.
  • Temporal -- reflects issues or events of, relating to, or limited by time. Concerns past, present, or future contextualization and not just a historical past.

Background information can also include summaries of important research studies . This can be a particularly important element of providing background information if an innovative or groundbreaking study about the research problem laid a foundation for further research or there was a key study that is essential to understanding your arguments. The priority is to summarize for the reader what is known about the research problem before you conduct the analysis of prior research. This is accomplished with a general summary of the foundational research literature [with citations] that document findings that inform your study's overall aims and objectives.

NOTE : Research studies cited as part of the background information of your introduction should not include very specific, lengthy explanations. This should be discussed in greater detail in your literature review section. If you find a study requiring lengthy explanation, consider moving it to the literature review section.

ANOTHER NOTE : In some cases, your paper's introduction only needs to introduce the research problem, explain its significance, and then describe a road map for how you are going to address the problem; the background information basically forms the introduction part of your literature review. That said, while providing background information is not required, including it in the introduction is a way to highlight important contextual information that could otherwise be hidden or overlooked by the reader if placed in the literature review section.

Background of the Problem Section: What do you Need to Consider? Anonymous. Harvard University; Hopkins, Will G. How to Write a Research Paper. SPORTSCIENCE, Perspectives/Research Resources. Department of Physiology and School of Physical Education, University of Otago, 1999; Green, L. H. How to Write the Background/Introduction Section. Physics 499 Powerpoint slides. University of Illinois; Pyrczak, Fred. Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences . 8th edition. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2014; Stevens, Kathleen C. “Can We Improve Reading by Teaching Background Information?.” Journal of Reading 25 (January 1982): 326-329; Woodall, W. Gill. Writing the Background and Significance Section. Senior Research Scientist and Professor of Communication. Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions. University of New Mexico.

Structure and Writing Style

Providing background information in the introduction of a research paper serves as a bridge that links the reader to the research problem . Precisely how long and in-depth this bridge should be is largely dependent upon how much information you think the reader will need to know in order to fully understand the problem being discussed and to appreciate why the issues you are investigating are important.

From another perspective, the length and detail of background information also depends on the degree to which you need to demonstrate to your professor how much you understand the research problem. Keep this in mind because providing pertinent background information can be an effective way to demonstrate that you have a clear grasp of key issues, debates, and concepts related to your overall study.

The structure and writing style of your background information can vary depending upon the complexity of your research and/or the nature of the assignment. However, in most cases it should be limited to only one to two paragraphs in your introduction.

Given this, here are some questions to consider while writing this part of your introduction :

  • Are there concepts, terms, theories, or ideas that may be unfamiliar to the reader and, thus, require additional explanation?
  • Are there historical elements that need to be explored in order to provide needed context, to highlight specific people, issues, or events, or to lay a foundation for understanding the emergence of a current issue or event?
  • Are there theories, concepts, or ideas borrowed from other disciplines or academic traditions that may be unfamiliar to the reader and therefore require further explanation?
  • Is there a key study or small set of studies that set the stage for understanding the topic and frames why it is important to conduct further research on the topic?
  • Y our study uses a method of analysis never applied before;
  • Your study investigates a very esoteric or complex research problem;
  • Your study introduces new or unique variables that need to be taken into account ; or,
  • Your study relies upon analyzing unique texts or documents, such as, archival materials or primary documents like diaries or personal letters that do not represent the established body of source literature on the topic?

Almost all introductions to a research problem require some contextualizing, but the scope and breadth of background information varies depending on your assumption about the reader's level of prior knowledge . However, despite this assessment, background information should be brief and succinct and sets the stage for the elaboration of critical points or in-depth discussion of key issues in the literature review section of your paper.

Writing Tip

Background Information vs. the Literature Review

Incorporating background information into the introduction is intended to provide the reader with critical information about the topic being studied, such as, highlighting and expanding upon foundational studies conducted in the past, describing important historical events that inform why and in what ways the research problem exists, defining key components of your study [concepts, people, places, phenomena] and/or placing the research problem within a particular context. Although introductory background information can often blend into the literature review portion of the paper, essential background information should not be considered a substitute for a comprehensive review and synthesis of relevant research literature.

Hart, Cris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998; Pyrczak, Fred. Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences . 8th edition. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2014.

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When getting started with your research, it is a good idea to get a general overview of a topic or gather background information. This information can help you decide if the topic really is in line with your thinking, and whether you want to continue researching in that subject area.

Background information may include facts, historical figures, timelines, definitions, origins, theories, events, and more.

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Home » Background of The Study – Examples and Writing Guide

Background of The Study – Examples and Writing Guide

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Background of The Study

Background of The Study


Background of the study refers to the context, circumstances, and history that led to the research problem or topic being studied. It provides the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and the significance of the study.

The background of the study usually includes a discussion of the relevant literature, the gap in knowledge or understanding, and the research questions or hypotheses to be addressed. It also highlights the importance of the research topic and its potential contributions to the field. A well-written background of the study sets the stage for the research and helps the reader to appreciate the need for the study and its potential significance.

How to Write Background of The Study

Here are some steps to help you write the background of the study:

Identify the Research Problem

Start by identifying the research problem you are trying to address. This problem should be significant and relevant to your field of study.

Provide Context

Once you have identified the research problem, provide some context. This could include the historical, social, or political context of the problem.

Review Literature

Conduct a thorough review of the existing literature on the topic. This will help you understand what has been studied and what gaps exist in the current research.

Identify Research Gap

Based on your literature review, identify the gap in knowledge or understanding that your research aims to address. This gap will be the focus of your research question or hypothesis.

State Objectives

Clearly state the objectives of your research . These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Discuss Significance

Explain the significance of your research. This could include its potential impact on theory , practice, policy, or society.

Finally, summarize the key points of the background of the study. This will help the reader understand the research problem, its context, and its significance.

How to Write Background of The Study in Proposal

The background of the study is an essential part of any proposal as it sets the stage for the research project and provides the context and justification for why the research is needed. Here are the steps to write a compelling background of the study in your proposal:

  • Identify the problem: Clearly state the research problem or gap in the current knowledge that you intend to address through your research.
  • Provide context: Provide a brief overview of the research area and highlight its significance in the field.
  • Review literature: Summarize the relevant literature related to the research problem and provide a critical evaluation of the current state of knowledge.
  • Identify gaps : Identify the gaps or limitations in the existing literature and explain how your research will contribute to filling these gaps.
  • Justify the study : Explain why your research is important and what practical or theoretical contributions it can make to the field.
  • Highlight objectives: Clearly state the objectives of the study and how they relate to the research problem.
  • Discuss methodology: Provide an overview of the methodology you will use to collect and analyze data, and explain why it is appropriate for the research problem.
  • Conclude : Summarize the key points of the background of the study and explain how they support your research proposal.

How to Write Background of The Study In Thesis

The background of the study is a critical component of a thesis as it provides context for the research problem, rationale for conducting the study, and the significance of the research. Here are some steps to help you write a strong background of the study:

  • Identify the research problem : Start by identifying the research problem that your thesis is addressing. What is the issue that you are trying to solve or explore? Be specific and concise in your problem statement.
  • Review the literature: Conduct a thorough review of the relevant literature on the topic. This should include scholarly articles, books, and other sources that are directly related to your research question.
  • I dentify gaps in the literature: After reviewing the literature, identify any gaps in the existing research. What questions remain unanswered? What areas have not been explored? This will help you to establish the need for your research.
  • Establish the significance of the research: Clearly state the significance of your research. Why is it important to address this research problem? What are the potential implications of your research? How will it contribute to the field?
  • Provide an overview of the research design: Provide an overview of the research design and methodology that you will be using in your study. This should include a brief explanation of the research approach, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques.
  • State the research objectives and research questions: Clearly state the research objectives and research questions that your study aims to answer. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  • Summarize the chapter: Summarize the chapter by highlighting the key points and linking them back to the research problem, significance of the study, and research questions.

How to Write Background of The Study in Research Paper

Here are the steps to write the background of the study in a research paper:

  • Identify the research problem: Start by identifying the research problem that your study aims to address. This can be a particular issue, a gap in the literature, or a need for further investigation.
  • Conduct a literature review: Conduct a thorough literature review to gather information on the topic, identify existing studies, and understand the current state of research. This will help you identify the gap in the literature that your study aims to fill.
  • Explain the significance of the study: Explain why your study is important and why it is necessary. This can include the potential impact on the field, the importance to society, or the need to address a particular issue.
  • Provide context: Provide context for the research problem by discussing the broader social, economic, or political context that the study is situated in. This can help the reader understand the relevance of the study and its potential implications.
  • State the research questions and objectives: State the research questions and objectives that your study aims to address. This will help the reader understand the scope of the study and its purpose.
  • Summarize the methodology : Briefly summarize the methodology you used to conduct the study, including the data collection and analysis methods. This can help the reader understand how the study was conducted and its reliability.

Examples of Background of The Study

Here are some examples of the background of the study:

Problem : The prevalence of obesity among children in the United States has reached alarming levels, with nearly one in five children classified as obese.

Significance : Obesity in childhood is associated with numerous negative health outcomes, including increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

Gap in knowledge : Despite efforts to address the obesity epidemic, rates continue to rise. There is a need for effective interventions that target the unique needs of children and their families.

Problem : The use of antibiotics in agriculture has contributed to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which poses a significant threat to human health.

Significance : Antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for thousands of deaths each year and are a major public health concern.

Gap in knowledge: While there is a growing body of research on the use of antibiotics in agriculture, there is still much to be learned about the mechanisms of resistance and the most effective strategies for reducing antibiotic use.

Edxample 3:

Problem : Many low-income communities lack access to healthy food options, leading to high rates of food insecurity and diet-related diseases.

Significance : Poor nutrition is a major contributor to chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Gap in knowledge : While there have been efforts to address food insecurity, there is a need for more research on the barriers to accessing healthy food in low-income communities and effective strategies for increasing access.

Examples of Background of The Study In Research

Here are some real-life examples of how the background of the study can be written in different fields of study:

Example 1 : “There has been a significant increase in the incidence of diabetes in recent years. This has led to an increased demand for effective diabetes management strategies. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a new diabetes management program in improving patient outcomes.”

Example 2 : “The use of social media has become increasingly prevalent in modern society. Despite its popularity, little is known about the effects of social media use on mental health. This study aims to investigate the relationship between social media use and mental health in young adults.”

Example 3: “Despite significant advancements in cancer treatment, the survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer remains low. The purpose of this study is to identify potential biomarkers that can be used to improve early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.”

Examples of Background of The Study in Proposal

Here are some real-time examples of the background of the study in a proposal:

Example 1 : The prevalence of mental health issues among university students has been increasing over the past decade. This study aims to investigate the causes and impacts of mental health issues on academic performance and wellbeing.

Example 2 : Climate change is a global issue that has significant implications for agriculture in developing countries. This study aims to examine the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers to climate change and identify effective strategies to enhance their resilience.

Example 3 : The use of social media in political campaigns has become increasingly common in recent years. This study aims to analyze the effectiveness of social media campaigns in mobilizing young voters and influencing their voting behavior.

Example 4 : Employee turnover is a major challenge for organizations, especially in the service sector. This study aims to identify the key factors that influence employee turnover in the hospitality industry and explore effective strategies for reducing turnover rates.

Examples of Background of The Study in Thesis

Here are some real-time examples of the background of the study in the thesis:

Example 1 : “Women’s participation in the workforce has increased significantly over the past few decades. However, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions, particularly in male-dominated industries such as technology. This study aims to examine the factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles in the technology industry, with a focus on organizational culture and gender bias.”

Example 2 : “Mental health is a critical component of overall health and well-being. Despite increased awareness of the importance of mental health, there are still significant gaps in access to mental health services, particularly in low-income and rural communities. This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a community-based mental health intervention in improving mental health outcomes in underserved populations.”

Example 3: “The use of technology in education has become increasingly widespread, with many schools adopting online learning platforms and digital resources. However, there is limited research on the impact of technology on student learning outcomes and engagement. This study aims to explore the relationship between technology use and academic achievement among middle school students, as well as the factors that mediate this relationship.”

Examples of Background of The Study in Research Paper

Here are some examples of how the background of the study can be written in various fields:

Example 1: The prevalence of obesity has been on the rise globally, with the World Health Organization reporting that approximately 650 million adults were obese in 2016. Obesity is a major risk factor for several chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. In recent years, several interventions have been proposed to address this issue, including lifestyle changes, pharmacotherapy, and bariatric surgery. However, there is a lack of consensus on the most effective intervention for obesity management. This study aims to investigate the efficacy of different interventions for obesity management and identify the most effective one.

Example 2: Antibiotic resistance has become a major public health threat worldwide. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are associated with longer hospital stays, higher healthcare costs, and increased mortality. The inappropriate use of antibiotics is one of the main factors contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance. Despite numerous efforts to promote the rational use of antibiotics, studies have shown that many healthcare providers continue to prescribe antibiotics inappropriately. This study aims to explore the factors influencing healthcare providers’ prescribing behavior and identify strategies to improve antibiotic prescribing practices.

Example 3: Social media has become an integral part of modern communication, with millions of people worldwide using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media has several advantages, including facilitating communication, connecting people, and disseminating information. However, social media use has also been associated with several negative outcomes, including cyberbullying, addiction, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on mental health and identify the factors that mediate this relationship.

Purpose of Background of The Study

The primary purpose of the background of the study is to help the reader understand the rationale for the research by presenting the historical, theoretical, and empirical background of the problem.

More specifically, the background of the study aims to:

  • Provide a clear understanding of the research problem and its context.
  • Identify the gap in knowledge that the study intends to fill.
  • Establish the significance of the research problem and its potential contribution to the field.
  • Highlight the key concepts, theories, and research findings related to the problem.
  • Provide a rationale for the research questions or hypotheses and the research design.
  • Identify the limitations and scope of the study.

When to Write Background of The Study

The background of the study should be written early on in the research process, ideally before the research design is finalized and data collection begins. This allows the researcher to clearly articulate the rationale for the study and establish a strong foundation for the research.

The background of the study typically comes after the introduction but before the literature review section. It should provide an overview of the research problem and its context, and also introduce the key concepts, theories, and research findings related to the problem.

Writing the background of the study early on in the research process also helps to identify potential gaps in knowledge and areas for further investigation, which can guide the development of the research questions or hypotheses and the research design. By establishing the significance of the research problem and its potential contribution to the field, the background of the study can also help to justify the research and secure funding or support from stakeholders.

Advantage of Background of The Study

The background of the study has several advantages, including:

  • Provides context: The background of the study provides context for the research problem by highlighting the historical, theoretical, and empirical background of the problem. This allows the reader to understand the research problem in its broader context and appreciate its significance.
  • Identifies gaps in knowledge: By reviewing the existing literature related to the research problem, the background of the study can identify gaps in knowledge that the study intends to fill. This helps to establish the novelty and originality of the research and its potential contribution to the field.
  • Justifies the research : The background of the study helps to justify the research by demonstrating its significance and potential impact. This can be useful in securing funding or support for the research.
  • Guides the research design: The background of the study can guide the development of the research questions or hypotheses and the research design by identifying key concepts, theories, and research findings related to the problem. This ensures that the research is grounded in existing knowledge and is designed to address the research problem effectively.
  • Establishes credibility: By demonstrating the researcher’s knowledge of the field and the research problem, the background of the study can establish the researcher’s credibility and expertise, which can enhance the trustworthiness and validity of the research.

Disadvantages of Background of The Study

Some Disadvantages of Background of The Study are as follows:

  • Time-consuming : Writing a comprehensive background of the study can be time-consuming, especially if the research problem is complex and multifaceted. This can delay the research process and impact the timeline for completing the study.
  • Repetitive: The background of the study can sometimes be repetitive, as it often involves summarizing existing research and theories related to the research problem. This can be tedious for the reader and may make the section less engaging.
  • Limitations of existing research: The background of the study can reveal the limitations of existing research related to the problem. This can create challenges for the researcher in developing research questions or hypotheses that address the gaps in knowledge identified in the background of the study.
  • Bias : The researcher’s biases and perspectives can influence the content and tone of the background of the study. This can impact the reader’s perception of the research problem and may influence the validity of the research.
  • Accessibility: Accessing and reviewing the literature related to the research problem can be challenging, especially if the researcher does not have access to a comprehensive database or if the literature is not available in the researcher’s language. This can limit the depth and scope of the background of the study.

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What is the Background in a Research Paper?

An effective Background section in your manuscript establishes the context for your study. And while original research requires novel findings, providing the necessary background information for these findings may be just as important. It lets your readers know that your findings are novel, important, and worthy of their time and attention.

Updated on October 3, 2022

What is the Background in a Research Paper?

A good Background section explains the history and nature of your research question in relation to existing literature – a “state of the art.” This section, along with the rationale, helps readers understand why you chose to study this problem and why your study is worthwhile. This article will show you how to do this.

Read on to better understand the:

  • Real purpose of the Background section
  • Typical length of a Background section and its placement
  • Elements of an effective Background

What is the Background section of a research paper?

The Background section is an essential element of every study, answering:

  • What do we already know about the topic?
  • How does your study relate to what's been done so far in your field?
  • What is its scope?
  • Why does the topic warrant your interest and their interest?
  • How did you develop the research question that you'll later introduce?

In grant writing, a Background section is often referred to as the “state of the art,” and this is a useful term to have in mind when writing this part of your paper.

What comes next?

After you make the above points,

  • Formulate your research question/hypothesis . Research aims and objectives should be closely related to how you'll fill the gap you've identified in the literature. Your research gap is the central theme of your article and why people should read it.
  • Summarize how you'll address it in the paper . Your methodology needs to be appropriate for addressing the “problem” you've identified.
  • Describe the significance of your study . Show how your research fits into the bigger picture.

Note that the Background section isn't the same as the research rationale. Rather, it provides the relevant information the reader needs so they can follow your rationale. For example, it

  • Explains scientific terms
  • Provides available data and statistics on the topic
  • Describes the methods used so far on your topic. Especially if these are different from what you're going to do. Take special care here, because this is often where peer reviewers focus intently.

This is a logical approach to what comes after the study's background. Use it and the reader can easily follow along from the broader information to the specific details that come later. Crucially, they'll have confidence that your analysis and findings are valid.

Where should the background be placed in a research paper?

Usually, the background comes after the statement of the problem, in the Introduction section. Logically, you need to provide the study context before discussing the research questions, methodology, and results.

The background can be found in:

The abstract

The background typically forms the first few sentences of the abstract. Why did you do the study? Most journals state this clearly. In an unstructured (no subheadings) abstract, it's the first sentence or two. In a structured abstract, it might be called the Introduction, Background, or State-of-the-Art.

PLOS Medicine , for example, asks for research article abstracts to be split into three sections: Background, Methods and Findings, and Conclusions. Journals in the humanities or social sciences might not clearly ask for it because articles sometimes have a looser structure than STEM articles.

The first part of the Introduction section

In the journal Nature , for example, the Introduction should be around 200 words and include

  • Two to three sentences giving a basic introduction to the field.
  • The background and rationale of the study are stated briefly.
  • A simple phrase “Here we show ...”, or “In this study, we show ....” (to round out the Introduction).

The Journal of Organic Chemistry has similar author guidelines.

The Background as a distinct section

This is often the case for research proposals or some types of reports, as discussed above. Rather than reviewing the literature, this is a concise summary of what's currently known in the field relevant to the question being addressed in this proposed study.

How long should the Background section be?

As mentioned, there's no set length for the Background section. It generally depends on the journal and the content of your manuscript. Check the journal's author guidelines, the research center, granting agency, etc. If it's still not clear or if the instructions are contradictory, email or phone them directly.

The length of your background will depend on:

The manuscript length and content

A book-length study needs a more extensive Background than a four-page research article. Exploring a relatively unknown method or question might also need a longer Background.

For example, see this Frontiers article on the applications of artificial intelligence for developing COVID-19 vaccines. It has a seven-paragraph long Background (1,200 words) in a separate section. The authors need to discuss earlier successful uses of machine learning for therapy discovery to make a convincing case.

An academic paper published in an international journal is usually around 5,000 words. Your paper needs to be balanced, with appropriate text lengths used for the different sections: It would make no sense to have a 300-word introduction and then 4,000 words for the methods, for example. In a 5,000-word manuscript, you'll be able to use about 1,500 for the introduction, which includes the background.

How much you need to show your understanding of the topic

A lengthy grant application might need a longer Background (sub-)section. That's because if they're going to grant you money, they need a very good reason to. You'll need to show that the work is both interesting and doable. The Background is where you can do this.

What should the Background of a research manuscript include?

The Background of a research paper needs to show two things:

The study's territory ( scope )

First, provide a general overview of the field. Scientists in most disciplines should find it relatively easy to understand. Be broad, keep it interesting. Don't go into the specifics of your particular study.

Let's look at two examples:

  • one from basic research (seeking to generate new knowledge)
  • one from applied research (trying to solve or improve existing processes or products)

Applied research

This Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence article explores how AI can help discover treatments for COVID-19.

The background of the study can be found (i) in the abstract and (ii) in a separate section discussed at the end of this article. The abstract starts with this general overview: “SARS-COV-2 has roused the scientific community with a call to action to combat the growing pandemic.” ( Arshadi et al., 2020 ). This is broad, and it's interesting. This is a topic that many researchers (even from outside this specific area) may want to learn more about.

Think of any theories, models, concepts, or terms (maybe borrowed from different disciplines) that may be unfamiliar to your reader. Be sure to clarify them in plainer language, if necessary.

For example, this systematic review looks at the connections of physician burnout with career engagement and quality of patient care. The Background is in the Introduction section. It starts by defining what burnout is:

  • “Burnout is defined as a syndrome related to work that involves three key dimensions.” ( Hodkinson et al., 2022 )

The authors go on to explain its three aspects: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment.

Basic research

Imagine you're investigating how universities' moves to online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted students' learning outcomes in the United Kingdom. The overview could be:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown generated tremendous challenges across the higher education sector. University campuses were forced to close. Face-to-face teaching and assessment transitioned into a virtual format.

2. The niche in the field (motivation)

To establish the niche in your field, describe what drove you to explore this specific topic.

  • Explain how (un)successfully previous studies have investigated the problem.
  • Note the knowledge gap or present a problem with a currently used process/practice/product.

After setting the stage, the abstract of the Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence article identifies a problem:

  • “At the time of this writing, there are as yet no novel antiviral agents or approved vaccines available for deployment as a frontline defense.” ( Arshadi et al., 2020 )

The authors need to support their claim that computational methods can help discover new COVID-19 treatments. They do so by referring to previous research findings:

  • “In the last decade, machine learning-based models, trained on specific biomolecules, have offered inexpensive and rapid implementation methods for the discovery of effective viral therapies.” ( Arshadi et al., 2020 )

Going back to the study on students' learning outcomes after universities introduced e-learning. The background section will next identify and describe the current knowledge gap and your proposed method of fixing it. It may be something like:

  • Existing literature and studies by the UK Department for Education reveal x + y changes and effects on teaching and learning. Yet they provide little to no information on students' learning outcomes. Understanding the impact of online teaching and assessments on student outcomes is key to adopting future teaching practices and ensuring students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not left behind.

How is the background different from the literature review?

Both the background and literature review sections compile previous studies that are relevant and important to the topic.

Despite their similarities, they're different in scope and aims.

the differences between a background and a literature review

Overall, the research background could be seen as a small part of the detailed critical discussion in the literature review. Almost always, primary research articles do not include a detailed literature review.

How is the Background different from the Introduction section?

Although often part of the Introduction, the Background differs from the Introduction in scope and aim.

the differences between a background and an introduction

Breakdown of the Background in published articles

Consider this systematic review looking at the connections of physician burnout with career engagement and quality of patient care.

The Background is placed in the Introduction section. It's critical, consistent, and logically structured, moving from general to specific information.

main aspects of the background of a study

You can also check out the summary paragraph breakdown provided by Nature. (Nature's “summary paragraph” is essentially an abstract.)

And if you're looking for some help, or have an article that's finished but needs a pre-submission review click here to connect with one of our expert AJE editors.

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How To Write A Lab Report | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples

Published on May 20, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment. The main purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method by performing and evaluating a hands-on lab experiment. This type of assignment is usually shorter than a research paper .

Lab reports are commonly used in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This article focuses on how to structure and write a lab report.

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Table of contents

Structuring a lab report, introduction, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about lab reports.

The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but they usually contain the purpose, methods, and findings of a lab experiment .

Each section of a lab report has its own purpose.

  • Title: expresses the topic of your study
  • Abstract : summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
  • Introduction: establishes the context needed to understand the topic
  • Method: describes the materials and procedures used in the experiment
  • Results: reports all descriptive and inferential statistical analyses
  • Discussion: interprets and evaluates results and identifies limitations
  • Conclusion: sums up the main findings of your experiment
  • References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA )
  • Appendices : contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures

Although most lab reports contain these sections, some sections can be omitted or combined with others. For example, some lab reports contain a brief section on research aims instead of an introduction, and a separate conclusion is not always required.

If you’re not sure, it’s best to check your lab report requirements with your instructor.

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Your title provides the first impression of your lab report – effective titles communicate the topic and/or the findings of your study in specific terms.

Create a title that directly conveys the main focus or purpose of your study. It doesn’t need to be creative or thought-provoking, but it should be informative.

  • The effects of varying nitrogen levels on tomato plant height.
  • Testing the universality of the McGurk effect.
  • Comparing the viscosity of common liquids found in kitchens.

An abstract condenses a lab report into a brief overview of about 150–300 words. It should provide readers with a compact version of the research aims, the methods and materials used, the main results, and the final conclusion.

Think of it as a way of giving readers a preview of your full lab report. Write the abstract last, in the past tense, after you’ve drafted all the other sections of your report, so you’ll be able to succinctly summarize each section.

To write a lab report abstract, use these guiding questions:

  • What is the wider context of your study?
  • What research question were you trying to answer?
  • How did you perform the experiment?
  • What did your results show?
  • How did you interpret your results?
  • What is the importance of your findings?

Nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for high quality plants. Tomatoes, one of the most consumed fruits worldwide, rely on nitrogen for healthy leaves and stems to grow fruit. This experiment tested whether nitrogen levels affected tomato plant height in a controlled setting. It was expected that higher levels of nitrogen fertilizer would yield taller tomato plants.

Levels of nitrogen fertilizer were varied between three groups of tomato plants. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer, while one experimental group received low levels of nitrogen fertilizer, and a second experimental group received high levels of nitrogen fertilizer. All plants were grown from seeds, and heights were measured 50 days into the experiment.

The effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were tested between groups using an ANOVA. The plants with the highest level of nitrogen fertilizer were the tallest, while the plants with low levels of nitrogen exceeded the control group plants in height. In line with expectations and previous findings, the effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were statistically significant. This study strengthens the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants.

Your lab report introduction should set the scene for your experiment. One way to write your introduction is with a funnel (an inverted triangle) structure:

  • Start with the broad, general research topic
  • Narrow your topic down your specific study focus
  • End with a clear research question

Begin by providing background information on your research topic and explaining why it’s important in a broad real-world or theoretical context. Describe relevant previous research on your topic and note how your study may confirm it or expand it, or fill a gap in the research field.

This lab experiment builds on previous research from Haque, Paul, and Sarker (2011), who demonstrated that tomato plant yield increased at higher levels of nitrogen. However, the present research focuses on plant height as a growth indicator and uses a lab-controlled setting instead.

Next, go into detail on the theoretical basis for your study and describe any directly relevant laws or equations that you’ll be using. State your main research aims and expectations by outlining your hypotheses .

Based on the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants, the primary hypothesis was that the plants with the high levels of nitrogen would grow the tallest. The secondary hypothesis was that plants with low levels of nitrogen would grow taller than plants with no nitrogen.

Your introduction doesn’t need to be long, but you may need to organize it into a few paragraphs or with subheadings such as “Research Context” or “Research Aims.”

A lab report Method section details the steps you took to gather and analyze data. Give enough detail so that others can follow or evaluate your procedures. Write this section in the past tense. If you need to include any long lists of procedural steps or materials, place them in the Appendices section but refer to them in the text here.

You should describe your experimental design, your subjects, materials, and specific procedures used for data collection and analysis.

Experimental design

Briefly note whether your experiment is a within-subjects  or between-subjects design, and describe how your sample units were assigned to conditions if relevant.

A between-subjects design with three groups of tomato plants was used. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer. The first experimental group received a low level of nitrogen fertilizer, while the second experimental group received a high level of nitrogen fertilizer.

Describe human subjects in terms of demographic characteristics, and animal or plant subjects in terms of genetic background. Note the total number of subjects as well as the number of subjects per condition or per group. You should also state how you recruited subjects for your study.

List the equipment or materials you used to gather data and state the model names for any specialized equipment.

List of materials

35 Tomato seeds

15 plant pots (15 cm tall)

Light lamps (50,000 lux)

Nitrogen fertilizer

Measuring tape

Describe your experimental settings and conditions in detail. You can provide labelled diagrams or images of the exact set-up necessary for experimental equipment. State how extraneous variables were controlled through restriction or by fixing them at a certain level (e.g., keeping the lab at room temperature).

Light levels were fixed throughout the experiment, and the plants were exposed to 12 hours of light a day. Temperature was restricted to between 23 and 25℃. The pH and carbon levels of the soil were also held constant throughout the experiment as these variables could influence plant height. The plants were grown in rooms free of insects or other pests, and they were spaced out adequately.

Your experimental procedure should describe the exact steps you took to gather data in chronological order. You’ll need to provide enough information so that someone else can replicate your procedure, but you should also be concise. Place detailed information in the appendices where appropriate.

In a lab experiment, you’ll often closely follow a lab manual to gather data. Some instructors will allow you to simply reference the manual and state whether you changed any steps based on practical considerations. Other instructors may want you to rewrite the lab manual procedures as complete sentences in coherent paragraphs, while noting any changes to the steps that you applied in practice.

If you’re performing extensive data analysis, be sure to state your planned analysis methods as well. This includes the types of tests you’ll perform and any programs or software you’ll use for calculations (if relevant).

First, tomato seeds were sown in wooden flats containing soil about 2 cm below the surface. Each seed was kept 3-5 cm apart. The flats were covered to keep the soil moist until germination. The seedlings were removed and transplanted to pots 8 days later, with a maximum of 2 plants to a pot. Each pot was watered once a day to keep the soil moist.

The nitrogen fertilizer treatment was applied to the plant pots 12 days after transplantation. The control group received no treatment, while the first experimental group received a low concentration, and the second experimental group received a high concentration. There were 5 pots in each group, and each plant pot was labelled to indicate the group the plants belonged to.

50 days after the start of the experiment, plant height was measured for all plants. A measuring tape was used to record the length of the plant from ground level to the top of the tallest leaf.

In your results section, you should report the results of any statistical analysis procedures that you undertook. You should clearly state how the results of statistical tests support or refute your initial hypotheses.

The main results to report include:

  • any descriptive statistics
  • statistical test results
  • the significance of the test results
  • estimates of standard error or confidence intervals

The mean heights of the plants in the control group, low nitrogen group, and high nitrogen groups were 20.3, 25.1, and 29.6 cm respectively. A one-way ANOVA was applied to calculate the effect of nitrogen fertilizer level on plant height. The results demonstrated statistically significant ( p = .03) height differences between groups.

Next, post-hoc tests were performed to assess the primary and secondary hypotheses. In support of the primary hypothesis, the high nitrogen group plants were significantly taller than the low nitrogen group and the control group plants. Similarly, the results supported the secondary hypothesis: the low nitrogen plants were taller than the control group plants.

These results can be reported in the text or in tables and figures. Use text for highlighting a few key results, but present large sets of numbers in tables, or show relationships between variables with graphs.

You should also include sample calculations in the Results section for complex experiments. For each sample calculation, provide a brief description of what it does and use clear symbols. Present your raw data in the Appendices section and refer to it to highlight any outliers or trends.

The Discussion section will help demonstrate your understanding of the experimental process and your critical thinking skills.

In this section, you can:

  • Interpret your results
  • Compare your findings with your expectations
  • Identify any sources of experimental error
  • Explain any unexpected results
  • Suggest possible improvements for further studies

Interpreting your results involves clarifying how your results help you answer your main research question. Report whether your results support your hypotheses.

  • Did you measure what you sought out to measure?
  • Were your analysis procedures appropriate for this type of data?

Compare your findings with other research and explain any key differences in findings.

  • Are your results in line with those from previous studies or your classmates’ results? Why or why not?

An effective Discussion section will also highlight the strengths and limitations of a study.

  • Did you have high internal validity or reliability?
  • How did you establish these aspects of your study?

When describing limitations, use specific examples. For example, if random error contributed substantially to the measurements in your study, state the particular sources of error (e.g., imprecise apparatus) and explain ways to improve them.

The results support the hypothesis that nitrogen levels affect plant height, with increasing levels producing taller plants. These statistically significant results are taken together with previous research to support the importance of nitrogen as a nutrient for tomato plant growth.

However, unlike previous studies, this study focused on plant height as an indicator of plant growth in the present experiment. Importantly, plant height may not always reflect plant health or fruit yield, so measuring other indicators would have strengthened the study findings.

Another limitation of the study is the plant height measurement technique, as the measuring tape was not suitable for plants with extreme curvature. Future studies may focus on measuring plant height in different ways.

The main strengths of this study were the controls for extraneous variables, such as pH and carbon levels of the soil. All other factors that could affect plant height were tightly controlled to isolate the effects of nitrogen levels, resulting in high internal validity for this study.

Your conclusion should be the final section of your lab report. Here, you’ll summarize the findings of your experiment, with a brief overview of the strengths and limitations, and implications of your study for further research.

Some lab reports may omit a Conclusion section because it overlaps with the Discussion section, but you should check with your instructor before doing so.

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A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment . Lab reports are commonly assigned in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method with a hands-on lab experiment. Course instructors will often provide you with an experimental design and procedure. Your task is to write up how you actually performed the experiment and evaluate the outcome.

In contrast, a research paper requires you to independently develop an original argument. It involves more in-depth research and interpretation of sources and data.

A lab report is usually shorter than a research paper.

The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but it usually contains the following:

  • Abstract: summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
  • References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA)
  • Appendices: contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

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How Do You Do Background Research For A Science Project

Science Fair Project . 6th – 8th Grade Science.

so save this form in your science folder of your computer. Create a Bibliography for your sources on a goggle document following the APA guidelines. Write your 1-2 page Research Paper on the a google doc. Remember to use APA format. To move on to your next step click the following link – Task 3: Constructing a Hypothesis.

Video advice: Challenge A Science Fair part 2… Research Question, Background Research, and Hypothesis

How Do You Do Background Research For A Science Project

Task 2: Doing Background ResearchBy returning to the How to Do a Science Fair Project link, you will find that your next step in your science fair project is to get background information about your topic by doing research. * Use the AEA website for your research BEFORE google. com. You are required to have at least 2 of the 3 required sources from the AEA databases. Click to view AEA resources. You will need to put in your password information already given to you to view resources. Background Research Plan – This is an EXCELLENT source in giving you the why to researching. READ the Key Info box and the examples carefully. You will use the information on this site and the Background Research Plan Worksheet given to you to help you plan your research. Finding Information – I am requiring that you find at least 3 sources of information to support your project. READ the Key Info box, follow the criteria listed in deciding if a source is good or bad, and use the helpful tips provided on this page for narrowing your searches for specific information.

Science Fair Background Research Paper

Create a Title Relates to experiment The reader should be able to tell what your experiment is about by looking at the title. You may have a subtitle.

2. Question/Hypothesis What’s your experiment? Here’s your research question using the IV and DV. How can you think your experiment works? Here’s your hypothesis: That which you be prepared to happen If IV, then DV. Engineering Goals What problem does any project solve? Does your research allow you to create a conjecture of what’s going to exist in your experiment?

Video advice: How to Write the Background of the Study in Research (Part 1). See Links Below for Parts 2, 3, and 4

Full transcript of the video lecture on \”How to Write the Background of the Study Part 1\” is available at:

How Do You Do Background Research For A Science Project

Presentation on theme: “Science Fair Background Research Paper”— Presentation transcript:

*Subject Specific ONLY: Human ParticipantsWho is participating? (age, gender, race, etc. ) Where and how will you find and invite? What will they do and for how long? (survey, questionnaire, tests) What are the risks and how will you minimize? What are the benefits? Protection of Privacy Will any identifiable info be collected? Will data be confidential/ anonymous? How ill you collect and store data for confidentiality. Informed Consent How will you tell participants about purpose of study, what to do, and voluntary participation?

Video advice: Introduction to Science Fair Background Research Paper

How Do You Do Background Research For A Science Project

What is background in a science project?

The purpose of the Background Research Report is for you to gain knowledge about your Science Fair Project topic . This way you will be able to interpret the results of your experiment and draw conclusions based on the previous knowledge you gained by writing this report.

What is background research in an experiment?

Background research is when you look up what research has already been done on your topic . This includes reading about previous experiments and their...

How do you conduct a background research?

Conduct Background Research: Search for news articles, top hits on Google, and encyclopedia articles.... Starting out? Try Credo.

  • Choose something you are interested in.
  • Start from the assignment due date and work your way back. ...
  • Keep in mind your topic may change as you research and write.

How do you write a science background?

The background should be written as a summary of your interpretation of previous research and what your study proposes to accomplish .... How to avoid common mistakes in writing the background

  • Don't write a background that is too long or too short. ...
  • Don't be ambiguous. ...
  • Don't discuss unrelated themes. ...
  • Don't be disorganized.

How do you write a background for a science report?


  • Background about the analysis to be carried out.
  • A brief review of previous research (relevant literature) to give a background - paraphrase relevant facts from the scientific literature, citing the sources to support each statement.
  • Reason/s why the research was undertaken.

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What Is Background in a Research Paper?

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So you have carefully written your research paper  and probably ran it through your colleagues ten to fifteen times. While there are many elements to a good research article, one of the most important elements for your readers is the background of your study.

What is Background of the Study in Research

The background of your study will provide context to the information discussed throughout the research paper . Background information may include both important and relevant studies. This is particularly important if a study either supports or refutes your thesis.

Why is Background of the Study Necessary in Research?

The background of the study discusses your problem statement, rationale, and research questions. It links  introduction to your research topic  and ensures a logical flow of ideas.  Thus, it helps readers understand your reasons for conducting the study.

Providing Background Information

The reader should be able to understand your topic and its importance. The length and detail of your background also depend on the degree to which you need to demonstrate your understanding of the topic. Paying close attention to the following questions will help you in writing background information:

  • Are there any theories, concepts, terms, and ideas that may be unfamiliar to the target audience and will require you to provide any additional explanation?
  • Any historical data that need to be shared in order to provide context on why the current issue emerged?
  • Are there any concepts that may have been borrowed from other disciplines that may be unfamiliar to the reader and need an explanation?
Related: Ready with the background and searching for more information on journal ranking? Check this infographic on the SCImago Journal Rank today!

Is the research study unique for which additional explanation is needed? For instance, you may have used a completely new method

How to Write a Background of the Study

The structure of a background study in a research paper generally follows a logical sequence to provide context, justification, and an understanding of the research problem. It includes an introduction, general background, literature review , rationale , objectives, scope and limitations , significance of the study and the research hypothesis . Following the structure can provide a comprehensive and well-organized background for your research.

Here are the steps to effectively write a background of the study.

1. Identify Your Audience:

Determine the level of expertise of your target audience. Tailor the depth and complexity of your background information accordingly.

2. Understand the Research Problem:

Define the research problem or question your study aims to address. Identify the significance of the problem within the broader context of the field.

3. Review Existing Literature:

Conduct a thorough literature review to understand what is already known in the area. Summarize key findings, theories, and concepts relevant to your research.

4. Include Historical Data:

Integrate historical data if relevant to the research, as current issues often trace back to historical events.

5. Identify Controversies and Gaps:

Note any controversies or debates within the existing literature. Identify gaps , limitations, or unanswered questions that your research can address.

6. Select Key Components:

Choose the most critical elements to include in the background based on their relevance to your research problem. Prioritize information that helps build a strong foundation for your study.

7. Craft a Logical Flow:

Organize the background information in a logical sequence. Start with general context, move to specific theories and concepts, and then focus on the specific problem.

8. Highlight the Novelty of Your Research:

Clearly explain the unique aspects or contributions of your study. Emphasize why your research is different from or builds upon existing work.

Here are some extra tips to increase the quality of your research background:

Example of a Research Background

Here is an example of a research background to help you understand better.

The above hypothetical example provides a research background, addresses the gap and highlights the potential outcome of the study; thereby aiding a better understanding of the proposed research.

What Makes the Introduction Different from the Background?

Your introduction is different from your background in a number of ways.

  • The introduction contains preliminary data about your topic that  the reader will most likely read , whereas the background clarifies the importance of the paper.
  • The background of your study discusses in depth about the topic, whereas the introduction only gives an overview.
  • The introduction should end with your research questions, aims, and objectives, whereas your background should not (except in some cases where your background is integrated into your introduction). For instance, the C.A.R.S. ( Creating a Research Space ) model, created by John Swales is based on his analysis of journal articles. This model attempts to explain and describe the organizational pattern of writing the introduction in social sciences.

Points to Note

Your background should begin with defining a topic and audience. It is important that you identify which topic you need to review and what your audience already knows about the topic. You should proceed by searching and researching the relevant literature. In this case, it is advisable to keep track of the search terms you used and the articles that you downloaded. It is helpful to use one of the research paper management systems such as Papers, Mendeley, Evernote, or Sente. Next, it is helpful to take notes while reading. Be careful when copying quotes verbatim and make sure to put them in quotation marks and cite the sources. In addition, you should keep your background focused but balanced enough so that it is relevant to a broader audience. Aside from these, your background should be critical, consistent, and logically structured.

Writing the background of your study should not be an overly daunting task. Many guides that can help you organize your thoughts as you write the background. The background of the study is the key to introduce your audience to your research topic and should be done with strong knowledge and thoughtful writing.

The background of a research paper typically ranges from one to two paragraphs, summarizing the relevant literature and context of the study. It should be concise, providing enough information to contextualize the research problem and justify the need for the study. Journal instructions about any word count limits should be kept in mind while deciding on the length of the final content.

The background of a research paper provides the context and relevant literature to understand the research problem, while the introduction also introduces the specific research topic, states the research objectives, and outlines the scope of the study. The background focuses on the broader context, whereas the introduction focuses on the specific research project and its objectives.

When writing the background for a study, start by providing a brief overview of the research topic and its significance in the field. Then, highlight the gaps in existing knowledge or unresolved issues that the study aims to address. Finally, summarize the key findings from relevant literature to establish the context and rationale for conducting the research, emphasizing the need and importance of the study within the broader academic landscape.

The background in a research paper is crucial as it sets the stage for the study by providing essential context and rationale. It helps readers understand the significance of the research problem and its relevance in the broader field. By presenting relevant literature and highlighting gaps, the background justifies the need for the study, building a strong foundation for the research and enhancing its credibility.

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Based on the spatially correlated effects of air pollution on regional innovation, theoretical hypotheses are proposed, and this paper employs a spatial Durbin model to conduct empirical tests using panel data from 267 Chinese cities from 2003 to 2019, and investigates the mediating effect of human capital. Research has shown that (1) air pollution significantly reduces regional innovation output and has a negative spatial spillover effect significantly in the short term; (2) in the process of regional innovation impacted by air pollution, human capital acts as a mediator role; and (3) analysis of heterogeneity reveals that, from the regional perspective, air pollution has significantly damaged regional innovation in eastern and middle cities, but not significantly influences western cities, and in terms of innovation types, there is a stronger detrimental effect on invention patents exerted by air pollution compared to non-innovation patents. The study’s findings provide theoretical and empirical evidence to strengthen environmental governance, enhance regional innovation and promote the coordinated development of regional innovation.

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Data availability

Patents data are available at https://www.cnrds.com . The original data for PM2.5 are available at https://sites.wustl.edu/acag/datasets/surface-pm2-5/ . The other data available from the National Statistical Office and individual provincial and municipal statistical offices.


According to the China Science and Technology Statistical Yearbook, the total number of research and experimental development personnel in the eastern, middle and western regions accounted for 65.44%, 20.73% and 13.83% of the country's total in 2019, respectively.

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Wang, M., Hou, H. & Zhang, M. The impact of air pollution on regional innovation: empirical evidence based on 267 cities in China. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-024-32804-1

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Regions & Countries

How americans view the coronavirus, covid-19 vaccines amid declining levels of concern, continued decline in share of u.s. adults with up-to-date vaccination.

background research science report

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand Americans’ views of the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines. For this analysis, we surveyed 10,133 U.S. adults from Feb. 7 to 11, 2024.

Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used for this report , along with responses, and its methodology .

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that just 20% of Americans view the coronavirus as a major threat to the health of the U.S. population today and only 10% are very concerned they will get it and require hospitalization. This data represents a low ebb of public concern about the virus that reached its height in the summer and fall of 2020, when as many as two-thirds of Americans viewed COVID-19 as a major threat to public health.

Just 28% of U.S. adults say they have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last fall to protect against serious illness. This stands in stark contrast to the spring and summer of 2021, when long lines and limited availability characterized the initial rollout of the first COVID-19 vaccines. A majority of U.S. adults (69%) had been fully vaccinated by August 2021.

Chart shows Declining share of Americans have the most up-to-date level of protection against the coronavirus

Underscoring the limited demand for the updated COVID-19 vaccines, a larger share of U.S. adults say they’ve gotten a flu shot in the last six months than the updated coronavirus vaccine (44% vs. 28%). And despite a public health push encouraging adults to get both vaccines at the same time, almost half of those who received a flu shot from a health care provider chose not to get the updated COVID-19 vaccine.

The vast majority of Americans have some level of protection from the coronavirus because of vaccination, prior infection or a combination of the two. This has led to a decline in severe illness from the disease.

Still, the virus continues to circulate widely in the United States , with wastewater data suggesting that cases in the early part of 2024 were among the highest they have been since the first omicron wave in 2022.  

Long COVID ranks among the concerns of public health experts. Long COVID refers to a variety of symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog that last longer than a month after a COVID-19 infection.

The survey – conducted among 10,133 U.S. adults from Feb. 7 to 11, 2024 – finds that 50% of Americans say it is extremely or very important for medical researchers and health care providers to understand and treat long COVID; 27% see this as a less important issue and 22% of Americans say they haven’t heard of long COVID.

Continuity and change: Partisan views of COVID-19

Partisanship remains one of the most powerful factors shaping views about COVID-19 vaccines and the virus. But the size and nature of differences between Republicans and Democrats have evolved since earlier stages of the outbreak.

Chart shows Amid waning public concern, smaller partisan gap in views of the public health threat posed by the coronavirus

For instance, the gap between the shares of Democrats and Republicans who view the coronavirus as a major threat to public health has fallen from 37 percentage points in May 2022 to 16 points today. In the pandemic’s first year, Democrats were routinely about 40 points more likely than Republicans to view the coronavirus as a major threat to the health of the U.S. population. This gap has waned as overall levels of concern have fallen.

When it comes to vaccination, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents remain more likely than Republicans and GOP leaners to say they’ve received an updated COVID-19 vaccine (42% vs. 15%). This 27-point gap in recent vaccination is about the same as in January 2022 when 62% of Democrats and 33% of Republicans said they were up to date (i.e., fully vaccinated and recently boosted).

In addition to partisanship, age continues to matter a great deal in attitudes and behaviors tied to the coronavirus. And the intersection of partisanship and age reveals one of the biggest recent changes in the public’s response to the outbreak: a growing divergence between the oldest Republicans and oldest Democrats in vaccine uptake, which is explored below.

COVID-19 vaccination among adults ages 65 and older, by party

Older adults continue to be one of the most at-risk groups for severe illness and death from COVID-19.

Chart shows Sharp decline in share of older Republicans who are up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations

When vaccines first became available in 2021, large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats ages 65 and older said they had received the vaccine. But as additional doses have become available, uptake among older Republicans has declined at a faster rate than among older Democrats.

In the current survey, 66% of Democrats ages 65 and older say they have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 24% of Republicans ages 65 and older.

This 42-point partisan gap is much wider now than at other points since the start of the outbreak. For instance, in August 2021, 93% of older Democrats and 78% of older Republicans said they had received all the shots needed to be fully vaccinated (a 15-point gap). Go to the Appendix for more details .

How COVID-19 vaccination varies by age within parties

Chart shows Younger Democrats much less likely than older Democrats to have received new COVID-19 vaccine

The impact of age is also striking when looking within political parties.

Among Democrats, about three-in-ten adults under 50 have received an updated COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 48% of those ages 50 to 64 and 66% of Democrats ages 65 and older.

Age differences within the GOP run in the same direction, but are much more modest, reflecting, in part, low overall levels of vaccine uptake.

How COVID-19 vaccination varies by race and ethnicity

Similar shares of White (28%), Black (29%) and Hispanic (27%) adults say they have gotten the updated vaccine. English-speaking Asian adults (35%) are slightly more likely to report receiving the updated vaccine.

As in past Center surveys, there are racial and ethnic differences in vaccine uptake among Democrats.

For instance, 50% of White Democrats and 42% of English-speaking Asian Democrats report having received the updated vaccine, compared with somewhat smaller shares of Black and Hispanic Democrats (32% each).

Views of long COVID

Half of Americans say it is extremely or very important for medical researchers and health care providers to understand and treat long COVID, considering all the different priorities they face.

Chart shows Half of Americans say it is extremely or very important for medical professionals to address long COVID

About two-in-ten (21%) say it’s somewhat important for those in medicine to address long COVID, while 6% say it is not too or not at all important. Another 22% say they haven’t heard of long COVID.

More Democrats (61%) than Republicans (37%) say it is extremely or very important for medical researchers and health care providers to understand and treat long COVID.

A majority of women (56%) consider this extremely or very important; a smaller share of men (44%) say the same. The CDC has reported that women are more likely than men to develop long COVID symptoms.

Awareness of long COVID also shapes views on its importance: Those who have heard a lot about long COVID are more likely than those who have heard a little about it to say it’s extremely or very important for medical professional to address it (76% vs. 60%).

Views of the threat posed by the coronavirus

Chart shows 1 in 5 Americans now say the coronavirus is a major threat to public health

One-in-five Americans now say the coronavirus is a major threat to the health of the U.S. population, down from a high of 67% in July 2020.

Concern about the coronavirus as a major threat to the U.S. economy has also declined dramatically. Today, 23% of Americans say it’s a major threat to the economy, compared with 88% in May 2020. The pandemic spurred an economic recession in 2020 and a spike in unemployment that reached the highest levels since the Great Recession.

Federal policy on the coronavirus has changed as public concern – and the incidence of severe illness – has fallen. The Biden administration ended the public health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic in May 2023. And the CDC recently released updated guidelines with shorter isolation periods for adults testing positive for the disease.

While large partisan gaps characterized views of the coronavirus as a major threat to public health for much of the pandemic, those gaps were far smaller on views of the virus as a major threat to the economy. In the current survey, just a 6-point gap separates Republicans and Democrats with this view (20% vs. 26%, respectively) – similar to the 9-point party gap seen in May 2022.

Personal concern about getting or spreading COVID-19

About a quarter of Americans (27%) are very or somewhat concerned about getting a serious case of COVID-19 that would require hospitalization. A somewhat higher share (40%) say they are very or somewhat concerned they might spread the coronavirus to other people without knowing it.

Chart shows Long-term decline in concern about getting a serious case of COVID-19 or unknowingly spreading it

Levels of concern for getting or spreading the coronavirus are about the same as they were in March 2023 and remain down dramatically from early in the pandemic.

The share of Americans who are very or somewhat concerned about getting a serious case is 26 points lower than in November 2020, before a COVID-19 vaccine was available to the public. And the share of Americans who are at least somewhat concerned about spreading COVID-19 without knowing it is down 24 points since November 2020.

Still, the current data shows how the virus remains a concern in daily life for many Americans, more than four years after the first confirmed coronavirus cases appeared in the U.S.

Consistent with past Center surveys, there are demographic and political differences in personal concern about getting a serious case of COVID-19 and unknowingly spreading the virus:

Chart shows Democrats much more concerned than Republicans about risk of unknowingly spreading COVID-19

  • Income: Lower-income Americans continue to be particularly concerned (38%) about getting a serious case of COVID-19. They’re also more likely than middle- and upper-income Americans to worry about unknowingly spreading COVID-19, but the differences are more modest.
  • Party: Democrats (54%) are more than twice as likely as Republicans (24%) to be very or somewhat concerned about unknowingly spreading COVID-19. And they’re 16 points more likely to express concern about getting a serious case of the disease.
  • Race and ethnicity: White Americans (20%) are less likely to be concerned about getting a serious case of COVID-19 than Black (43%), Hispanic (39%) and English-speaking Asian Americans (36%).

Some of the groups most personally concerned about getting a severe case of COVID-19 are also among the groups most concerned about the public health threat from the coronavirus. For example, Black adults and adults with lower incomes express more concern about the personal health and public health impact of the coronavirus than White adults and those with upper incomes.

Uptake of the flu shot

Chart shows Majorities of the oldest U.S. adults got a flu shot this year and say they typically get one annually

The survey finds 44% of U.S. adults say they have gotten a flu shot since August. This share is down slightly from last March, when 49% of Americans said they had recently gotten a flu shot.

Uptake varies by the following factors:

  • Age: Older Americans continue to be more likely to report getting the flu shot. Two-thirds of Americans ages 65 and older say they have gotten the flu shot since August. By comparison, only about a third of those under age 50 say the same. These large age differences are seen among both Democrats and Republicans.
  • Race and ethnicity: English-speaking Asian Americans (52%) and White Americans (48%) are more likely than Black Americans (38%) and Hispanic Americans (33%) to say they have gotten a flu shot since August. These racial and ethnic differences are consistent with past Center surveys.
  • Partisan affiliation: Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they got a flu shot this year (53% vs. 37%). This 16-point gap is twice as big now as it was in November 2020, during the pandemic’s first year. The current partisan difference in flu shot uptake is similar to the one recorded in March 2023.

The flu shot and updated COVID-19 vaccines are both recommended to protect against severe illness, but Americans approach these vaccines differently.

Chart shows Republicans are much more likely to get the flu shot than the updated COVID-19 vaccine

Americans are more likely to report that they received a flu shot than the updated COVID-19 vaccine this year (44% vs. 28%).

This gap in uptake between the flu shot and updated COVID-19 vaccine is more pronounced among Republicans than Democrats.

Republicans are more than twice as likely to say they’ve gotten a flu shot since August as to say they’ve received an updated COVID-19 vaccine (37% vs. 15%). Among Democrats, this difference is more modest (53% vs. 42%).

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About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

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Title: uni-smart: universal science multimodal analysis and research transformer.

Abstract: In scientific research and its application, scientific literature analysis is crucial as it allows researchers to build on the work of others. However, the fast growth of scientific knowledge has led to a massive increase in scholarly articles, making in-depth literature analysis increasingly challenging and time-consuming. The emergence of Large Language Models (LLMs) has offered a new way to address this challenge. Known for their strong abilities in summarizing texts, LLMs are seen as a potential tool to improve the analysis of scientific literature. However, existing LLMs have their own limits. Scientific literature often includes a wide range of multimodal elements, such as molecular structure, tables, and charts, which are hard for text-focused LLMs to understand and analyze. This issue points to the urgent need for new solutions that can fully understand and analyze multimodal content in scientific literature. To answer this demand, we present Uni-SMART (Universal Science Multimodal Analysis and Research Transformer), an innovative model designed for in-depth understanding of multimodal scientific literature. Through rigorous quantitative evaluation across several domains, Uni-SMART demonstrates superior performance over leading text-focused LLMs. Furthermore, our exploration extends to practical applications, including patent infringement detection and nuanced analysis of charts. These applications not only highlight Uni-SMART's adaptability but also its potential to revolutionize how we interact with scientific literature.

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More Studies by Columbia Cancer Researchers Are Retracted

The studies, pulled because of copied data, illustrate the sluggishness of scientific publishers to address serious errors, experts said.

background research science report

By Benjamin Mueller

Scientists in a prominent cancer lab at Columbia University have now had four studies retracted and a stern note added to a fifth accusing it of “severe abuse of the scientific publishing system,” the latest fallout from research misconduct allegations recently leveled against several leading cancer scientists.

A scientific sleuth in Britain last year uncovered discrepancies in data published by the Columbia lab, including the reuse of photos and other images across different papers. The New York Times reported last month that a medical journal in 2022 had quietly taken down a stomach cancer study by the researchers after an internal inquiry by the journal found ethics violations.

Despite that study’s removal, the researchers — Dr. Sam Yoon, chief of a cancer surgery division at Columbia University’s medical center, and Changhwan Yoon, a more junior biologist there — continued publishing studies with suspicious data. Since 2008, the two scientists have collaborated with other researchers on 26 articles that the sleuth, Sholto David, publicly flagged for misrepresenting experiments’ results.

One of those articles was retracted last month after The Times asked publishers about the allegations. In recent weeks, medical journals have retracted three additional studies, which described new strategies for treating cancers of the stomach, head and neck. Other labs had cited the articles in roughly 90 papers.

A major scientific publisher also appended a blunt note to the article that it had originally taken down without explanation in 2022. “This reuse (and in part, misrepresentation) of data without appropriate attribution represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system,” it said .

Still, those measures addressed only a small fraction of the lab’s suspect papers. Experts said the episode illustrated not only the extent of unreliable research by top labs, but also the tendency of scientific publishers to respond slowly, if at all, to significant problems once they are detected. As a result, other labs keep relying on questionable work as they pour federal research money into studies, allowing errors to accumulate in the scientific record.

“For every one paper that is retracted, there are probably 10 that should be,” said Dr. Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which keeps a database of 47,000-plus retracted studies. “Journals are not particularly interested in correcting the record.”

Columbia’s medical center declined to comment on allegations facing Dr. Yoon’s lab. It said the two scientists remained at Columbia and the hospital “is fully committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and to rigorously maintaining the integrity of our research.”

The lab’s web page was recently taken offline. Columbia declined to say why. Neither Dr. Yoon nor Changhwan Yoon could be reached for comment. (They are not related.)

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where the scientists worked when much of the research was done, is investigating their work.

The Columbia scientists’ retractions come amid growing attention to the suspicious data that undergirds some medical research. Since late February, medical journals have retracted seven papers by scientists at Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute . That followed investigations into data problems publicized by Dr. David , an independent molecular biologist who looks for irregularities in published images of cells, tumors and mice, sometimes with help from A.I. software.

The spate of misconduct allegations has drawn attention to the pressures on academic scientists — even those, like Dr. Yoon, who also work as doctors — to produce heaps of research.

Strong images of experiments’ results are often needed for those studies. Publishing them helps scientists win prestigious academic appointments and attract federal research grants that can pay dividends for themselves and their universities.

Dr. Yoon, a robotic surgery specialist noted for his treatment of stomach cancers, has helped bring in nearly $5 million in federal research money over his career.

The latest retractions from his lab included articles from 2020 and 2021 that Dr. David said contained glaring irregularities . Their results appeared to include identical images of tumor-stricken mice, despite those mice supposedly having been subjected to different experiments involving separate treatments and types of cancer cells.

The medical journal Cell Death & Disease retracted two of the latest studies, and Oncogene retracted the third. The journals found that the studies had also reused other images, like identical pictures of constellations of cancer cells.

The studies Dr. David flagged as containing image problems were largely overseen by the more senior Dr. Yoon. Changhwan Yoon, an associate research scientist who has worked alongside Dr. Yoon for a decade, was often a first author, which generally designates the scientist who ran the bulk of the experiments.

Kun Huang, a scientist in China who oversaw one of the recently retracted studies, a 2020 paper that did not include the more senior Dr. Yoon, attributed that study’s problematic sections to Changhwan Yoon. Dr. Huang, who made those comments this month on PubPeer, a website where scientists post about studies, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

But the more senior Dr. Yoon has long been made aware of problems in research he published alongside Changhwan Yoon: The two scientists were notified of the removal in January 2022 of their stomach cancer study that was found to have violated ethics guidelines.

Research misconduct is often pinned on the more junior researchers who conduct experiments. Other scientists, though, assign greater responsibility to the senior researchers who run labs and oversee studies, even as they juggle jobs as doctors or administrators.

“The research world’s coming to realize that with great power comes great responsibility and, in fact, you are responsible not just for what one of your direct reports in the lab has done, but for the environment you create,” Dr. Oransky said.

In their latest public retraction notices, medical journals said that they had lost faith in the results and conclusions. Imaging experts said some irregularities identified by Dr. David bore signs of deliberate manipulation, like flipped or rotated images, while others could have been sloppy copy-and-paste errors.

The little-noticed removal by a journal of the stomach cancer study in January 2022 highlighted some scientific publishers’ policy of not disclosing the reasons for withdrawing papers as long as they have not yet formally appeared in print. That study had appeared only online.

Roland Herzog, the editor of the journal Molecular Therapy, said that editors had drafted an explanation that they intended to publish at the time of the article’s removal. But Elsevier, the journal’s parent publisher, advised them that such a note was unnecessary, he said.

Only after the Times article last month did Elsevier agree to explain the article’s removal publicly with the stern note. In an editorial this week , the Molecular Therapy editors said that in the future, they would explain the removal of any articles that had been published only online.

But Elsevier said in a statement that it did not consider online articles “to be the final published articles of record.” As a result, company policy continues to advise that such articles be removed without an explanation when they are found to contain problems. The company said it allowed editors to provide additional information where needed.

Elsevier, which publishes nearly 3,000 journals and generates billions of dollars in annual revenue , has long been criticized for its opaque removals of online articles.

Articles by the Columbia scientists with data discrepancies that remain unaddressed were largely distributed by three major publishers: Elsevier, Springer Nature and the American Association for Cancer Research. Dr. David alerted many journals to the data discrepancies in October.

Each publisher said it was investigating the concerns. Springer Nature said investigations take time because they can involve consulting experts, waiting for author responses and analyzing raw data.

Dr. David has also raised concerns about studies published independently by scientists who collaborated with the Columbia researchers on some of their recently retracted papers. For example, Sandra Ryeom, an associate professor of surgical sciences at Columbia, published an article in 2003 while at Harvard that Dr. David said contained a duplicated image . As of 2021, she was married to the more senior Dr. Yoon, according to a mortgage document from that year.

A medical journal appended a formal notice to the article last week saying “appropriate editorial action will be taken” once data concerns had been resolved. Dr. Ryeom said in a statement that she was working with the paper’s senior author on “correcting the error.”

Columbia has sought to reinforce the importance of sound research practices. Hours after the Times article appeared last month, Dr. Michael Shelanski, the medical school’s senior vice dean for research, sent an email to faculty members titled “Research Fraud Accusations — How to Protect Yourself.” It warned that such allegations, whatever their merits, could take a toll on the university.

“In the months that it can take to investigate an allegation,” Dr. Shelanski wrote, “funding can be suspended, and donors can feel that their trust has been betrayed.”

Benjamin Mueller reports on health and medicine. He was previously a U.K. correspondent in London and a police reporter in New York. More about Benjamin Mueller


If faces look like demons, you could have this extraordinary condition

Research visualizes face distortions in a case of prosopometamorphopsia.

Imagine if every time you saw a face, it appeared distorted. Well, for those who have a very rare condition known as prosopometamorphopsia (PMO), which causes facial features to appear distorted, that is reality.

As the Dartmouth-based website about prosopometamorphopsia explains, "'Prosopo' comes from the Greek word for face 'prosopon' while 'metamorphopsia' refers to perceptual distortions.''' Specific symptoms vary from case to case and can affect the shape, size, color, and position of facial features. The duration of PMO also varies; it "can last for days, weeks, or even years."

A new Dartmouth study published in the "Clinical Pictures" section of The Lancet reports on a unique case of a patient with PMO. The research is the first to provide accurate and photorealistic visualizations of the facial distortions experienced by an individual with PMO.

The patient, a 58-year-old male with PMO, sees faces without any distortions when they are viewed on a screen and on paper, but he sees distorted faces that appear "demonic" when viewed in-person. Most PMO cases however, see distortions in all contexts, so his case is especially rare and presented a unique opportunity to accurately depict his distortions.

For the study, the researchers took a photograph of a person's face. Then, they showed the patient the photograph on a computer screen while he looked at the real face of the same person. The researchers obtained real-time feedback from the patient on how the face on the screen and the real face in front of him differed, as they modified the photograph using computer software to match the distortions perceived by the patient.

"In other studies of the condition, patients with PMO are unable to assess how accurately a visualization of their distortions represents what they see because the visualization itself also depicts a face, so the patients will perceive distortions on it too," says lead author Antônio Mello, a PhD student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth. In contrast, this patient doesn't see distortions on a screen. This means that the researchers were able to modify the face in the photograph, and the patient could accurately compare how similar his perception of the real face was to the manipulated photograph. "Through the process, we were able to visualize the patient's real-time perception of the face distortions," says Mello.

In their research with other PMO cases, the co-authors state that some of their PMO participants have seen health professionals who wanted to help but diagnosed them with another health condition, not PMO.

"We've heard from multiple people with PMO that they have been diagnosed by psychiatrists as having schizophrenia and put on anti-psychotics, when their condition is a problem with the visual system," says senior author Brad Duchaine, a professor of psychological and brain sciences and principal investigator of the Social Perception Lab at Dartmouth.

"And it's not uncommon for people who have PMO to not tell others about their problem with face perception because they fear others will think the distortions are a sign of a psychiatric disorder," says Duchaine. "It's a problem that people often don't understand."

Through their paper, the researchers hope to increase public awareness of what PMO is.

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Materials provided by Dartmouth College . Original written by Amy Olson. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Antônio Mello, Daniel Stehr, Krzysztof Bujarski, Brad Duchaine. Visualising facial distortions in prosopometamorphopsia . The Lancet , 2024; 403 (10432): 1176 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(24)00136-3

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New Research From Clinical Psychological Science

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background research science report

The Next Generation of Clinical-Psychological Science: Moving Toward Anti-Racism Craig Rodriguez-Seijas et al.

Rodriguez-Seijas and colleagues examine how the clinical science model has neglected anti-racism (e.g., by overlooking systemic and contextual factors). By examining the idiosyncratic development of the clinical science model in clinical psychological science, the authors outline how its failure to contend with systemic racism in the field propagates a racist subdiscipline. They hope that by enacting difficult self-reflection, this article invites other stakeholders in the field to think more critically about how systemic racism and white supremacy pervade the field’s structures and institutions and to begin making concrete changes toward explicit anti-racism in clinical psychological science. 

background research science report

Profiles of Risk, Allostatic Load, and Mental Health in Low-Income Children Fanita Tyrell, Fred Rogosch, and Dante Cicchetti  

Most health disparities originate in childhood and extend across the lifespan. However, studies on health disparities have been predominately focused on adults. This study evaluated the biological and psychosocial consequences of exposure to chronic adversity among 491 low-income children aged 8 to 12 years old (52.1% male; Mage = 9.73, SD = 1.0; 68.2% Black/African American; 21.2% Latinx; 267 maltreated and 224 nonmaltreated). Latent profile analyses revealed six distinct profiles of cumulative socioeconomic risk, allostatic load, and mental health functioning. Childhood maltreatment, emotion regulation, affect, and personality characteristics were differentially associated with these latent profiles. Consistent with resilience theory, findings indicate differential effects of chronic adversity on adaptation. These findings also offer evidence that signs of physiological dysregulation emerge at earlier ages in development and suggest there may be a window of opportunity in childhood for interventions to reduce the detrimental effects of chronic adversity on health outcomes in children. 

background research science report

Pressure From Within: Gay-Community Stress and Body Dissatisfaction Among Sexual-Minority Men Zachary Soulliard, Micah Lattanner, and John Pachankis  

Although intraminority gay-community stress has been theorized to affect sexual-minority men’s body dissatisfaction, this association has not been evaluated quantitatively. Using two samples of sexual-minority men—one sample recruited from a population-based study of U.S. adults (N = 424; age: M = 54.29 years) and the other a sample meeting diagnostic criteria for depressive, anxiety, or trauma-/stressor-related disorders (N = 251; age: M = 26.52 years)—in this study, we investigated associations between gay-community stress and body dissatisfaction. In both samples, gay-community stress was significantly associated with sexual-minority men’s greater body dissatisfaction in models that controlled for demographic and minority-stress variables. In terms of specific domains of gay-community stress, perceptions of the gay community’s focus on sex, social status, and social competition were significant correlates of greater body dissatisfaction. Future research can determine the impact of routinely addressing gay-community stress in body image and eating-disorder treatments for this population.

Integrating “Lumpers” Versus “Splitters” Perspectives: Toward a Hierarchical Dimensional Taxonomy of Eating Disorders From Clinician Ratings  

Kelsie Forbush, Yiyang Chen, Po-Yi Chen, Brittany Bohrer, Kelsey Hagan, Danielle Chapa, Kara Christensen, Victoria Perko, Brianne Richson, Sarah Johnson, Marianna Thomeczek, Sarah Nelson, Kylie Christian, Trevor Swanson, and Jennifer  Wildes   

Clinical Psychological Science   

In this study, we describe a hierarchical dimensional model of eating-disorder (ED) classification based on the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology. Participants were community-recruited adults with an ED (N = 252; 81.9% female). We used a modified version of Goldberg’s method, which involved sequentially extracting latent factors using exploratory structural equation modeling, resulting in a 10-factor hierarchical-dimensional model. Dimensions predicted 92.4% and 58.7% of the variance in recovery outcomes at 6 months and 1 year, respectively. Compared with other illness indicators (e.g., Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM] diagnoses, dimensional ED impairment scores, weight/shape overvaluation, and DSM ED-severity specifiers), hierarchical dimensions predicted 0.88 to 334 times more variance in ED behaviors at baseline and 1.95 to 80.8 times more variance in psychiatric impairment at 1-year follow-up. Results suggest that reducing within-disorder heterogeneity for EDs within the broader context of internalizing symptoms provides a powerful framework from which to predict outcomes and understand symptoms experienced by people with EDs. 

Trajectories and Personality Predictors of Eating-Pathology Development in Girls From Preadolescence to Adulthood Emilie Lacroix, Sylia Wilson, Matthew McGue, William Iacono, and Kristin von Ranson 

Understanding eating-pathology development may enable meaningful prescriptions for its prevention. Here, we identified common trajectories of eating-pathology development and the personality factors associated with these trajectories. Participants were 760 female twins from the Minnesota Twin Family Study who reported on eating pathology at approximate ages 11, 14, 18, 20, 24, and 29. Parents reported on twins’ personality characteristics at age 11, and twins completed self-report personality questionnaires at ages 14 and 18. Latent class growth analysis identified two distinct trajectories for total eating pathology, binge eating, and weight preoccupation and three distinct trajectories for body dissatisfaction. Girls with more pathological trajectories already showed elevated eating pathology at age 11. These subgroups of high-risk girls self-reported greater proneness to anxiety, stress, and alienation, and less sociable personality styles. Prevention efforts may be enhanced by using self-reported personality traits to identify girls at high risk for eating pathology. 

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Finding Opportunities in Research Administration

In a conversation with APS President Wendy Wood, clinical scientist Christine Hunter shares how she’s applied skills learned in graduate school to her role as a government research director.

background research science report

Exploring the Future of Clinical Science Training

APS Fellow Ann Kring provides a breakdown of the Clinical Science Summit, where psychological scientists gathered to discuss methods to strengthen and improve clinical science for the generations to come.

background research science report

Back Page: Singular Sensation

Clinical psychologist Dominika Ochnik discusses her research into singlehood and well-being, mental health risks among young people, and her plans to study associations between urbanization and mental health.

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  1. Science Fair Project Background Research Plan

    To make a background research plan — a roadmap of the research questions you need to answer — follow these steps: Identify the keywords in the question for your science fair project. Brainstorm additional keywords and concepts. Use a table with the "question words" (why, how, who, what, when, where) to generate research questions from your ...

  2. PDF Writing a Research Paper for Your Science Fair Project

    The research paper should include: The history of similar experiments or inventions. Definitions of all important words and concepts that describe your experiment. Answers to all your background research plan questions. Mathematical formulas, if any, that you will need to describe the results of your experiment.

  3. How To Write Background Information For Science Fair

    Science Fair / Step 2: Background Research. Step 2: Background Research. Background research is really important. Scientists read to find out what has already been done in experimenting with their topic. A scientist needs to come up with original research - they can't just repeat what someone else has already done.

  4. Step 4: Background Research

    In the final paper, this background research will be put into paragraph form. Use the Background Research Planning Worksheet to help you formulate questions that you need to answer for your topic. Each student should become an expert on anything that is closely related to their area of research.

  5. What is the Background of a Study and How Should it be Written?

    The background of a study is the first section of the paper and establishes the context underlying the research. It contains the rationale, the key problem statement, and a brief overview of research questions that are addressed in the rest of the paper. The background forms the crux of the study because it introduces an unaware audience to the ...

  6. The Basics

    The contents will vary, but should include a title, table of contents, hypothesis, background research, materials, procedures, data analysis, conclusions and a bibliography. You might also include ideas for future research and acknowledgements. An abstract, or brief summary of your research paper. An abstract typically includes the purpose of ...

  7. Science Fair Project Resource Guide

    Offers a detailed step-by-step guide to doing a science fair project, a long with many project ideas and Resources to help with science fairs and projects. Think up a Research Question . This section will help you turn your questions into scientific hypotheses. Remember! A good science fair question is one that you can think of a way to answer.

  8. How to Write a Science Fair Project Report

    Neatness counts, spelling counts, grammar counts. Take the time to make the report look nice. Pay attention to margins, avoid fonts that are difficult to read or are too small or too large, use clean paper, and make print the report cleanly on as good a printer or copier as you can. Your science fair project may require a lab report or essay.

  9. How to Write an Effective Background of the Study

    Position in a research paper. Typically comes at the very beginning, setting the stage for the research. Follows the background, leading readers into the main body of the research. Tone. Analytical, detailing the topic and its significance. General and anticipatory, preparing readers for the depth and direction of the focus of the study.

  10. How To Write A Background Paper For Science Fair

    APA Background Research Paper. Science Fair Background Research Process: 1. You will need 60 index cards 2. You will make a list of 20 questions about your topic and then find answers for each of your 20 questions from 3… Typing The APA Background Research Paper - Science Fair Background Research Process:1. You will need 60 index cards2.

  11. About Background Research

    Background research (or pre-research) is the research that you do before you start writing your paper or working on your project. Sometimes background research happens before you've even chosen a topic. The purpose of background research is to make the research that goes into your paper or project easier and more successful. Some reasons to do ...

  12. How to Write a Scientific Report

    Here are some rules for drawing scientific diagrams: Always use a pencil to draw your scientific diagrams. Use simple, sharp, 2D lines and shapes to draw your diagram. Don't draw 3D shapes or use shading. Label everything in your diagram. Use thin, straight lines to label your diagram. Do not use arrows.

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    This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you've performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we'll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you'll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation ...

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    Fitterling, Lori. Researching and Writing an Effective Background Section of a Research Paper. Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences; Creating a Research Paper: How to Write the Background to a Study. DurousseauElectricalInstitute.com; Background Information: Definition of Background Information. Literary Devices Definition and Examples of Literary Terms.

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    When getting started with your research, it is a good idea to get a general overview of a topic or gather background information. This information can help you decide if the topic really is in line with your thinking, and whether you want to continue researching in that subject area. Background information may include facts, historical figures ...

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    Here are the steps to write the background of the study in a research paper: Identify the research problem: Start by identifying the research problem that your study aims to address. This can be a particular issue, a gap in the literature, or a need for further investigation. Conduct a literature review: Conduct a thorough literature review to ...

  17. What is the Background in a Research Paper?

    A good Background section explains the history and nature of your research question in relation to existing literature - a "state of the art.". This section, along with the rationale, helps readers understand why you chose to study this problem and why your study is worthwhile. This article will show you how to do this.

  18. How To Write A Lab Report

    Introduction. Your lab report introduction should set the scene for your experiment. One way to write your introduction is with a funnel (an inverted triangle) structure: Start with the broad, general research topic. Narrow your topic down your specific study focus. End with a clear research question.

  19. How Do You Do Background Research For A Science Project

    Write your 1-2 page Research Paper on the a google doc. Remember to use APA format. To move on to your next step click the following link - Task 3: Constructing a Hypothesis. Video advice: Challenge A Science Fair part 2… Research Question, Background Research, and Hypothesis

  20. What Is Background in a Research Paper?

    The structure of a background study in a research paper generally follows a logical sequence to provide context, justification, and an understanding of the research problem. It includes an introduction, general background, literature review, rationale, objectives, scope and limitations, significance of the study and the research hypothesis.

  21. The impact of air pollution on regional innovation ...

    Based on the spatially correlated effects of air pollution on regional innovation, theoretical hypotheses are proposed, and this paper employs a spatial Durbin model to conduct empirical tests using panel data from 267 Chinese cities from 2003 to 2019, and investigates the mediating effect of human capital. Research has shown that (1) air pollution significantly reduces regional innovation ...

  22. How Americans View the Coronavirus, COVID-19 ...

    A new Pew Research Center survey finds that just 20% of Americans view the coronavirus as a major threat to the health of the U.S. population today and only 10% are very concerned they will get it and require hospitalization. This data represents a low ebb of public concern about the virus that reached its height in the summer and fall of 2020, when as many as two-thirds of Americans viewed ...

  23. Uni-SMART: Universal Science Multimodal Analysis and Research Transformer

    In scientific research and its application, scientific literature analysis is crucial as it allows researchers to build on the work of others. However, the fast growth of scientific knowledge has led to a massive increase in scholarly articles, making in-depth literature analysis increasingly challenging and time-consuming. The emergence of Large Language Models (LLMs) has offered a new way to ...

  24. Immunotherapy targeting cancer fusion protein may hold key to treating

    St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening disorders. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood ...

  25. More Studies by Columbia Cancer Researchers Are Retracted

    "For every one paper that is retracted, there are probably 10 that should be," said Dr. Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which keeps a database of 47,000-plus retracted studies.

  26. If faces look like demons, you could have this ...

    A new study reports on a unique case of a patient with PMO. The research is the first to provide accurate and photorealistic visualizations of the facial distortions experienced by an individual ...

  27. New Research From Clinical Psychological Science

    A sample of research on the role of shame in the sexual-orientation disparity in mental health, moving toward anti-racism, profiles of risk in low-income children, and much more. ... Pachankis and colleagues assessed shame explicitly (via self-report) and implicitly (via a behavioral task) in a cohort of sexual-minority and heterosexual ...