Short answer and essay questions

These questions require a sentence, or more, to answer and are designed to evaluate your ability to translate the “how’s” and “why’s” of the ideas from class into your own words. They also require you to create a logical argument (a chain of reasoning, not yelling) to support your answer. More Examples

Lab reports

Lab reports in 100 -200 level courses introduce students the way chemists organize information about experiments and how to develop claims supported by evidence. Lab reports in upper division courses introduce students to the way chemists organize and convey experimental data and analysis by replicating the form of academic journal articles and technical reports. The style and function of lab reports changes depending on the level and topic of the course. Below is a list of components that might be required in a lab report (not a lab notebook). Always follow the formatting guidelines given by your instructor. More Lab Exmaples

  • Introduction: Places the research in context and explains why it was preformed.
  • Methods: What tools were used to collect data and why they were chosen.
  • Results: States what was found during the experiment.
  • Discussion: Explains the findings and any anomalies in the data.
  • Conclusion: Reiterates the key findings and discusses the questions raised by the research and what additional work is needed to answer those questions.

Lab notebooks

A lab notebook is the most important document that an experimental researcher creates and maintains. It provides a record of what was measured and observed during the experiment and how the procedure was performed. Notebooks are a crucial tool when troubleshooting experiments and give proof that genuine data was collected in a certain way at a recorded point in time. They must be detailed and well organized to the point that another researcher (sometimes years later) could reproduce your work. You will keep a notebook in all lab classes to train you to keep these important documents.1

Each notebook should have:

  • The first three pages set aside for a detailed table of contents
  • Bound and sequentially numbered pages that cannot be removed from the notebook

Each entry should have:

  • The full title of the experiment, your name, lab partner’s name and the date
  • A prelab assignment as directed by your instructor
  • Labeled and well-organized data
  • Data and observations written directly into the notebook

Research papers

A research paper is not an article of original research that you would send to a scientific journal for publication, nor is it simply a review or summary of research done by others, like a large book report. Research papers do one of two things, they attempt to answer a question objectively by presenting the research of others as evidence (analytical), or they present an argument well supported by research (Argumentative).

Analytical (answers a question or compare and contrast)

“What is the most cost effective testing method for the accurate determination of lead ions in tap water currently available to municipal water processing facilities?”

Argumentative (a clearly stated and well-supported statement)

“Current tests for lead in tap water must be improved due to the low fidelity and high cost of sulfate precipitation methods.”

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)2 has a very good section on research papers. If you have to choose a topic or are conducting research, The Craft of Research by Booth, Williams and Colomb available from the library as an e- book.3

Journal article evaluation

See the ESRM section of the Ci Writing Guide “Sections of ESRM papers”


Computer and poster presentations are visual ways to present your finding. They are not just a large version of a paper. In many ways the rules to make a good presentation are very similar to those of a good book for young children. There should be some text, but only enough to carry your audience through the story. The text should stick to the story but should not dominate the page, or be in a small font. The images should be inviting, well constructed, and be the focus of the slide or poster. Everything on the slide or poster should be clear and easy to read or see. Colin Purrington has an excellent and funny resource that walks you through the steps to create posters and slideshows of your work in a visually organized manner.4,5 More Examples

References in ACS Format

  1. Kanare, H. M. Writing the lab notebook, The American Chemical Society: Washington, DC., 1985.
  2. The Purdue Online Writing Lab. (Accessed July 31, 2012).
  3. Booth, W.C., Gregory G. Colomb, G. G., Williams, J. M. The Craft of Research, 3rd ed.; University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2008.
  4. Colin Purrington. Designing conference posters. (Accessed July 31,2012).
  5. Hofman, A. Scientific Writing and Communication: Papers, Proposals and Presentations, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2009