Although it may seem obvious by the name, the Results section should include exactly that–the results of the experiment. Many students make the mistake of including their interpretation and/or their opinion of the experimental results. This mistake should be avoided.
According to the JEI website, in the results section,
“The authors must address the scientific question with well-designed scientific experiments.” In addition, they add that or each experiment, the authors must:
- describe the rationale for the experiment
- briefly explain how the experiment was performed (additional or lengthy details should be included in only the Methods section)
- interpret the scientific data, referencing the figures that contain the results (graphs, charts, tables, equations, etc).
Furthermore, the JEI editors note that,
“it is important to discuss the experimental controls and to include statistical analysis when appropriate. It is also important that the authors draw appropriate and reasonable conclusions from their experimental data.”
Finally, they write that,
“Data must be presented in figures that contain a descriptive caption.”
In our class, the results section is really pretty straightforward: you state the results of your experiment (or experiments) as simply as you can. Many young scientists mistakenly place their opinions and discussion in their results section. This mistake should be avoided.
It may be helpful to think of your results section as consisting of two main components…
A. Paragraphs – Try to simply state the results/findings of your experiment (or experiments). Try to do so without demonstrating bias or including any form of interpretation (save your interpretation for the Discussion section). At the very least the results should be provided in a logical sequence, often along the time line of the study. For instance, the results of the baseline measurement period should be presented prior to the results obtained after the intervention. Furthermore, if your Methods section has listed experiments in order, the results section should follow the same sequence.
B. Tables, Charts, & Graphs – Whenever possible, use tables, charts, and/or graphs to represent large volumes of data. If you use a table, chart, or graph, don’t repeat the information in the paragraph. Try to keep tables to a single page. If that is impossible, then consider dividing up the data among multiple tables (split along the time line(s) of the experiment itself) OR using a chart or graph.
Here’s an example of a Results section from the Blackawton Bees Experiment, which was designed, performed and written up by 10-year-old science students in England…
After training the bees in the arena, we tested them three times to see if they had learned anything during training.
(a) Test 1 (the control)
In the first test the bees were given the same pattern we had trained them with. After training, we moved the colours of the panels clockwise once, so that the colours of the quadrants would be different for the bees, and they could not just go to the same place as last time to get a reward (see figure 1a for a hand drawing of the test). If the bees had solved the puzzle, they should land on the flowers in the middle of each quadrant and stick their tongues (proboscis) in the flower, as during training this is how they would have had a reward (during the test, they did not get a reward).
Figure 1b shows where four of the bees went during the test (unfortunately, one of the bees (called ‘yellow’) did not come out of the hive during this test). Each dot in figure 1b is an attempted forage. The figure shows that the bees went to the middle flowers 126 times, and to the outside flowers in the four quadrants a total of 13 times (see ‘total’ in figure 1c). So, out of 139 attempted forages, 90.6 per cent were to correct flowers (correct means flowers that would have had sugar water during training).
Figure 1c shows how many times each individual bee went to correct and incorrect blue and yellow flowers. We did this so that it would be clearer to see where each bee went during the test. ‘Orange’ (O) bee selected seven correct (middle) yellows and only one incorrect (outside) yellow. She also went to 29 correct blue and only one incorrect blue. This bee prefers blue in the middle, but also prefers yellow in the middle. This bee did extremely well, because it went to both colours at correct locations in the flowers. ‘Blue/yellow’ (B/Y) bee went to neither outside yellow flowers nor middle yellow flowers. Instead it went to 25 correct blue flowers (middle) and only four incorrect blue flowers (outside). So this bee preferred blue to yellow. The ‘Blue/Orange’ (B/O) bee went to 31 correct yellow flowers and four incorrect yellow flowers, and never went to blue flowers. The ‘Blue’ (B) bee went to 33 correct yellow flowers and only three incorrect yellow flowers, and selected the correct blue flowers only once. These results are shown in figure 1c. We conclude that one bee went to a mixture of colours in the correct locations, but the rest preferred one colour over the other. However, although they preferred one colour, they only went to the middle of the panel that had that colour (as this is the flower that would have had a reward). This test shows that altogether the bees solved the puzzle very well, as their choices collectively were divided between all blue and yellow rewarding flowers. We then presented the bees with two more tests to see how they solved the puzzle they were trained for.
(b) Test 2 (the first experiment)
Test 2 was very similar to test 1, except that the middle flowers in each quadrant were green. We did this to see whether the bees learned to go to the colours or to the location of the rewarding flowers during training. If the bees learned to go to the location of the rewarding flowers, then they should land on the green flowers in test 2. See figure 2a for a hand drawing of this test.
Figure 2b shows a table of the choices made by the bees during this test. In total, the bees went to the green middle flowers only 34 times, and to the outside blue and yellow flowers 76 times (see total in figure 2b). So, out of 110 attempted forages, 30.9 percent were to the middle flowers. If the bees were guessing, they should have selected the green flowers 25 percent of the time, which is very close to 30 per cent. So we conclude that the bees did not solve test 1 by only going to the middle flowers of each quadrant (‘dah dahhh dahhhhhh’). However, two of the bees (labelled B/O and B) went most often to the green, middle flowers. So they seemed to have learned a different rule to the other three bees.
(c) Test 3 (the second experiment)
In the third test, instead of having large squares of yellow and blue around the outside of each panel, and a smaller square of yellow and blue on the inside of each panel, we took the four inside flowers and put them in the corners of each panel. See figure 3a for a hand drawing of what this test looked like. We did this because we wanted to see if the bees solved test 1 by learning during training to go to the colours of each panel that were fewest in number. We could also see if they still preferred to go only to the middle flowers. If the bees had learned to go to flowers that were fewest in each panel, then they should go to the flowers in the corners.
The table in figure 3b shows where all five bees went during the test. You can see that the bees as a group went to the corner flowers 59 times, and to the ‘notcorners’ 86 times (see ‘total’ in figure 3b). So, out of 145 attempted forages, 40.1 per cent were to the corners. This is very different from what they did in test 1. When the same flowers were not in the corners but in the middle as in test 1, they selected them 90.6 per cent of the time, which is 2.2 times more often. We think that the bees in test 3 selected the flowers randomly, and conclude that the bees did not learn to go to the flowers that had the fewest colours in each panel. Also, this time, the B and B/Obees did not prefer the middle flowers in each panel. Thismeans that in test 2 theymust have used the larger square of blue and yellow flowers to decide to forage from the middle green flowers.