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How do I write a report about my 4th year physics research?

  1. Oct 26, 2017 #1
    Hi, I am a fourth year physics student currently enrolled in a research project course with a supervisor. It's a research in optics and I need to learn about some nonlinear optics.

    For the report, I want to write about what I have learned during the term, for instance, Rayleigh and Raman scattering, but I just don't know how to write a report. I bought a nonlinear optics textbook to study those and started writing the report. But I noticed that I was just paraphrasing what was written in the textbook and not writing something useful. I tried to explain with more details for better readability but I could not get far from just copying the section in the book.

    How can I write a good report? Any advise will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
    P.S. By the way, the report is expected to be about 20 pages long.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2017 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Can you ask previous students to see their reports, or find similar reports elsewhere?
  4. Oct 26, 2017 #3
    I suggest
    1. You take notes as you read the book. More like headlines of the most important points, not long sentences
    2. Make a list of the key words and concepts.
    3. Think about each keyword and/or concept in your head, using your own words...imagine yourself telling someone about it verbally
    4. Start writing a paragraph or two about each keyword or concept, using your own words not the texbook words (it's ok if it does not sound perfect initially)
    5. Add diagrams, illustrations, figures, graphs as needed.
    6. Then start by introducing the subject: What it is you are reporting on, why, the significance, the applications, etc.
    7. Then complete all other sections.
    8. End with a summary and/or conclusion.
    9. Leave it for a day or two and then review it and edit it and finalize

    A guiding principle is this: Tell them what you want to tell them, then tell them, then finally tell them what you just told them.
  5. Oct 26, 2017 #4
    I just thought of another point. Why are you relying on just one textbook? I think you can have a richer and more complete report if you dig into a few references and gain more insight from different angles. Not a good idea to rely on only one single reference.

    Also, you need to list all of your references at the end of your report to support your facts and figures.
  6. Oct 26, 2017 #5


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    Writing report as in "formal report"? Your advisor or course instructor should tell you the format. Just use the given, described, and expected format. This stuff is not like humanities, artistic & language literature, so you do not need any clever literary composition skills.
  7. Oct 27, 2017 #6
    Research reports depend heavily on the requirements of the course and the preferences of the instructor.

    My approach as the prof or mentor in these deals is nearly always to have students conduct an original research project (usually an experiment, sometimes testing a new hypothesis by analyzing an available data set from an available source.) The format of the paper usually breaks down fairly close to the outline
    I. Introduction and Background - why this project is important and interesting with citations and discussion placing the planned project in the context of prior work
    II. Method (or procedure) - a description of the experimental method
    III. Results - Data, tables, figures presented in a way that helps the reader see the outcome of the experimental method as it applies to the goals, purpose or hypothesis stated in the Intro. There needs to be enough text to narrate through the data, tables, and figures for the reader.
    IV. Discussion (or Conclusion) - A discussion of the meaning and interpretation of the results, primarily as related to the purpose as stated in the Intro. Limitations and ambiguities should also be discussed. Results should also be placed in context of prior work (with appropriate citations) that may further inform their interpretation.

    These four sections make up the main outline, but there are almost always acknowledgement and references sections always, and occasionally an appendix or two.

    This formula has worked well for my students, yielding lots of quality research papers and also a number of publications.

    A few examples:
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