Glossary

A

Abstract
An abstract or summary is a shortened version of your whole experiment, aims, method, results and discussion. In a short report, you do not have to write an abstract.
Accurate
It is especially important to be accurate when you write your legend and your results. Your legend should give the exact conditions under which you carried out your experiment so that other researchers can replicate your experiment. When you state your results, they must be accurate so that you can support the interpretation you will give in the discussion.
Addition and replacement
Conjunctions or linking words which connect ideas by adding on information, for example, Low cholesterol diet had an opposite effect and caused plasma protein concentration to fall by approximately 15% or provide alternative information, for example, Subjects consumed a low or a high cholesterol diet.
Adjective pl. adjectives
Adjectives are words which provide information about a noun. When you are writing the discussion section of your report, you can use adjectives to add some kind of judgment or value to what you are writing. For example, the sample size was small.
Adverb pl. adverbs
Usually single words whose main function is to provide extra detail about what is going on; about the verb. Adverbs are generally formed by adding -ly to the end of an adjective, for example, He was running quickly When you are writing the discussion section of your report, you use modal adverbs which allow you to add some kind of judgment or value to what you are writing. For example, A low cholesterol diet did not significantly reduce plasma cholesterol concentration.
These kinds of adverbs express the degree of certainty or obligation attached to a statement. They can express high or low degrees of modality, certainly, probably.
Aim
What you set out to do, the purpose of your experiment.
Appendix pl. appendices
Part of your report where you put in extra details about your methodology or your results. Appendix (-ces) are found at the end of the report. They are not required in second year reports.
Argument
A logical development of your ideas to build up a case for your interpretation of your results.
Assay
A particular experimental procedure to find out the amount of a chemical in a mixture. A more accurate definition is: A reaction which measures the amount of a metabolite (compound) or enzyme in a sample.
Assertion
Strong claims about the truth of something.

B

 

C

Cause and condition
Conjunctions or linking words which connect information and ideas through meanings of cause/effect or condition. For example, The results are suspect because of subjects did not comply with the dietary instructions. If the intake of high cholesterol foods is increased, the concentration of cholesterol in blood plasma will increase.
Certainty
How to state your results because you can be certain about what you found.
Classifier
Words used to place something (a noun) into a particular group, answering the question What type?  They are usually single words which are placed directly before the main noun or head noun in a noun group, for example, Insulin secretion in humans.
Clear
Writing which makes sense and helps the reader to understand what you are saying.
Cohesion
How you link your ideas together in a logical way so that your writing flows.
Concise
Writing what you want to say in as clearly and in as few words as possible.
Conclusion
Final part of your report, contains the main generalisations from your results and the significance of your results. It can be part of the discussion or a separate section on its own.
Conditions
The temperature, concentrations, wave length, duration of your experiment.
Conjunction
Linking words which are used to connect information within sentences or across sentences. Different types of conjunctions express different types of meanings, for example time, (when, after, first etc) comparison ( but, however etc. ) etc.
Contrast and comparison
Conjunctions or linking words which connect ideas and information with similar meanings or with opposite meanings. For example, Consumption of a high cholesterol diet did not significantly increase blood cholesterol concentration over a 12-week period (Figure 1) Similarly, over the same period, consumption of a low cholesterol diet did not significantly reduce plasma cholesterol concentration. However after 12 weeks the plasma cholesterol concentration of the high-cholesterol diet group was 50% greater than that of the low-cholesterol group (P<0.05).

D

Demographic
Characteristics of people.
Dependent variable
The variable that is being measured.
Discussion
Part of a scientific report where you explain and interpret your results, identify limitations in experimental design, make recommendations for future research and generalise and state the significance of your results.
Downward pattern
Thematic progression when information is linked through sentence beginnings or Themes.

E

Evaluative language
Language where a judgment is being made. For example, A better designed study could have given more definitive results.

F

Fan pattern
Thematic progression when information in one sentence ending or new is picked up in a number of following Themes.
Figure
A way of presenting data in a graph, a photograph, a gel.
First person
Referring to yourself as ‘I’ or ‘we’ when writing your report. In science, the usual convention is to focus on the experiment rather than on you carrying out the experiment.
Focus
The main idea or thing that you emphasise in your sentence, often found in the beginning or Theme of your sentence.

G

Gel
A support medium, usually agarose or polyacrylamide, which allows macromolecular separation. A voltage is applied and molecules are separated by molecular weight or charge. This technique is most widely used in molecular biology and biochemistry for the separation of nucleic acids and proteins.
Generalisation
Statements that you make about your results which you think can be applied more widely.
Graph
Figures where values for variables are plotted against each other along a vertical and horizontal axis. Typically the independent variable is plotted on the x axis and the dependent variable on the y-axis.

H

Head noun
The key word in a noun group. For example, The relationship between fitness and the rate of muscle glycogen consumption during exercise.
Histogram
Another name for a bar graph.

I

Idiosyncrasies of individual results
The particular characteristics of these results which make them different from others.
Independent variable
The variable in an experiment which influences the dependent variable but is itself not influenced by other variables.
Information structure
The exchange of information between sentences another name for thematic progression.
Introduction
The beginning part of your report contains background information and your aim. It is very brief in second year reports.

J

Jargon
Refers to the technical language found in particular disciplines. For example, the use of a technical word like assay which has a special meaning of its own or words like sample which is an everyday word but has a special meaning in science.

K

 

L

Legend
Stage in a short report which tells the reader about the conditions under which the experiment was carried out. Legends accompany tables or figures found in the results section of the report.
Linking words
Another name for conjunctions. Words or phrases which link ideas within sentences and across sentence and paragraph boundaries. Linking words provide the reader with signposts indicating how the text is developing. Types of relationships established by linking words include cause/effect, time, addition, condition and contrast.

M

Methods
Typical stage in laboratory report in the sciences which tells the reader about what materials were used in the experiment and how the experiment was carried out. It is NOT a set of lab instructions or a protocol BUT the reader should be provided with enough information to repeat the experiment with his/her own equipment.
Modal form of the verb
Parts of verbs which are used to give information about the degree of obligation or certainty involved in the action. These verbs can express low, medium or high degrees of modality, for example I might go, I should go, I must go.

N

New
Information in a sentence which is assumed to be new or unknown to the reader or listener. Typically new information appears at the end of the sentence, while known information appears in the Theme at the beginning.
Non-compliance
Participants in the experiment did not keep to the recommended procedure and so their results could not be counted.
Noun
Usually a single word which contains information about a person, place, thing or idea. For example, insulin, humans, cholesterol etc.
Noun group
A group of words which contains a variety of descriptive and classifying information about the people, places, things and ideas which are involved in the sentence. This information can come before and after the key word in the noun group, the Head noun. In reports the noun group often forms the title of the report or the title for tables and figures and includes a lot of information. For example, The effect of various food additives on the secretion of insulin in humans.

O

P

Passive voice
The structure of the verb which allows you to focus on what was done and not on the person doing it. For example, not We placed this mix in a 1 ml cuvette but This mix was placed in a 1 ml cuvette. Passive voice removes the focus from the person responsible for the action to the thing that was acted on - in this case the mix.
Prepositional phrase
A group of words that contains a preposition (on, with, by etc.) and a noun or noun group. For example, on a high and low protein diet.
Possessive
A structure that is added to a noun (typically apostrophe s ('s) ) which shows that something belongs to or is associated with that noun (person, place or thing). For example:
The demographic characteristics of subjects could be written with a possessive structure as Subjects' demographic characteristics.
Procedures
The way you carried out your experiment, your methodology.
Protocol
The experimental conditions, in particular the concentrations of the chemicals involved in the reaction.

Q

R

Randomness
A method of sampling where subjects are chosen by chance.
References
That part of your report where you list the publications you have referred to in the body of your report. Usually not required in second year Biochemistry.
Results
That part of your report where you present your findings in tables and/or figures and summarise your results.
Round number
Numbers that contain no decimal places, for example, 6.6 is made up to the round number of 7.

S

Sample or sampling
A selected number of a population or a specimen of something.
Scientific argument
Argument based on results obtained in an experiment which followed a particular methodology.
Sentence
The basic unit of meaning. A sentence provides information about what is happening (the process), who is taking part and the circumstances surrounding the activity.
Significant figure
The degree of accuracy required in stating your results, usually results containing 2 figures are acceptable for most biochemistry results, for example, 6.5 or 1.9. The number of decimal places is dependent on the accuracy of the measurement which in turn depends on the equipment used. An absorbance reading should not be quoted to 3 decimal places even though the machine may give you three decimal places.
Simple past
The past time of the verb commonly used in the legend.
Simple present
The present time of the verb commonly used in the introduction to give general background information and in the discussion to make general statements, to refer to figures or tables or to make recommendations.
Statistical differences
Differences between results that have reached a certain level of probability that cannot have occurred by chance. In most cases the level of stringency quoted is 95 %. This means there is a greater than 95 % chance the difference between 2 results did NOT occur by chance.
Statistical probability
A range of measurements of the degree to which an experimental outcome could have occurred by chance.
Study design
Background information about sampling and general conditions about the experimental procedure. This information should not be repeated in the legends. Not all experiments have a study design section.
Subjects
The participants in the experiment.
Succinct
Brief and to the point without repetition or waffle.
Synonym
Word with the same or similar meaning. For example, result or outcome.

T

Table
A way of presenting data in columns and rows.
Tense
The time meaning of a verb. For example, the legend is written in past time After 10m at room temperature, the absorbance was determined.
Tentative
Cautious or careful conclusion or interpretation of your results.
Thematic progression
The exchange and linking of information between sentences either by repeating sentence beginnings (downward pattern) or exchanging information between sentence endings and sentence beginnings (zig zag or fan pattern).
Theme
The information in the beginning part of the sentence, usually the focus of your sentence.
Time and place
Conjunctions or linking words that connect ideas or information through meanings of time or place. For example, After 10m at room temperature, ............ .
Title
The subject of your report. It can be based on your aim or your conclusion.

U

Usuality
Words which say how usual a finding or result is. For example, Almost all subjects on a high cholesterol diet increased their blood cholesterol concentration.

V

Validity
The extent to which you can say that your experimental approach measured accurately what you wanted it to measure and so the outcomes or results of the experiment are valid.
Verb
A word that describes a process. For example, a process can be an action - the flask was shaken or a state - the sample size was small or a thought or feeling - researchers believe ... or something that is said - researchers recommended ...... .

W

X

X-fold or % changes
When you are summarising your results, you do not repeat every result you obtained as these can be seen in your tables and figures. Trends in your results can be summarised as fold or % changes over time. For example, There was a two fold increase in the concentration of x over y time period. or The concentration of x increased by 30% over y time period.

Y

Z

Zig-zag pattern
Thematic progression when information in sentence endings is linked to the following sentence beginnings.