RESULTS: Summary

In a short report, the results are essentially presented in tables, graphs, histograms or gels. These graphics are accompanied by legends which describe the experimental conditions under which used the results are obtained. Any written general summary of the results should be used to begin the discussion section as it will form the basis for drawing conclusions.

The main problems students have with the results section in a short report are:

• how to group the data appropriately;
• how to present the data visually to show the results.

It should be possible for the reader to look at the graph and/ or table and instantly get a ‘feel’ for the results. In other words, the reader should not have to do any ‘mental arithmetic’ to appreciate the significance of the trends.

Content and Structure

What did you find? (your actual results).

It is common practice to display your results in the form of a table or figure. Tables are a means of presenting information accurately and concisely, while figures (graphs) can efficiently illustrate trends and comparisons. However, you also have to use language to give your table a title. Please note that we usually use the term 'figure' rather than 'graph'.

Your results section usually has two main stages :

Stage 1: State the title for a table. Table 1. Demographic characteristics of study participants.
Stage 2: Present the table.
Mean ± SEM Range
Age (years) 53.0 ± 1.1 49 - 58
Body Mass Index (kg/m2) 26.0 ± 1.1 21 -32

OR

 Stage 1: Present a figure. Stage 2: State the title for a figure. Figures 1 and 2. Effect of high- (n=3) and low- (n=4)-cholesterol diets on blood cholesterol concentration.

Tables

Tables consist of data organised into columns and rows. Tables should be

• clearly presented
• Tables should be placed on the page so that there is a clear boundary between text and graphic.
• Tables should be presented in close proximity to their accompanying title and legend.
• clearly numbered
• Tables are numbered consecutively as they appear in the report.
• Tables should be numbered separately, tables following one sequence, figures another sequence.
• clearly titled
• Titles should be simple, but informative.
• Table numbers and titles usually appear above the table.
• easily interpreted
• Tables should have clearly identified row and column headings.
• Like material is usually placed in columns (i.e. vertically) rather than in rows (ie. horizontally).
• The dependent variable(s) are usually listed in the row headings and the independent variable(s) in the column headings.
• Generally, there are more rows than columns.
• The units should appear under the column heading(s) and not in the body of the table.

Tables are very useful for presenting precise quantities in a highly organised and economical way. The reader will scrutinise your tables for the accurate, detailed information on which you have based your discussion and conclusion.

However, you should be careful not to be over-precise - usually, it is not necessary to give three significant figures when presenting quantities, two or even one is sufficient depending on the experiment. When you are averaging results, you will need to quote errors in your table.

Tables (especially those that contain many cells) are not very useful for showing trends and comparisons. For these purposes, figures are more appropriate.

Example Table

Table 1. Demographic characteristics of study participants.

Mean ± SEM Range
Age (years) 53.0 ± 1.1 49 - 58
Body Mass Index (kg/m2) 26.0 ± 1.1 21 -32

Figures

Figures may be diagrams, graphs, photographs, etc.

Figures should be

• clearly presented
• Figures should be placed on the page so that there is a clear boundary between text and graphic and sufficient margins for labelling of axes.
• Figures should be presented in close proximity to their accompanying title and legend.
• The size and shape of the graph frame, the scales and the scale markings need to be chosen carefully so as not to distort the data.
• The graph should fill at least 70% of the graph frame.
• clearly numbered
• Figures are numbered consecutively as they appear in the report
• Figures should be numbered separately, tables following one sequence, figures another sequence
• clearly titled
• Titles should be simple, but informative
• Figure numbers and titles usually appear below the figure
• easily interpreted
• Axes must be labelled appropriately and units of time, concentration, optical density etc should be clearly specified.
• Data points on the curve(s) must be clear
• Scales for the x-axis and y-axis should be chosen to give a good line of length and slope.
• Scale markings should be in ‘round numbers’ only and evenly spaced. Usually, you do not show experimental values (raw data).

Example Figure

Figure 1. Cholesterol Concentration of subjects on a High Cholesterol Diet.

You have now reached the end of the Results section.