Research Guidelines

Research Guidelines

How to Design and Write Up Your Experiment

1. Before you begin:  Clearly identify the problem or question.

  • The research problem or question should be stated in one sentence and the problem should be very specific with a measureable outcome.

2. Title

  • Your title should be specific enough to describe the study, but not so technical that only specialists can understand it.

3. Authors

  • The first author is usually the person who did most of the work and wrote the paper. The senior author (last author) is the program or laboratory director. Middle authors are contributors to the project.

4. Abstract

  • An abstract or summary is published at the beginning of the article to give the reader an overview of the contents of the paper.
  • The abstract should be a little less technical than the paper itself.
  • The abstract should be one paragraph of 100-250 words in length.

5. Introduction

  • Describe the importance of the problem or state the question (above) that explains the purpose or goals of the research (several paragraphs)
  • Explain and briefly summarize the current published research and relevant background that addresses this question. (several paragraphs)
  • Create a hypothesis that will predict a solution to the problem. (one to two sentences)

6. Methods (the design of your experiment)

  • This section should include:  a list of all materials used, all protocols and procedures, safety issues, clearly defined controls, environmental conditions.
  • Include the sources and catalog numbers where you purchased the materials in parenthesis.
  • Clearly define how the data will be collected and recorded, include measurement units.
  • Define the statistical tests that will be used to analyze the data.
  • For clinical trials be sure you visit the FDA’s website ( for the guidelines on conducting good clinical trials before you begin your study.

7. Results

  • Clearly state your results and include appropriate tables, figures, diagrams etc.  that summarize your data. Do NOT include conclusions in the results section.
  • The experiment must be repeated multiple times in order to have statistical significance.
  • Use graphs and charts to represent your data visually.  Write your results in paragraph form and include the calculations for all your work.  All of your analysis should be explained concisely and clearly.
  • For clinical trials: There is a free online course that can help you design your clinical trial that is offered through Johns Hopkins University:

8. Discussion

  • State the main or most important conclusion supported by your results in the first paragraph.
  • Explain the rationale for your conclusion and clarify any details.
  • Highlight the most significant results.
  • Describe how your results may or may not be consistent with other published studies.
  • If the results are unexpected, explain why this may so and offer some theories that may explain your data.
  • Explain how your results fit into the “big picture”.
  • Describe further studies that will be needed to fully answer your research question.
  • Preemptively address any potential flaws or problems with your project and how they may be explained or addressed in future experiments.
  • End with a one or two sentence summary of your conclusion, emphasizing why it is important and relevant and what future experiments may follow.

9. Acknowledgements

  • Thank those who helped with the experiment or made other important contributions including:
  1. Discussing the protocols
  2. Providing input on overall experimental design and interpretation of results.
  3. Commenting and editing the manuscript

10. References

  • The literature should be cited in the text and collected as a reference list at the end of the paper as per the appropriate journal guidelines.
  • Be sure to check the reference guidelines of the journal that you want to submit your paper to.  Make sure all referencing is correct before you submit your paper.

You may also download the Research Guidelines as a .doc file by clicking this link:

Research Guidelines