Begin with the End in Mind
The first and foremost section to tackle in your report is the hypothesis.
A hypothesis is an educated guess about the outcome of your experiment based on the independent variables. Your hypothesis should be based off a gap in the research that you have found. It is importance, when writing an EEI to distinguish between your hypothesis and a research question.
A hypothesis states what you think is going to happen, whereas a research question asks something about the universe. One is a statement, whilst the other is a question.
For example, someone may ask as their research question, “Is the advertised concentration of glucose in sports drinks the same as the actual concentration of glucose in the sports drinks?”
A hypothesis for that investigation would be, “The advertised concentration of glucose in sports drinks is less than the actual concentration of glucose in the drinks.” Some schools ask for a research question and some schools ask for the hypothesis so please look at your task sheet when writing up your report.
Writing a good hypothesis/research question requires a little bit of thinking and there are three main steps you need to take to ensure your hypothesis/research question is capable of providing a holistic view of your EEI.
Check 1: The Literature Check.
You need to check if your question has already been answered or if you’re hypothesis has already been proved. If it has, then it’s not a very innovative project idea and needs to be rethought.
We’re going to use the resistance training example for our checks which is an investigation that you could do if you were studying sport science (That’s what I’m studying – this example is not a coincidence). My initial hypothesis was, “Endurance-based resistance training can improve long distance cross-country running performance.”
However, you find, by doing a sneaky literature check, an article that proves this hypothesis! So, the check fails, and we go back to the start. However, you also notice in that article that power training might help cross-country runners but this is yet to be investigated. This is a gap in the literature and is perfect for an investigation.
At this point, you would revise your hypothesis to, “Power strength training will improve long distance cross-country running performance” Now that this has been revised, the next check is the relevance check.
Check 2: The Relevance Check
The Relevance Check is simply asking yourself, “Is this relevant for people to know about and will it add to the current literature?” For the above example, any improvements to an athlete’s performance can be seen as an addition to current literature.
Therefore, this hypothesis passes the relevance check. However, a trivial question would usually not pass the relevance test like the question, “Do goldfish swim anticlockwise or clockwise?”
You have to question, whether there is some use to this information in the real world. If there is, you justify your choice with some background information about the relevance of your research in your introduction.
Check 3: The Resource Check
The final check you have to complete is the resource check. Ask yourself, “Do you have the resources to complete the test?” For our test, we just need a power strength training program, a set cross-country course and a stopwatch. Pretty simple, right?
Therefore, our hypothesis has passed all three tests and is ready to go!
The Art of Experimental Design
How you design your experiment can make your life significantly easier when it comes to reporting on your EEI. There is no correlation between the complexity of your experiment and getting a good grade. In fact, the easier your experiment is to conduct, the less you have to worry about and the easier it is to repeat.
If you need to use the Large Hadron Collider for your Physics EEI, you may need to change your hypothesis and start again. You’re better off modelling a reaction or phenomenon using simple techniques like titration or gravitational analyses (changes in mass) that have a real-world application rather than trying a time consuming, expensive and complex method.
Once you’ve developed a solid research question and hypothesis (please do not stress about whether you are going to be right or not, there is more to it than that), it’s time to plan the experiment!
Your method should be valid, reliable, accurate and repeatable. Search up the key terms in your hypothesis and see if there is a paper with a similar theme or idea to yours.
If there is, try and use a similar method if you have the resources, ensuring that your dependent variable (the one you measure) and your independent variable (the one you change) match your hypothesis.
For example, it’d make no sense for us to measure the sodium concentration in a test that is measuring glucose concentration, so the method needs to ensure that it tests for glucose concentration.
Your experiment should only assess the impact of the independent variable on the dependent. Any additional variables (extraneous/confounding) may influence the outcome unless you control for them.
Therefore, you should only assess the independent and dependent variables otherwise, it makes it really difficult to discuss in detail, the results of your experiment. Discussion around correlations, causality and errors are details which can increase your marks when a teacher looks at your report.
If your hypothesis is proven wrong, this is the perfect opportunity to discuss why it was proven wrong and keeping details about these things makes it actually easier to show your understanding of underlying principles and concepts as you postulate about potential errors.
Make sure you keep a log of the conditions in which the experiment occurred in your experiment journal. This will include temperature and humidity as a minimum plus any abnormalities that you observe. They will come in handy during the discussion.
Piecing It All Together
Now that you are ready to start your experiment, it’s time to start writing your report. As I mentioned at the start of this guide, EEI’s are not typically written from start to finish, but rather in the order of:
For each of these sections, there are specific requirements about what should be included and how it should be written. We will break it down for you below, but to see exactly how it should be put together, click here to grab a copy of our Writing EEI’s & Research Reports manual.
Firstly, your method covers the steps you took to undertake your experiment and should be written in a way that will allow the reader to conduct the experiment themselves.
This is often broken into two parts; materials and procedures. It is very similar to a recipe. Your method should be written in third person and in past tense. List exact measurements and quantities of materials that you used. This section shouldn’t take you an overly large amount of time to write, but make sure you hit these key points.
Once your method has been completed, it’s time to start your introduction! As the name implies, this is where you introduce the concept behind your experiment. When writing your introduction, be sure to touch upon four specific points.
Firstly, justify why your topic is relevant to a particular industry or population. This is shown through statistics supporting the impact of your issue and why it is a problem.
Secondly, explain the theory and science behind your solution. Essentially, this is the logical reasoning supporting your hypothesis.
Thirdly, review the literature. Make sure you discuss the main points you’ve identified from your literature search and include in-text referencing! The aim of this is to consolidate the foundations of your experiment and highlight how your research addresses a gap in the literature.
Once you’ve justified the relevance and the literature behind your hypothesis you need to explain the aim of your investigation. In simple terms, what does your study set out to do?
Then, you can explain briefly the science behind your method and how your results will support your hypothesis. Both textbooks and journal articles will help with this part. Finish this section with your hypothesis.
Writing your results is a relatively simple part of an EEI. Report all of your findings so that the reader can understand what has occurred. Ensure not to explain why things happened. Imagine you’re in an art museum and you’re trying to describe a painting to a blind person.
Report your findings in figures and tables. Tables are great for comparing before and after results, while graphs are best used when comparing independent and dependent variables to identify a trend. The independent variable always goes on the x-axis (bottom) and the dependent on the y-axis (side).
Make sure that both axes are labelled with what they represent including units of measure. Common units include seconds for time, molarity (M) for concentration and metres for distance.
Each graph must have ‘Figure’ written underneath followed by a number and a title. The title must be specific to the graph so the viewer knows what the graph entails even if they can’t see it. For tables, follow the same labelling procedure but instead put ‘Table 1’ instead of ‘Figure 1’ and provide a brief description of its contents.
All raw data should be reported in the appendix alongside equations, standard measurements and a picture of your trial set up. Repeat trials to increase the reliability and quality of your research.
The reported data must also reflect what is needed to match the aim of your EEI and answer the hypothesis in the discussion. Report everything and anything that is relevant including the R2 scores and equation of a line of a trend on a graph.
Okay, we’re almost at the end of your EEI but it’s not time to rest yet – it’s time to write the discussion! The discussion is the ‘make or break’ moment in an EEI and it is often the only part that has a word limit.
It’s where you explain whether the results supported the hypothesis or not and then state why your results occurred. Look for reasons why your results were not 100% consistent and this is where your research journal comes in handy.
Observe the conditions under which your experiment was conducted and see whether there is any literature that explains or justifies why your results are different to what they should be.
Be succinct and logical. State sentences that are true and make sure that you cite every single reference. That way you are guaranteed to come up with a logical justification that your teacher will like to mark.
Explaining your results will take up most of your discussion. After this, state the limitations of the investigation which reduced the accuracy of the measurements and the reliability of the method. Each limitation point should have three sentences. State the limitation, discuss how the limitation affected the results and provide a recommendation to nullify the limitation.
Finally, explain how the results are significant for the scientific community. Often referred to as the “So What?” section, this part of the discussion allows you to relate your results to real life scenarios and recommend what research should occur based on your results.
Be creative and research thoroughly into the relevance of your experiment by comparing it to other similar research. This is the hardest part of the EEI so don’t stress if you struggle. Just make sure your words flow from one point to the next and that you take your time to outline your points clearly and concisely.
The final part you write in an EEI is the abstract and should be approximately 50-100 words. The abstract is a summary of the entire paper which includes: a sentence about the significance of your study, what the aim is, what was found in the results and whether the research could be modified or improved in the future.
Finally, write a title page which includes the project title, student name, school name, experimental period, submission date, teacher’s name and class group. Keep it simple with no fancy formatting. Your entire report should be size 12 Times New Roman font and aligned to the left with subheadings aligned to the middle in bold.
Finishing an EEI is an achievement in itself so give yourself a pat on the back and a nice treat after you’ve handed it in.
I hope that you all took something away from this guide and that it helps you all with your scientific investigations. If you want a more detailed step by step guide I highly recommend our “Writing A+ EEI’s & Research Reports” document. It includes
This blog is a condensed version of the guide, but check it out for a sample EEI for every science discipline included plus additional tips, tricks and example paragraphs for each section.
Good luck with your reports and try to enjoy writing your EEIs. After all, when you think about it, it’s your chance to be a mini scientist!