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MSc Neuroscience

at The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London

Project Report Writing Guidelines

back to guidance notes. See also the programme handbook

Guidance on writing up your project report.

The purpose of the project report is for you to learn how to write in a concise manner which is appropriate to a scientific publication such as the Journal of Neuroscience, to develop experimental skills, to undertake a literature review and to critically analyse and discuss results.

You should discuss your project, the results and how to present them with your supervisor before beginning to write the report. It is expected that the supervisor will see one draft of the report before it is finalised. The final form and the Discussion and Conclusions are your responsibility and reflect the way you have carried out the work, the reading and your understanding and appraisal of the results found. WARNING: Writing up always takes much longer than you think it will, so you should start well in advance of the submission date. Don’t forget to back up!

Format:
  • The overall length of the project report should be between 7500 and 10000 words (with a 10% leeway), excluding references and figure legends.
  • The report should be typed in a font not smaller than 11 point and double-spaced.
  • UK spellings should be used throughout the report.
  • Each major section (Introduction, Material and Methods etc.) should start at the top of a new page.
  • Paragraphs should be made clearly visible either by indenting the first line or by leaving an additional blank line between paragraphs.
  • Attention must be given to presentation - your ability to produce work to a specified professional format is being assessed. Avoid careless presentation, e.g. poor spelling, inadequate use of grammar, poorly drawn figures, captions or tables, etc.
  • Figures must be fully and clearly labelled and have legends that do not require the reader to refer to the main text.
  • The report should be written in your own words in a scientific style. Before you start to write your report, it is a good idea to look at some previous students’ work to see what the finished product looks like. As each project is unique, the report will also vary from project to project. Some examples of good quality reports submitted by previous students can be found on Moodle: MSc Neuroscience\Full Time\Project Modules\Project Reports
  • Referencing style should be as specified further below in this document.
  • When describing work that was not carried out by you, the person who carried out the work must be clearly credited in the text at the point the work is described. This is essential due to the collaborative nature of many MSc research projects.

The report should be divided into the following sections:

  • Title page
  • Statement
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgements
  • References
  • Appendices (if necessary)

Title pageThis should include the title of the project, the names of the student and supervisor, the department and university affiliation in which the research was carried out (e.g. Department of Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, University of London) and the following statement:

Project report in partial fulfilment for the degree of MSc in Neuroscience.

We will provide you with a template of the title page/cover sheet closer to the time.

Statement to be made on project report: The report MUST include a statement at the beginning of your report giving the details set out below:

Wet lab:

Students must give specific details of their contribution to the work described in their project report and to its production. The statement should specify:

  • Who designed the research;
  • Who performed the research work (giving details * see below for examples);
  • Whether the student contributed new reagents or analytic tools;
  • Who analysed any data used;
  • Who contributed to the production of the report (supervisor/ other members of the lab).

* for example, if a student has done Q-PCR on cDNA derived from RNA extracted by a co-worker/supervisor- he /she should indicate whether the Q-PCR was performed by him/her and whether the RNA was extracted by someone else and cDNA generated by him/her or someone else again etc.

Dry lab:

Students must give specific details of their contribution to the work described in their project report and to its production. The statement should specify:

  • Who designed the research;
  • Who performed the research (participant recruitment, data collection* see below for details);
  • Who analysed any data used;
  • Who contributed to the production of the report (supervisor/ other members of the lab).

* If the project involves analyses of existing data, a student should indicate whether he/she performed participant recruitment and/or data collection and give details of the number of participants that he/she recruited/assessed. Similarly, a student should indicate whether he/she undertook the data analysis and if so, the extent of any contribution to this by the supervisor/ a statistician/ any other member of the research lab.

Abstract:

This should provide a concise summary of the objectives, methodology, key results, and major conclusions of the study in not more than 350 words on one side of A4. If you find it helpful, you can divide this section into subsections, namely: Background, Objectives, Methods, Results and Conclusion.

Table of Contents:

With text divided into numbered sections and sub-sections (1.1, etc.).

Introduction:

This should include a concise but thorough review of the relevant literature. It should be sufficient to explain the background to the project, what hypotheses are being tested, and why the particular methods have been chosen to investigate the question. It is not an essay or general review – just the specific background to your project. There is no need to spend a lot of time reviewing basic knowledge of your subject. A final section should introduce the specific question addressed by your research work. The introduction should be about 1500 words.

Materials and Methods:

This section should describe the materials that you used and the methods that you carried out. It should give sufficient detail such that someone could read the protocol and then repeat the experiment themselves. The sources of all materials used should be given. For projects involving data from human participants, you should clearly define and describe your study sample and experimental design. In all cases, reference should be made to published procedures and modifications wherever possible. Remember to include sections for bioinformatics and statistics where appropriate. The length should not exceed 1500 words.

Results:

This section should present clearly but succinctly only those experimental findings which are discussed further in the discussion and which are essential to establish the main conclusions of the work. The results should not be discussed in this section. It is often helpful to divide results into appropriate subsections and to provide headings for each. Obviously the exact way in which you present your results will depend upon the nature of your project but the following general rules apply to all studies. Your data should be concisely described in the text. Data should be presented as Figures (e.g. graphs,images) and Tables. Figures and Tables should each be numbered (e.g. Fig. 1, etc., Table 1, etc.) and should be referred to in the appropriate position in the text. Figures should be situated next to the relevant text so that assessors do not have to flick backwards and forwards to read the work. Each Figure or Table should be fully labelled and accompanied by a detailed legend, which should be completely self-contained so that it can be understood without reference to the text. The text should not simply repeat the data in figures but draw attention to the main findings. Remember that negative results are as valuable as positive results, provided that the experiments have been designed and carried out properly. With the same proviso, you will not be penalised if experiments have not worked if it can be shown that sensible strategies have been adopted to achieve success. Appropriate controls for all results must be provided and described. For numerical data, you should apply statistical analysis where appropriate. It is important that statistics are used correctly. (Statistics workshops will be held in May 2017, and you have already been informed of your group, date and time). Any supplementary data should be presented as appendices.

Discussion:

The discussion is probably the most important part of the report as it is where you can demonstrate the quality of your scientific thought, your critical analysis skills and your appreciation of the position of your work in the context of the relevant literature. It should begin with a brief statement of the main findings. This should be followed by a discussion of the validity of the observations (e.g. a consideration of methodological limitations). Interpretation of the results should then be discussed in the light of other published research dealing with the same or closely related subjects. The section should conclude with a statement of the possible significance of the work, any future work that might arise out of the project, and a final brief summary paragraph. The ideas expressed in the conclusion must be warranted by the data obtained and presented in the Results section.

Acknowledgements:

It is usual to thank the people who have supported you in your work, particularly your project supervisor and other research staff.

References:

When you write your project report, you will need to cite previously published work. Wherever possible every statement should be backed up by a suitable reference, which may be an original article, a review or possibly a book. One of the aspects assessed is the quantity, and relevance of the referencing, as well as whether you have adhered to the specified style. Make sure you use up-to-date references. Quote original research articles wherever possible. Make sure that all web-based material is of suitable academic quality and be sure to give the date that you accessed it. Students should double-check that all in-text citations are in the reference list and that all references on the reference list have at least one corresponding in-text citation. References should be given in the style used by the Journal of Neuroscience and listed in alphabetical and chronological order.

References should be cited in the text as follows: "The procedure used has been described elsewhere (Green, 1978)," or "Our observations are in agreement with those of Brown and Black (1979) and of White et al. (1980)," or with multiple references, in chronological order: "Earlier reports (Brown and Black, 1979, 1981; White et al., 1980; Smith, 1982, 1984).... "

In the reference list, papers should be given in alphabetical order according to the surname of the first author. In two-author papers with the same first author, the order is alphabetical by the second author's name. In three-or-more-author papers with the same first author, the order is chronological. The name of the author(s) should be followed by the date in parentheses, the full title of the paper as it appeared in the original together with the source of the reference, the volume number, and the first and last pages. The following illustrate the form to be used:

Journal article

Hamill OP, Marty A, Neher E, Sakmann B, Sigworth F (1981) Improved patch-clamp techniques for high resolution current recordings from cells and cell free membrane patches. Pflugers Arch 391:85-100.
Hodgkin AL, Huxley AF (1952a) The components of membrane conductance in the giant axon of Loligo. J Physiol (Lond) 116:473-496.
Hodgkin AL, Huxley AF (1952b) The dual effect of membranepotential on sodium conductance in the giant axon of Loligo. J Physiol (Lond) 116:497-506.

Book

Hille B (1984) Ionic channels of excitable membranes. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer.

Chapter in a book

Stent GS (1981) Strength and weakness of the genetic approach to the development of the nervous system. In: Studies in developmental neurobiology: essays in honor of Viktor Hamburger (Cowan WM, ed), pp 288-321. New York: Oxford UP.

When you need to refer to a website, give the URL, the author (where possible) and the date accessed.