QCE Science Reports: IMRAD to RMDELCBy Brianna Argall in QCE
16th of June 2019
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Confused by the title? Let me explain. IMRAD stands for Introduction, Method, Results and Discussion – the kind of report expected in QCE science reports before the syllabus changes. Now, however, if you look at QCAA’s sample assessments you’ll see that they use a different style of report writing – one that I’m calling RMDELC. If this is the first you’re hearing of different report structures don’t panic – a lot of your experience can be carried over and tweaked a little or simply placed under different headings.
Rationale & Research Question
This is basically the same as an introduction and should be approached in the same way. You want to start out with your first sentence introducing the broad topic you’re investigating (eg electrolysis) and provide (referenced) context for your experiment. As the word “rationale” implies, you’re basically justifying why you would do the experiment in the first place. The research question is similar to a hypothesis.
Your research question must be highly relevant to your rationale and clearly state the dependent and independent variables. In addition, you should make it specific rather than broad. Eg. “How many pairings of a chime with 25g of dark chocolate are required for year 9 students to salivate in response to the chocolate alone?” is a better research question than “How many pairings of chimes with chocolate are required for salivation?”.
Modifications to the Method and Management of Risks
Dot-points are allowed! Hooray! There are 3 main tasks you have for the modifications to method:
a) clearly and succinctly explain the chances you’ve made compared to the experiment yours is based on
b) explain why those are good changes to make
c) show that you’re collecting enough data.
If you want to include a figure describing your experimental set up remember to label it and refer to it in-text at the relevant point. You should also follow conventions for figures such as labelling with straight lines (no arrowheads on labelling lines) and being careful with how you draw (eg. no sketching, no shading & 2D only). For the management of risks section you want to consider 4 main things: what does the risk come from, how likely is it to happen, what is the impact if it does happen, and what are you doing to protect against it. You don’t have to explicitly state all of these each time, but using words like “may”, “minor” etc. will give your reader an idea of the scope. Material Safety and Data Sheets are a great resource for information on these (just in case you haven’t memorised the impacts of 2M HCl or whatever it is you’re using 😉 ).
For some subjects (eg biology and psychology), you will also want to consider ethical considerations and should change the title of this section accordingly (could be impacts on people or the environment. Plastic use does not count as an ethical consideration – even if it kills the turtles 🙁 ) . The goal of this section is not just to say you thought about safety, but to prove it by knowing the specific concerns and measures applicable to the experiment.
Data and Observations
This may be called different things in different subjects but it boils down to communicating your results, how you processed the data, and what important patterns or trends are present. Tables and figures are great for this, as are sample calculations. Make sure you label everything clearly including units and uncertainties.
This can, again, be called a range of things but regardless of the name it’s all about evaluating the evidence you’ve gathered and the process you went through to get it. Be careful to not just say “there weren’t enough samples so really we don’t know anything”; if sample size was a significant limitation, consider the specific impacts of not having many samples. Pick out some of the sources of error/uncertainty most likely to have had significant impact and discuss a) what’s the uncertainty from b) why/how does it have an impact c) how does this relate to your results. This section can also include suggestions for improvement or they can be discussed separately. As with much of scientific writing, the aim is to be succinct yet specific.
This should be a response to the research question. What does your data suggest the answer is? How confident are you that that’s the actual answer? Use phrases like “ The data suggests…” “ … is supported by the results” “ The results imply…”
After you’ve gotten through all of that, make sure you stick to the one referencing style for you citations and that this matches your in-text citations. Usually everything up until (but not including) the reference list is included in your word count but it’s a good idea to double-check with your teacher so you can be confident about this.
I highly encourage you to read the sample assessments QCAA has made available, and if you’ve got any questions or would like feedback you can head over to the forums where we’ll provide free help. Best of luck! 😊