Basic composition

Materials and methods

Results, figures and tables



Title and abstract





The Results section is the most important part of a paper. This is the core of the paper to which everything else relates, and should therefore be written first (or after you have warmed up on the methods), and with great care.

Organise all of your data into tables and figures (in logical order, not chronological order), before you start writing. Spread these out on a table, and describe the important results in each figure/table in point form.

The Results section must clearly outline the rationale or design of the experiments, and the experimental aims. You should introduce each experiment with a clear description of the experimental design and aims.


To detect proteins transiently expressed in prenatal brain, we compared the protein maps of both prenatal and postnatal brain.


The FG gene is only expressed at very low levels in the developing rat brain, so we used RT-PCR to detect FG expression in day 8 mouse forebrain.


We used a specific monoclonal antibody to determine the distribution of SOD expression in mouse kidney sections.

Then describe the data and the important findings or trends as concisely as possible. Lead the reader through each of the figures or tables.

The details of the methods are given in the Materials and Methods section, and should not be repeated in the Results section.

Having described the Results as concisely as possible, finish with a sentence giving your conclusions. This should not include any discussion, which is of course given in the next section.

The past tense is always used for the Results section, because this is not established knowledge.

You may use the passive or active voice, but if you are confident of the results use the active voice.

avoid   As shown in Fig.2, antisense treatment blocked all expression of the target gene.


Fig. 2 shows that antisense treatment blocked all expression of the target gene.

avoid   Treatment of cells with inhibitor was observed to block cell cycle progression.


Treatment of cells with inhibitor blocked cell cycle progression.

The Results section should stand alone with the design, results and preliminary conclusions described for each experiment. Check that you have clearly outlined these 3 aspects for each of your experiments.

Click here to see an example Results section that contains all of these elements.

Figures and Tables

Use tables and figures to organise large amounts of data, and then describe the important results/effects/trends in the text. In general, a table is better if exact values should be given, and figures are more appropriate for trends, relationships and effects. Figures and tables should be easy to understand without the reader having to refer to the text.

Use the figure legends or table footnotes to describe the experiment, and sometimes the key result. If this is done do not describe the experiment again in the text. If only a few results are given then describe them in the text only, do not use a table or figure.

The text and figure legends should complement, not overlap, each other. You must reach a careful balance between the presentation of data in a figure or table and the description of data in the text.

The text should emphasize or summarize the important results; it should not comprehensively describe every result. Results given in a table should not be described in full in the text. This is a very common mistake which greatly affects the quality of a paper.

The figures, tables and text must be accurately integrated. Figures and tables should be numbered in the order in which they are cited in the text, and all figures and tables must be cited. Do not repeat results given in a table in a figure. Do not repeat text given in a figure legend in the text.


Some dos and don'ts of the Results section

- Use the past tense
- Describe the results of control experiments
- Use the active voice when you are confident of your results

Do not:
- repeat results given in a table in a figure
- completely describe every bit of data
- give detailed methods
- give an extensive interpretation of the significance of the results
- show data that is not absolutely necessary to illustrate the experimental   findings.

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