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Writing the Results Section for a Scientific Manuscript

Release Date: February 19, 2013
Category: Manuscript Writing

Key Points Summary

  • A well-constructed Results section includes subsections that describe a question, the experiment conducted to answer that question, the results of that experiment, and the answer to the question.
  • Subheadings provide visual signals at the start of descriptions of separate experiments to help guide readers.
  • Transitions (sentences, phrases, or clauses) provide verbal signals that a new topic will be described.
  • The Results section should describe the results of all experiments performed during the study, provide plain-English explanations of these results, and refer to data provided in tables and figures.
  • The Results section typically should not include interpretation and/or discussion of experimental results, details about common analysis methods, or repetition of information given in the tables or figures.

The Results section of your manuscript should present your experimental data and develop a convincing case that the results answer the overall questions posed by your study. Like all other sections of your manuscript, clear and convincing writing in your Results section requires careful construction of subsections that describe a question, the experimental approach, the results, and the answer.

  • The question is stated in a brief sentence or phrase that tells readers what you hoped to learn by performing a specific experiment.
  • The experimental approach is described in a phrase or sentence that describes the overall method or technique you used to investigate the question.
  • The results of the experiment are described and explained in one or more sentences.
  • Finally, the answer is written in a sentence that links the experimental results to the question the experiment was designed to answer. Note that this does not include a full discussion of the implications of the experimental results, but often does lead to the question asked in the next subsection of the Results section.

Try to identify these four elements in the following Results section passage*:

  ATM-/- Antigen-Receptor Locus Abnormalities Require RAG
  To determine whether TCRχ-specific chromosome abnormalities in mature T cells are products of V(D)J recombination, we performed the TCRχ FISH assay on metaphase spreads from Atm-/- Rag2-/- TCRAND T cells (Kaye et al., 1989). In contrast to lymph node T cells from Atm-/- mice, no chromosome breaks or translocations involving the TCRχ locus were observed in Atm-/- Rag2-/- TCRAND T cells (n=80; Figure S1B). Thus, TCRχ-associated chromosomal damage in mature T cells is dependent on RAG-mediated DNA cleavage.

Here is the passage with the four parts identified: Question, Experiment, Result, Answer

  ATM-/- Antigen-Receptor Locus Abnormalities Require RAG
  To determine whether TCRχ-specific chromosome abnormalities in mature T cells are products of V(D)J recombination, we performed the TCRχ FISH assay on metaphase spreads from Atm-/- Rag2-/- TCRAND T cells (Kaye et al., 1989). In contrast to lymph node T cells from Atm-/- mice, no chromosome breaks or translocations involving the TCRχ locus were observed in Atm-/- Rag2-/- TCRAND T cells (n=80; Figure S1B). Thus, TCRχ-associated chromosomal damage in mature T cells is dependent on RAG-mediated DNA cleavage.

Subheadings and Transitions

Subheadings are visual topic signals that often appear in bold font within the Results section. Subheadings show readers where a new topic starts and provide a brief description of what will be covered in the subsection that follows. In the example above, “ATM-/- Antigen-Receptor Locus Abnormalities Require RAG” is the subheading.

Transitions are verbal topic signals in the form of sentences, phrases, or clauses at the beginning of paragraphs. Transitions tell readers where a new topic starts and often smooth the change from one topic to another. You can use transitions to link the results of one experiment to those you will describe in the next paragraph. As an example, the transitions in the passage below are highlighted in yellow*.

  The finding that restoration of ATM activity reduces the level of IgH instability suggests that IgH-associated breaks in splenic B cells harbor DNA damage response-activating signals. Normally, ATM activation requires prior loading of DNA damage sensors such as the Mre11/Rad50/Nbs1 complex and 53BP1 to sides of DSBs (Mochan et al., 2004). To determine whether persistent 53BP1 foci form at the IgH locus, we used an immunofluorescence in situ hybridization approach to visualize protein and DNA simultaneously (Chen et al., 2000; Petersen et al., 2001). WT, Aid-/-, Atm-/-, and Atm-/-Aid-/- B cells were stimulated with LPS+IL4 for 2 days and then were stained with anti-53BP1 antibodies, followed by FISH detection of the IgH locus. The percentage of cells containing 53BP1/IgH foci that showed colocalization was similar in Atm-/- B cells (61%) and WT controls (64%), lower in Atm-/-Aid-/- B cells (36%), and at background frequencies in AID-/- cultures (5.4%; Figure S5). The finding that a significant fraction of Atm-/-Aid-/- B cells harbor 53BP1 foci at the IgH locus indicates that even persistent DSBs generated in the absence of ATM are detected by components of the DNA damage response machinery.

What Your Results Section Should Include and Exclude

Take care to include and exclude certain information when writing your Results section. Include the following information:

  • Summarized information about your experimental results.
  • Plain-English explanations of your questions, experiments, results, and answers.
  • References to tables and figures that present and illuminate your experimental results.

Do not include the following in your Results section:

  • Certain types of raw data (if you need to include raw data, this may belong in a data supplement; check your target journal’s instructions).
  • Interpretations of or comments about the importance of the results (these belong in the Discussion section).
  • Details about analysis methods that are generally understood by your audience.
  • Repetition of data listed in tables or depicted in figures.

*The examples used in this article are excerpted from: Callén E, M Jankovic, S Difilippantonio, JA Daniel, H-T Chen, A Celeste, M Pellegrinim, K McBride, D Wangsa, AL Bredemeyer, BP Sleckman, T Ried, M Nussenzweig, A Nussenzweig. 2007. ATM Prevents the Persistence and Propagation of Chromosome Breaks in Lymphocytes. Cell 130:63-75.

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