Tips on How to Write a Scientific Procedure

One of the most important steps in the scientific method is conducting the experiment in order to accept or reject a hypothesis.

Perhaps the trickiest part of an experiment, outside of actually doing it, is writing the procedure. Scientific writing is often overlooked in many undergraduate courses because maximizing class time is deemed more important. As a result, we get procedures that are too restrictive or lacking in detail.

If you want an experiment to succeed, a well-written and detailed procedure is a must. When done right, procedures can help systems and enable people to function better. It only makes sense because the team members know what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and how not to do it wrong.

For this post, we’re going to talk about the procedure definition and provide some writing tips.


What is Procedure?

To define a procedure, it is the workhorse of any scientific experiment. While policies guide the way when it comes to decision-making, procedures demonstrate the “how-to’s” for completing a certain task or process.

Procedures are action-oriented. A good set of procedures will outline the steps to take, and the proper order in which they need to be taken. Procedures are almost always instructional and are often used in training, orientation, and in this case, writing scientific experiments.

A well-written procedure is generally precise, factual, solid, and straight to the point.


When Do You Need to Write a Procedure?

Not everything needs a procedure, so skip on writing one for the most basic tasks. The main point of writing a procedure is to make sure that there’s a need for one. In this case, procedures are always required when conducting a scientific experiment.

An experiment needs a procedure because it is lengthy, complex, demands consistency, involves documentation, and has serious consequences if done wrong.


Tips on Writing a Procedure

For writing a good list of procedures, it’s all about the details. Without the detail, it would be impossible for others to replicate your experiment. Below are some tips to help you write excellent scientific procedures:

  • Tip #1: Before deciding on your procedure, think about how long will it take to conduct the experiment. It makes no sense to write a month-long procedure for an experiment that you only have a few weeks to do.
  • Tip #2: Determine the “sample size” of the experiment. For example, how many seedlings will you with each liquid? A good rule to follow is to repeat the experiment at least three times. This allows you to increase your sample and leaving you enough room for a few failures, in case things go south.
  • Tip #3: List all the possible variables. This is where you can really go in-depth in terms of details to ensure that all controlled variables are indeed controlled.
  • Tip #4: Once you have a clear mapping of the procedure, it’s time to write it down step-by-step. Again, this is all about going into the tiniest details. The exact materials you need, how you measure the variables, observations, and more. Also, mention the method that you used for recording results. Write it like a recipe for your experiment.
  • Tip #5: While it’s certainly preferable to be as detailed as possible, you should be careful not to over-explain or provide irrelevant information. Many fall into the trap of putting too much information that their instructions become convoluted.


Getting Started

Now that you’ve learned how to write the instructions and the importance of details, it’s time to start writing.

It’s important to consider your group’s experiment design. What materials do you need? Which variables are independent? Which variables that you are sure to control and keep constant?

Start writing and include as many relevant information that you can. Once you have completed a rough draft, share it with a coach or other adults. Ask if they are able to follow the written procedures and if there are any missing details. If necessary, revise the instructions based on the feedback you’ll receive.

Again, remember to avoid too many words but be specific enough. If you make any assumptions, make sure they are valid and explained properly. Use slang or jargon carefully.


Ready to Write a Procedure?

A well-written procedure can determine the success of your experiment. It can also help with reducing the number of errors and omissions. A good list of procedures will help your team members in performing any complex task effectively.

To get the most out of your scientific instructions, follow some rules when you are writing them. Write in a way that it will be easily understood and use clear words to communicate your message.

Have you written a scientific procedure before? Do you have any other tips that you can share? Share with us by commenting below.

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