Biology 499 Senior Thesis Format & Style Guidelines

In general, under the direction of your professor or committee, following the style of a major scientific journal in the area of the study is recommended. Journals either have their own format and style requirements or follow the Council of Biology Editors guidelines in the CBE Manual (in UVU Library Reference section, call number: REF T11.S386, 1999). The following is a general "default" format. Ensure that any information other than your own is properly cited. Follow the citation/reference style of an appropriate scientific journal or the CBE Manual.

Abstract (less than or equal to 1 double spaced page)

The abstract is a short narrative summary of your thesis. Introduce the problem or question you are studying, describe the experimental approach, your results (what data you collected and what facts you learned), and summarize your conclusions (what you think those facts mean).

As students, we felt compelled to write the abstract first because it came at the beginning. However, you should write it last to summarize the paper or proposal. You should plan on writing (or rewriting) the abstract when you are finished writing the body of the thesis.

Introduction (approximately 2 to 8 pages)

In the introduction, you should give background information to help the reader understand why your topic is interesting and/or important, and tell the reader (in general terms) what you were trying to do for your thesis (i.e. What question will be addressed in the thesis?). Include a summary (review) of relevant scientific literature with citations.

Materials and Methods (length may vary)

  • Describe what methods were used. This can be done in cook-book style. You do not need to explain the mechanisms, just give instructions on how the work was done, so others could replicate your experiments or observaions. If materials or unusual supplies were purchased, give the name of the manufacturer.
  • Describe how data was collected (e.g., What experiments were done?) and what data analysis techniques were used. Do not list the actual data, it is listed in the "results" section.
  • List any statistical methods, data analysis computer programs (name, manufacturer) or other data analysis techniques used.
  • If research tools were constructed, describe how they were made.
  • If research samples (like tissues or collected specimens) were used, describe where and how they were collected, processed, identified and stored. If voucher specimens were deposited in a research collection (such as an herbarium or museum), list where deposited.

Results (length depends on amount and type of data)

The "results" section contains just what is implied - the data - with just enough narrative to ensure it is "sensible." Save your interpretations and conclusions for the "discussion" section. Describe or list the actual raw data that were obtained and results of data analysis. Use appropriate formats for particular data (figures, photos, lists, tables, diagrams, graphs) with sufficient captions so the tables, etc., are "stand alone."

Discussion (as long as it needs to be)

Here is where you interpret your data. What do your findings mean? How do your findings bear on the question (hypothesis) you set out to answer? Were there any unexpected findings that changed your hypothesis or pre-study ideas? If so, how, and what are your new ideas? What are your conclusions ? (watch out- they must be supported by your data – you can speculate about other possibilities, but make sure you identify these as such). Compare your results with those of others (i.e., compare your results and conclusions with those published by others). Are there additional experiments you would propose to resolve new or unanswered questions? If so, describe them.

Bibliography (sometimes termed References, Literature, or Literature Cited)

The bibliography should list all of the publications or references cited in the sections mentioned above. Citations should be referenced in the text, but you can include general information sources you used that are not specifically cited. Published work is often described and cited in the introduction, methods are often cited in the methods section, analytical methods and/or publications that provide information that help you interpret your results are often cited in the discussion. For each item, include author, title, journal name (if from a journal), and publication date so anyone can find the articles you reference in the library or through interlibrary loan. For web sites, give the URL in addition to author, title, etc. - URL alone is not acceptable. Follow the citation style of a major journal or the CBE Manual recommentations. Caveat: the style must be consistent throughout.