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Food Chemistry (CHEM1226 and CHEM1083)

Guidelines on preparation of practical reports


Scope: The purpose of this outline is to describe requirements for reports on the individual
laboratory practicals you will do during the first half of semester. It is recognised that these may
differ significantly from any which have applied in other courses so please read these carefully.
Introduction
Having carried out analyses in the laboratory you are now required to effectively communicate what
you have done and your conclusions. You should try to imagine yourself in an industry situation
where you are working in the laboratory of a food company and you need to report your results to
your supervisor. These guidelines have been prepared on the basis that it is essential for you to
communicate succinctly and clearly. You should read these in conjunction with the other set entitled
Numbers and the presentation of data.
Summary of requirements for practical assignments and reports
Each report is to consist of

A standard cover sheet for the School of Applied Sciences

A very short report (one to two pages of text). This is to be a word processed document prepared
as described in later sections of this handout.

Appendix 1 The data collected in the lab session (this is usually on the form provided but may
also include printouts of GC or HPLC chromatograms, UV-visible spectra)

Appendix 2 Your handwritten calculation(s) ........ please do not spend time typing this.

Appendix 3 A copy of your calibration graph (if applicable).

Do not attach a copy of the lab manual or anything else unless you are sure it is important.
Reports are generally due one week after you do the practical. Submission should be with a cover
sheet to reception, level one, Building 3 and keep your receipt just in case.
However, please note that if you are having any difficulty with calculations or preparation of the
report then please email me and seek assistance darryl.small@rmit.edu.au.
Your typed report
Write the report so that it is as short as practically possible. However it does need to include all of
the required material described in these guidelines. Generally one or two pages should be
appropriate for a Word document (font size 12). It is emphasised that the report should not include
anything described above as belonging in appendices. In particular the raw data and detailed
calculations belong in an appendix and appendices do not count in the length guidelines given here.
1

The structure of the report


There may be some variations in presentation of your report depending on the nature of your
sample, the analyses completed, as well as the data available for comparison with your own.
However the following headings would usually apply: Guidelines on length are added in
parentheses() for each section of the report:

Title of practical, your name and student number;

Introduction: Do not include an introduction;

Aim: again very brief, dot points are recommended, (one sentence should be sufficient, no
more than a very short paragraph, three sentences). Do not copy whatever was written in the
practical manual. You must use your own words;

Materials and methods: The underlying principle here is that someone should be given
enough information to be able to repeat your experiment. However, you should not repeat
anything that is clearly covered in your prac notes. Simply refer to these. An add anything else
that is necessary. (For example: how did you carry out sample handling and sub-sampling;
describe those parts of methods where significant variations were applied. Examples may be
the weight of sample you used if the prac notes suggested a range of values for you to choose
from);

Results: This section is for your final calculated answers. These are the ones that your
supervisor in your food company will use for making decisions. The results are to be
presented in tables wherever possible and these must be brief and concise. Do not include
your raw results, any calculations or discussion under this heading. (This section may require
only a few sentences, usually no more than half a page);

Discussion: This should be well written, should flow in a logical sequence, should have sub
headings. The primary question is what do you think of your results:
Are they as you expected? Include comparisons with label data and/or with relevant food
composition table values. Again tabulations are the most efficient way to compare data.
Comment on the similarities and differences in the data. Briefly explain possible reasons for
the variations observed, but do not assume your own data are incorrect. There may be many
other explanations for you to consider and discuss. In some cases it may also be relevant to
relate your results to maximum or minimum values in the Australian and New Zealand Food
Standards Code (ANZFSC). This section is where you should answer any questions
specifically asked in the prac notes;

References: Anywhere that you refer to methods, other data or information you must
include a citation within the text (eg Kirk and Sawyer 1991) and also include the full citation
in the reference list at the end of the report. Consistency of referencing is essential. You may
adopt a referencing style required for your program or discuss with Darryl if unsure about
this. Do not include any references unless they are needed. Do not refer to Wikipedia articles
or anything else which is not reliable nor peer-reviewed. Also particularly note that you
should only use and refer to websites which are reliable. Finally, if you have no need for any
references in your report then do not include any;

Appendices: You can include here any information which a reader may be interested to
look at but which is not central to the report. Please arrange any appendices as described on
page one of this handout. Remember that no marks are allocated to the appendices and by
putting something in an appendix you are communicating to the reader that they not need to
read the information. (No limit on length of appendices).

Assessment
The assessment of your report will include consideration of:
The overall length (longer than necessary will lose marks);
The inclusion of unnecessary material copied from the lab notes (repeating information will lose
marks);
The inclusion and quality of the areas specified (particularly results and discussion described
above);
The issue of presentation of data (in terms of significant figures, precision). Note that this is
covered in a separate handout;
Have results been expressed in the form of Mean value + absolute precision (units) wherever
you can do so (if there were no duplicate analyses performed then this will not be possible);
How well you have interpreted your results and discussed their significance;
Consistency of referencing style and format; and
Overall presentation and quality.
Some other suggestions
Write in formal scientific style by using third person. For example replace I added the solution
with the solution was added;
Avoid emotional or colloquial expressions. For example avoid spectacular, impressive and
nice;
Use tables wherever possible as these can be very efficient ways of communicating and
facilitating comparisons of data.
Some examples of tabulations that may be useful for your report
Well prepared tables would normally be core components of the report. Some examples of useful
tabulations for the report are given below. Remember that you may need to adapt these for your
purposes and your objective is to communicate clearly with the reader. You should facilitate the
direct comparison of your own data with any literature and label data (see Table 2 for an example of
how this might appear). Note that for these examples, Table 1 would usually be a part of your
results section and Table 2 would be part of discussion.
Table 1
Sample

Results of protein analysis of dairy food products


Number of
replicates

Protein content
(g per 100

Relative
precision
(%)

Milk

3.0 0.3

10

Yoghurt

5.5 0.2

3.5

Table 2

Comparison of results obtained for lasagna samples with


literature and label data

Component/
parameter
Moisture
pH
Notes

1
2
3
4
5

Units

This study

Label data

Australian
Tables2

European
Tables3

g per 100g

63.0

59*

69.4

72.0

pH units

5.5

nd

6.0, 5.3

5.1

*value estimated from label data


Reference for Australian data is English and Lewis 1991
Reference for European data is Scherz and Senser 2000
nd indicates no comparable data presented
References for pH data are FDA 2003; Hayes 1987; Hui 1991; Lide 1994

Finally, more questions or feedback?


Contact Darryl
Email darryl.small@rmit.edu.au