Writing up your data is indivisible from the business of writing a research report as a whole, which takes us straight in to an area of contention.
Learning how to do research is a slow process, and students approach the task with entirely understandable misunderstandings. They will have read, or looked at, large numbers of published research papers with their conventional, standardized structure. The logic of these enables the reader to grasp quite quickly the context, purpose, methods, results and conclusions of the study.
The trouble with these fined down, carefully constructed papers, is that they do not reflect how research actually takes place: the things that an apprentice researcher needs to know and understand if they are to do research themselves. A key question, therefore, is: what is omitted and why?
Obviously a formal report is a tidy account. However, it may be such a tidied-up version of the research project, that not only is it of little help to the would-be researcher but is often an inaccurate account of the investigation: inaccurate by omission at least, because of the pressure coming from the conventions of academic reporting.
In the 1960s the distinguished scientist Sir Peter Medawar published an essay (following on from a talk on the BBC Third Programme) entitled 'Is the scientific paper a fraud?' He makes the point that: 'the scientific paper is a fraud in the sense that it does give a totally misleading narrative of the processes of thought that go into the making of scientific discoveries', and castigates the scientific community for being 'ashamed to admit that hypotheses appear in