How to Prepare a Final Report
Final reports are frequently requested from funding agencies to assess progress. In many cases, they can determine whether you will be refunded or receive funding in the future. This step in the research process is also a helpful way to summarize your data and insights and can form the basis of a subsequent manuscript submitted for peer review.
The report must be well organized, written with clarity and formulated to tell a story. Be certain that what you did and what resulted are clear. .Your advisor or the Medical Student Research Office can help you with any questions you have.
Use the same general outline of a paper for peer review submissions. You must convey to the reader what your aims were, why the study was important and, specifically, how you accomplished your objectives. Most final reports are 10 pages in length, depending upon the situation, but please consult the specific program guidelines to be certain. No matter what the length, be succinct, clear and focused. Work with your mentor and have him/her review your drafts. You will glean various insights from the feedback you receive.
Font: Choose an Arial, Helvetica, Palatino Linotype, or Georgia typeface, a black font color, and a font size of 11 points or larger. (A Symbol font may be used to insert Greek letters or special characters; the font size requirement still applies.)
Page Margins: Use standard paper size (8 ½" x 11) with one inch margins (top, bottom, left and right) for all pages.
Figures, Graphs, Diagrams, Charts, Tables, Figure Legends, and Footnotes: A smaller type size may apply for these components, but it must be in a black font color, readily legible and follow the font typeface requirement. Color can be used in figures; however, all text must be in a black font color, clear and legible.
Structure of the Final Report
Cover Page: Include your name, your mentor's name, the title of the project and the institution and department where the project was conducted. The title should let the reader clearly know what the study concerns.
Abstract: A brief summary, 250 words, of the goals of the project, the methods used, the most significant findings and the conclusions.
Introduction/Background (2 pages) : What question did you pose or which hypothesis did you test, what is known in the literature about the problem and which published studies have led you to formulate your hypotheses or select the question you asked? This is an opportunity to explain why your work is important and compelling and how the project relates to other problems or areas of medicine.
Materials and Methods: Describe the principle methods you have used to test your hypothesis or answer the question you posed, each in a separate section. The nature of the methods will vary, depending upon the type of study. Discuss this with your mentor to determine which methods are appropriate to include. Detail should be sufficient for someone to judge whether they are appropriate for the study and to repeat your work to validate the results. This is where you mention that you had IRB or IACUC approval and anything about informed consent of subjects, if this was a clinical study involving human participation.
Results: Divide your study into sections, each with an informative title; you are telling a story. Start at the beginning and proceed logically through the development of the project. Select carefully what to include. You don't need to show everything you've done. Prepare tables or figures to present the results discussed in each section. Indicate where the figure/table belongs in parentheses and then place figures and tables at the end of the manuscript. The results section is a factual presentation of what you did. Your interpretation of the findings should be reserved for the discussion.
Discussion: Here you get the opportunity to voice what you think is the significance and implications of your work. Begin by briefly summarizing the study. Then discuss in more detail what the results mean, whether they support your original hypothesis, and possible future directions for the project, even if you won't be continuing the project. It's very valuable for you to contemplate the future direction of your research project. If there were surprises or stumbling blocks, you could discuss the reasons here and how you might solve them moving forward. End with a concise conclusion, which is the primary message.
References: Reference all literature cited. Unless the program's instructions say otherwise, use any format you find in the literature.
Acknowledgements: It is appropriate to thank anyone who helped you, but did not earn an authorship on a resulting manuscript. This could be someone who assisted in a purely technical manner or a colleague who read the manuscript and gave you feedback.
Karen Zier, PhD
Associate Dean for Medical Student Research
Christina Wyatt, MD
Grace Oluoch, MBA
Icahn School of Medicine
One Gustave L. Levy Place
Annenberg 13-30, Box 1257
New York, NY 10029