MED5900 - Research Project

Guidelines for the Research Paper

Students enrolled in the MSc in epidemiology with research project must refer to the Research Paper Guidelines for Epidemiology.


MED 5900 is compulsory for all students enrolled in the MSc with Research Project option at the Faculty of Medicine. The course comprises an 8-month research project in laboratory research and the completion of a research paper evaluated by two professors and the research project supervisor.

The research project is evaluated as PASS/FAIL.

General style

The research paper should be written in standard 12 point font such as Times New Roman. Text should be 1.5 spaced with 2 cm margins on all sides with pages numbered in the page footer. All new paragraphs should NOT be indented, but rather a buffer space should be included beneath each new paragraph of 10 pt. While there is no strict page limit for the research paper, normally the document excluding figures and references, should not exceed 10 pages.

When writing, use normal prose. Use the present tense to describe facts (“RNA polymerase II is the enzyme required for transcription”) and the past tense to describe experimental results (“RNA polymerase was found bound to the transcriptional start site of the Cebpb gene”). Be precise and avoid any informal wording, hyperbole and vague phrasing. Pay attention to grammar, spelling and clarity. Technical writing should be precise and clear.


(1) Title Page

Include the title of the research paper, your name and program and your supervisor’s name and the date submitted.

(2) Abstract

A summary of the purpose of the study, objectives, hypothesis, model organism or system, major findings and significance of two hundred words or less.

(3) Introduction

The introduction should not exceed 3 pages and should familiarize the reader with the relevant literature in your field of study, the theoretical context for your project and the rationale behind your project objectives.

Specifically, the introduction should describe the state of the field (broader context), specific relevant literature (what is known in your research area), including important findings from your lab, describe the importance of the study undertaken (rationale – what is still unknown and why is it important to fill this knowledge gap), a description and justification of the model organism or system that you have chosen to use (both theoretical and practical), your hypothesis and your research objectives.

(4) Materials and Methods

Describe, with enough detail for someone else to reproduce your experiments, the methods and materials used.

Materials and methods are normally reported under separate subheadings.

Please note, this section is not a step-by-step description of each of your experiments, but rather a description of the methods used, including statistical analysis, that allows the reader to evaluate the scientific merit of your research contributions. Include all materials and equipment that are not commonly found in laboratories or are specific to the experiment described.

For solutions, refer to them by name and describe completely including all reagents, pH, etc. Most authors choose to write this section in the third person passive voice. Be sure to use complete sentences.s.

(5) Results

The page length of this section is determined by the amount of data to be reported.

Use figures and tables to present your research findings clearly. Ensure that figure and table legends are complete, and can, independent of the Results section text, allow the reader to understand the experiments performed.

The purpose of a results section is to present your findings, not interpret them and thus, this section should be completely objective. As such, the text should fully describe your results and indicate to the reader the observations that are most relevant.

The descriptions of findings are grouped together by providing context as to why the next experiment was performed. Do not forget to describe experimental controls. Use the past tense for this section and describe your findings in a logical order. This may not be the order in which you performed the experiments, but rather in the order in which the story is most easily understood. In the text, refer to your figures as Fig.1, Fig. 2, etc. and if you include sub-panels, Fig. 1A, Fig. 1B.

You may place your figures at the end of the document (after your references) of if you prefer, appropriately within the text of your results section.


The Discussion should be approximately 4 pages in length.

In this section, you are expected to interpret your data. You must explain your observations while focusing on mechanisms.

Decide if your hypothesis is supported, rejected, or if it is impossible to decide, and in which case, which experiments should be conducted to solidify the position.

If your results do not match your expectations, explain what you think may have occurred by considering other reasons or explanations why your data did not agree. Decide if your experimental design was adequate to address your hypothesis (was it properly controlled? Did the design allow for multiple observations?). Offer alternative explanations. Suggest future directions. What questions remain?

Do not restate the results or make the error of being to superficial in your interpretation, even if your results are in line with your expectations.


List all literature cited in your research paper, using the reference style for the journal Nature.


The evaluation is divided into three parts:

(i) laboratory performance assessed by the research director (20%)

(ii) evaluation of the research report by two Faculty of Medicine professors (50%)

(iii) presentation of a research poster evaluated by two Faculty of Medicine professors (30%)


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