Scientific Results – Embracing the Negatives


Many students are required to produce reports to meet assessment requirements and prefer to present positive results to a hypothesis. However, an article in The Conversation discusses the benefits of publishing negative results. This is because “negative findings can save scientists valuable time and resources by not repeating already performed experiments” (Matosin and Engel, 2014). The article continues to highlight that publishing negative results is not seen as valuable in the publishing scientific community.
Image of light bulbsSince you have read this far, you might be asking: What does this mean for me?

Often when students have to write up a report, they omit the negative results that they have produced during their experiments. This information can be valuable when discussing the limitations of the study or can provide opportunities to critique the methodology. Perhaps it is worth asking your Lecturer or Lab Assistant if these negative results are still worthwhile. If they are not considered worthwhile, question the reliability or validity of the results.

What is interesting is that negative results are often associated with poor or flawed science. The article emphasises the need for the next generation to embrace negative findings in all research. If the results are available, others do not need to repeat the same experiments. Therefore, some negative results may be worth reporting so that others can be informed.

When writing your next Laboratory, Science, Engineering or Planning report; consider the word count and the marking criteria and see if you can provide some insight in to the value of some of the negative findings. How does this negative result sit in light of current literature? Have other peers gained similar results? These questions may assist your critical thinking, enhance your report writing or provide some scientific insights that differ from the expected scientific hypothesis.

For more information on Report Writing and Critical Thinking click on the following links:

Library Guide : Reports

Report Writing

Critical Thinking