How to Write a Protocol


Most science courses will require you to write a protocol prior to conducting an experiment. A protocol is a plan describing how the experiment will be carried out. Even if it is not required, writing a protocol is a good idea because it will help you to organize your thoughts and ensure that you do not overlook any components of the experiment.

Make a section titled "Purpose." Write the question that you are attempting to answer by conducting the experiment, followed by your hypothesis.

Create a second section called "Materials." List all the items you will require to carry out the experiment.

Describe, in a new section called "Methods," how you will carry out the experiment, how long it will last and how you plan to measure the results. Identify the dependent and independent variables of the experiment.

Create a section called "Controls," to briefly describe a test you will conduct in manipulated conditions. Indicate that you will use the same sample as the other tests but will not change the independent variable.

Describe, in a new section titled "Data Interpretation," how you will summarize and present the collected data. Examples include producing a table or graph that reflects the data.

Title the last section "References." Cite any scientific articles or books that you referred to in preparation for the experiment. Include the author's name, publication title, publisher name, publishing city, publication date and the number of the page from which you took the information. List the publication date either immediately after the author's name or after the title of the book or journal (see Resources for formatting examples). Ask your instructor which style he prefers you use.


A protocol should be concise, yet provide enough information so that the reader could repeat the experiment.