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Final Report

All students are required to complete a final paper by the due date. Future SFP applications, recommendations, or acknowledgement of the award on Caltech transcripts will be jeopardized by not completing this requirement in a timely fashion. Please read all instructions below!

Final Report Writing Requirements
Final reports should be clear, concise, and written for a broad scientific audience. Consult with your mentor to determine a style usually used in his or her discipline.

Use clear, significant words when writing your paper and avoid using jargon or specialized terms whenever possible.  It is often useful for authors to have students in other disciplines read their papers to improve clarity. Work with your mentor and co-mentor to edit your paper.

Final Report Format:
Faculty Mentor (and Co-Mentor if applicable)

Abstract. The abstract is a succinct outline of the research project. For experimental projects, it presents the principal objective and scope of the project, describes the methodology, summarizes the results, and states the principal conclusions. For a theoretical paper, it describes the issue and analysis, and states implications for further research. The abstract should stand alone and be intelligible without the paper.

Text. The paper should begin by providing background, presenting the nature and scope of the problem being investigated, and giving rationale for the work. The main conclusions should be stated briefly in this section. This section should be accessible to readers in any discipline (including non-science fields) and readers for whom English is not a first language.

Following this introductory section, the findings should be described concisely with brief descriptions of the methodology when necessary. The text should finish with a discussion of the results. The implications of the research, relation to other work in the author's lab, and future research directions should be included in this section. Even though this section may be technical, it should not be obtuse.

Methods. This section should be subdivided by short headings referring to the technique being used or the experiment being explained. This section is directed toward scientists in the author's field.

Figures. Include figures whenever possible to illustrate your points. Explanatory diagrams may help explain background information (pictures from textbooks are fine). Carefully choose your image size, font size, line widths, and labels to ensure that your figures are clear. Plot theory and experiment on the same graph and redraw screen photos. All figures should be accompanied by explanatory captions.

References. Authors are responsible for the accuracy of references. References should be numbered sequentially as they appear in the text and should be listed at the end of the paper. Reference numbers should be in superscript when cited in the text.

Acknowledgments. Acknowledge your mentor and all other individuals who provided technical assistance, and the individuals, organizations, grants, or contracts from whom you received financial support. Students should be sure to include the names of their financial sponsors.

Appendices. Large data files, catalogs, tables, diagrams, and archival information may be included in 'Appendices' at the end of the paper.

Instructions for Uploading Final Paper
Students must upload a draft of the final paper by their program due date:

  • JPLSIP and Space Grant: Monday of final week.
  • All other programs: Fourth Friday in September.

The paper must be in PDF format, and must not exceed 10MB. (If you absolutely can't make your paper smaller than 10MB, please contact for instructions.) Once the paper is uploaded it will be locked in the system, and your mentor will be sent a message containing instructions for accessing your paper online. Your mentor then has two options:

1. Approve your paper as is. You will receive confirmation of this action via e-mail.

2. Return your paper and give suggestions for improvements. You will receive confirmation of this action via e-mail along with your mentor's comments. When your paper is returned, it is unlocked in the system. This allows you to incorporate your mentor's suggestions, go online to delete your previous paper, and then upload the new version. Your mentor will again receive instructions for accessing your paper and the whole process starts again. This can continue as many times as necessary until your mentor gives final approval of your paper.

Once your paper is approved, your paper will remain locked. If you would like to submit a revised version of your paper after a previous version has been approved, e-mail your revised paper to and we will replace your old paper with the new version.

Mentors must approve the final paper no later than November 1.

Submissions to CURJ
Students may submit any paper that follows the SFP final report guidelines to the Caltech Undergraduate Research Journal (CURJ).  CURJ editors will work with authors to prepare their articles for publication, if selected.

A publication release signed by the head of the laboratory (not a graduate student or postdoc) will also be required. This document is legally binding. You and your mentor are advised to consult with the appropriate journals and must resolve any copyright issues before submission. Once your paper is accepted, it cannot be withdrawn. 

Special note for JPL Students

Only final reports that have been cleared though JPL's Document Review/Export Compliance (DREC) process can be submitted to CURJ or any other third party.

Publishing Opportunities

Students are encouraged to further develop their scientific writing skills and to share their research. The Council on Undergraduate Research keeps a list of undergraduate research journals where students can submit their work. Please note, it is important to consult with your mentor before sharing your research at a conference or in a publication.