How to Write a Clear Research Report

by Caroline, Eric, and Emily
Alexandria, Virginia
    We had some fun with a stacking rings toy and learned something about how the perceptions of adults are different from those of babies.

    Almost everyone has played with stacking ring toys at one time or another. Most households with small children have them, and they are simple yet fun playthings for babies, children, and adults. Many of them have five rings of different colors (in our case blue, green, yellow, orange, and red) and often the largest ring is blue and the smallest red (this is true for our toy).
    Caroline and Eric are PhD scientists, Emily is an 11-month-old baby, and the three of us would like to share with you some things we learned by playing with this neat toy.

What is the toy like?
    Our toy is a yellow tower with five rings: blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. The rings are different sizes and the tower is tapered so that the only way you can fit all the rings on the tower is to put the biggest one on the bottom and so on up to the smallest one on top. This puts the rings in rainbow order with blue at the bottom, then green, yellow, and orange, and finally red on top. You can see the stackign rings toy in the picture below.

Caroline, Emily, Eric, and the Stacking Rings Toy

Caroline and Eric play with the toy
    Caroline and Eric played with the toy for a while, and always ended up leaving the rings stacked in rainbow order with blue at the bottom and red at the top. We've written this order in the table below.

Emily plays with the toy
    Emily took all the rings off, and then put them back on in different orders. She was happy with all the different arrangements she found. We've written some examples in the table. She found that she could put a ring on top of the top ring and it would be pretty stable since the tower pokes its head a little above the top of the red ring. This is the "Level 6" listed below.

                         Table: Different ring orders
               Caroline            Emily put the rings in all these ways
               & Eric's         a         b       c       d       e       f
Level 6                         yellow  green   red     green   orange  red
Level 5         red             orange  red     green   red     red     yellow
Level 4         orange                          orange  orange          orange
Level 3         yellow          blue    yellow  yellow                  
Level 2         green           green                           green   green
Level 1         blue                            blue            blue

What we learned
    Caroline and Eric always found the same ring order, but Emily had a lot of fun with all sorts of different arrangements. Maybe Caroline and Eric were too quick put the rings in the order they knew was right. Do we know that their arrangement is "better" than any of Emily's arrangements? Perhaps adults shouldn't jump to conclusions so quickly.

    We had a good time playing with the toy and Caroline and Eric learned that their preconceived ideas are not necessarily true.

You can also read the scientific version of this report.