The nitration of methyl benzoate was conducted as follows: concentrated sulphuric acid (12 mL) was cooled to 0 °C and 5.6 mL of methyl benzoate was added. The nitrating mixture (a 50:50 mixture of concentrated sulphuric acid and concentrated nitric acid; 8 mL) was cooled to 5 °C and added dropwise to the methyl benzoate solution with regular temperature checks to ensure the temperature of the solution was maintained between 5-15 °C. The mixture was swirled thoroughly after each addition of nitrating mixture to encourage reaction. Once all the nitrating mixture had been added to the methyl benzoate solution, the temperature of the reaction mixture was allowed to increase to 18-20 °C using a warm water bath and kept at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the nitration to occur. To collect the methyl 3-nitrobenzoate after nitration had been completed, approximately 50g of cracked ice was weighed into a beaker and the reaction mixture poured over the ice, forming solid methyl-3-nitrobenzoate. The product was collected using Büchner filtration, washed twice using 10 mL ice-cold methanol and dried in a drying oven prior to weighing to calculate the yield.

Writing a method ​

It is important to understand how to write a method section early in your scientific based studies. Although this example is for chemistry, methods have commonality across the sciences.  

This example elaborates on the materials and apparatus section and provides enough detail to allow another chemist to carry out the same experiment. You may wish to draw on examples from journal articles, or others that a tutor may provide, so that it matches your own disciple.​

Often University based laboratory reports only need to reference the original source if you were writing for University e.g., ‘as shown in xxxxx laboratory book’. However, it is still important write your work formally as you would for an external report or publication, hence why you are encouraged to write examples such as this.  

Note that the writing style is clear, simple and avoids ambiguity. ​This is typical for any science-based writing.


Note that volume is consistently in millilitres (mL) and temperature is in centigrade °C. There is also sufficient information for another to repeat the first part of this nitration of methyl benzoate.

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Function: Describe

This section describes how the mixture was added, note that is uses the term 'dropwise' and indicates the best temperature conditions. This is well written, clear and precise, again allowing another scientist to replicate.

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This describes the next step. Note how the start of the sentence is clear about moving from one stage to the next. It is important in science writing to ensure clarity of stages, never assume that others will be able to repeat the procedure without your insights. There is no doubt that nitration will only occur under those conditions.

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Quality: Authority

This although descriptive, indicates to others an important step, as without swirling of the mixture the reaction is likely to be slow or incomplete.

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